Prominent Northern leaders, including former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 2011 governorship candidate for Kaduna State Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Bashir Bugaje, and former Governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, among others, yesterday brainstormed on how and who the region should produce for the 2015 presidential race.
Speakers at the two-day conference entitled, “The North and strategies for sustainable development,” organized by Arewa House Centre for Historical Documentation and Research of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), expressed worry over the dwindling political leadership fortunes of the North. In his address, Gen. Gowon called for introduction of an Electoral College for the presidential election in 2015. He also urged the National Assembly to stop the process for the creation of new states. He said such exercise would increase cost of governance.
“There’s no need for creation of new states, additional states would mean additional cost of governance.” The former Head of State, who was represented by the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, stressed that the North must come together to forge a common front for the region to enjoy political progress and development. “Unless we come together in the North, we would continue to have problems.
“I met with the Senate caucus in the North in Abuja last week and I asked them to reconsider the introduction of Electoral College in choosing the president,” Gowon said. Other Northerners at the conference included former governor of Kebbi State, Senator Adamu Aliero, former Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri, and ex-Minister of FCT, Alhaji Aliyu Modibbo Umar. While Senator Umaru Dahiru represented Senate President David Mark.
The host Governor, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, in his address said, “The North has been a catalyst for the unity, stability and development of the country. The country has been relying for direction from the North. This is contrary to what some out there would want the world to believe about the North. History has shown that the unity and strength of the North, with a collective sense of purpose and focus had been the bastion for the unity and strength of Nigeria. We must do everything to sustain this responsibility bestowed on us by providence.
“My candid belief is that the outcome of this conference will rather reinforce this fact of history. As people with responsibilities to our electorates, we are working tirelessly to strengthen the country by building on the solid structures laid by late Nigerian leaders, such as Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Michael Okpara and Chief Anthony Enahoro.
“They have laid a foundation for us to transform ourselves into visionary leaders. Leaders with positive pictures in their minds all the time. A leadership that is pre-occupied on changing the economic, political and social landscape of the North and by extension,Nigeria in a proactive way. A leader that insists on the diversification of the economy of the North. A leadership that looks beyond the present heavy reliance on petroleum. A leadership that re-invests the wheels to bring back the groundnut and cotton pyramids of yesteryears in a creative, imaginative and inventive ways.
“The presence of these leadership traits is a step toward having a sustainable development that will create an enabling environment for better services, better infrastructure and education; build on sound moral values and respect to human dignity. We should stop encouraging religious and ethnic intolerance. We should, on the contrary, work hard to transform the mindset of the average Nigerian and guide it into positive channels. Nigeria must be great again. She must start tapping her diverse human and natural resources to the fullest which God has endowed the country with and which we are not adequately taking full advantage of.
“May I conclude by posing some pertinent questions, whose answers I expect the conferees to ponder on and provide answers to. How can we get the North more united? How can we manage our diversity better? How can we cultivate trust and confidence not only between our different ethnicities but also between the government and the governed? How do we create hope for the next generation? “We hereby call upon the conferees to look at these questions seriously but passionately and to come up with an articulated agenda to recreate a new North for a new Nigeria, to the satisfaction of the founding fathers, the present and future generations and to the greater glory of God. We strongly believe these are possibilities,” Gov. Yakowa said.