Matawalle to northern appointees: Defend Tinubu administration against vicious attacks or quit

Minister of State for Defence Bello Mohammed Matawalle has challenged appointees of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu from the North to defend and shield the administration from undue criticisms from the region or resign.

Matawalle, in a statement he personally signed and made available to defence correspondents Monday in Abuja, specifically questioned the silence of Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed and other appointees from the North, in the face of attacks on Tinubu’s administration by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF).

The minister challenged Baba-Ahmed to take a stand in view of his position as Special Adviser on Political Matters in the Presidency.

The NEF had recently threatened to withdraw support for the president over the nation’s security and other challenges across the country.

They said the North had learnt its lessons and that the forum would prioritise someone who is seen as more inclusive, less controversial, and more aligned with the region’s interest.

The northern elders also said they regretted their choice of Tinubu in the 2023 presidential election.

Matawalle fires back

But throwing a challenge to the appointees of northern extraction in the present administration, Matawalle asked them to speak up in the face of many attacks on the Tinubu-led government by some northerners.   

The minister said: “Consequent to my position on the recent attack on the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR by a spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), it has come to my attention that Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed who once served as the Spokesperson of the group and currently a Special Adviser on Political Matters in the Presidency took to his page on it to express a different position. 

“According to Dr. Baba-Ahmed, my stand against the unjust and spurious attack against the new administration of President Tinubu that is working very hard to reposition our country and economy for better is ‘ill-advised’. He suggested I could have done a better job in my defence of the administration where I have the rare honour to serve as a Minister. 

“Dr. Baba-Ahmed’s relationship and  affinity with Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) is well-known.  The fact now is that he is an appointee of the administration as Special Adviser and it is incumbent on him to work for the success of the government he is part of, protect and defend the government against unjust and vicious attacks from those who hide under ethnic and other primordial interests to heat up the polity for myopic reasons. 

 “It is pertinent to state that every appointee of President Tinubu including Dr. Baba-Ahmed owe the government a copious duty to promote, elucidate and advance the good works and commendable efforts of the government across all sectors. 

“As appointees of the government from the North, we must all take a stand, be unequivocal and be counted in the roll of honours for our support and work for the success of the administration we are serving. This is not the time to keep quiet in the face of intimidation and misrepresentation of the efforts and achievements of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR. We must stand up to be counted for being on the part of the government or take our exit.”

 …Group disowns NEF

In a related development, a group, Arewa Progressive Forum (APFO), has dissociated itself from the recent views of the NEF on President Tinubu’s approach to security in the region, saying that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable. 

In a statement Monday in Kaduna, APFO National Secretary, Magaji Abbas Danbatta declared that the recent comments of the elders’ forum did not represent the Northern agenda for peace and national unity, which, according to him, remains non-negotiable.

He added that it was an error for any group or political association to come out openly and announce their regret over majority decisions, warning that northern elders are derailing from their counseling and advisory role to the government on national issues that affect the region.

The group also expressed support for Matawalle over what it called “his candid response to the NEF outbursts against President Tinubu.”

It said: “We wholeheartedly endorse the reactions of Minister of State Defense, Bello Mohammed Matawalle to some members of the Forum. They are not in tune with current realities in the North.

 “Northern elders should be seen as mediators or opinion shapers on national unity, cohesion, and progress without regional bias. This is key because Nigeria’s unity can’t be negotiated on the pages of newspapers. The same elders that ignored and failed to unite some of our political gladiators that are fighting one another in Kano, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kaduna states, are talking about the region being abandoned to its plights.

“Where were they when Zamfara Governor, Dauda Lawal was attacking his predecessor Bello Mohammed Matawalle over issues that could have been amicably resolved? The same with Umar Ganduje and Rabi’u Kwankwaso or Aliyu Wamakko and Attahiru Bafarawa before going into a fight with Aminu Waziri Tambuwal? In Kaduna, there is brewing misunderstanding between Governor Uba Sani and his predecessor, Nasir el-Rufai. All the northern elders cared about was President Tinubu.

“We are concerned that the Northern elders have one of their members as an adviser on political matters to the Vice President, in the person of Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed who could have facilitated a meeting with who and who in the seat of power to discuss issues affecting the region or the country in general rather than rushing to the press.”

The Forum however commended the joint and unrelenting efforts of the National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, and Matawalle whose proactive measures helped improve security in the region.

“We are of the view that President Tinubu’s approach to the issues of security in the North so far, especially North-west, is one of the best compared to his immediate predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari’s approach,” Danbatta added.

About Benjamin Samson, Abuja and AbdulRaheem Aodu, Kaduna 

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