President Tinubu, NEF and how not to be Elder statesmen


Throughout the history of human civilisation, the role of statesmen are clearly defined and very pivotal to social progress of any political community called “country.”

In his own definition, famous American writer, John T. Shaw, said, “Statesmanship is exceptional leadership characterised by vision, courage, compassion, effectiveness, and civility. A statesman or stateswoman is a respected, skilled and experienced political leader or figure. In most respects a statesman is the opposite of a politician. Politicians are thought of as people who will say or do anything to get elected or to gain power. A statesman is someone who does everything for the common good of the people he or she represents. To call a person a statesman is a mark of high regard for that person’s integrity.”

Against the backdrop of Shaw’s description of who is a true statesman, it is safe to say that most people parading themselves as elder statesmen in Nigeria are far from it. It is self-deception to refer those who have assumed the role of political opposition as statesmen. No; they are not. Statesmen are the moral gauge of every society – not the ones that throw tantrums and whip up ethnic and political sentiments in the name of elders. 

There is a very tiny difference between the modus operandi of the Northern Elders Forum and political parties. A group of statesmen who came together to ensure the ship of state does not sink will not go to the extent of manipulating public opinion against a government that inherited a heavy burden. Instead, they advise government constructively and ensure that the citizens enjoy social stability.

The role of eminently skilled men in statecraft in the garb of statesmen is not to strip Nigerians of their inalienable right to elect a leader of their choice, just as Nigerians overwhelmingly elected President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on February 25, 2023.

Since assumption of office, President Tinubu has thrown everything in the works to ensure quick wins. Nigerians and the international community have applauded his leadership acumen. Except for a group of elders who feel disappointed that Tinubu refused to assuage their parochial appetite.

For instance, the Chairman of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Ango Abdullahi, and his men are threatening that the North will not support the reelection of President Tinubu in 2027, as if the power to decide who wins election no longer lies with the ballot box but NEF. 

Suffice to recall also that a few months ago, NEF endorsed a constitutional amendment to abolish the presidential system currently in practice in Nigeria being proposed by a group of 60 lawmakers. This is the kind of arrogance that has continued to stoke tension. NEF has unambiguously demonstrated that it is playing the role of an opposition instead of the stabiliser, moral and social guage of the society it ought to be.

The recent outburst that it regretted supporting President Tinubu in the 2023 general elections and will not support him in 2027, if he decides to contest, is the height of arrogance and insensitivity to the voting Nigerians and the sanctity of the ballot box. Come to think of it, what is the political pedigree of NEF members? They should be bold enough to tell Nigerians where most of them contested for elections in the fourth republic.

This will lead me to agree with the call by the former Zamfara state governor and minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle, tasking all President Tinubu’s appointees from the North to stand firm and defend the administration or quit. Permit an excerpt from Matawalle’s challenge

Thank goodness, in this lame enterprise the Northern Elders Forum is a lone voice, as all attempts to hoodwink other opinion groups have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, many northern groups have dissociated themselves from NEF like a plague. Dissatisfied with NEF’s incessant attacks on President Tinubu, the Progressive Northern Elements have come out strongly to back the Minister of State for Defence, Alhaji Bello Mohammed Matawalle, for lambasting the Northern Elders Forum.

Also, in a recent statement, the Arewa Progressive Forum decried the recent outbursts of the NEF against Tinubu, saying it did not represent the opinion of the North on Tinubu’s performance. Another northern group, Coalition of Concerned Northern Groups (CCNG), berated NEF for claiming the influence it does not have on Northern Nigeria.

CCNG described NEF’s comment as unfortunate, considering the fact that Tinubu has not even spent one year in office. The group warned NEF to desist from very unwise move to engage in such a slander, especially now that the hardwork of the president is seen by Nigerians to be manifesting practically.

“It baffles us that the NEF was silent when hundreds of innocent people were killed during the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, following a clampdown on Shi’ites members in Kaduna in 2015. Were they not northerners that were murdered in an extrajudicial manner?” CCNG queried.

On the allegations that the North is being marginalised, one would be tempted to take the purveyors of falsehood seriously until he hears the National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu. The NSA recently disclosed that President Tinubu deliberately appointed northerners into key positions and take charge of strategic places because he wanted problems in the region squarely addressed.

Ribadu said, “At the time he (Tinubu) was forming this government, he said the North was very dear to his heart, that he would do everything to address its challenges. This is why he appointed northerners into key offices. He handed over security and defence to the North. He gave us both ministers of agriculture and education. He also gave us ministers of health and foreign affairs in his quest to turn around the fortune of the region. He gave us a chance. Now, the rest is on us, we northerners. Let’s put our differences aside and work for the betterment of our region and Nigeria”.

As I align myself with the NSA, let me let this divisive elements trying to cause confusion in the North know that President Tinubu has come to stay as Nigeria’s president and will serve out his tenure. He will get re-elected after his first term in office based on his performance, and Nigerians are very happy with the good work he is doing in steering the nation out of the murky waters of insecurity, years of misgovernance and failed leadership.

One thing Nigerians should understand clearly is that President Tinubu has made the North his second home, with strong affiliation with states like Borno. He even visited a place he calls his roots. 

As the national chairman of Northern Alternative Forum (NAF), I and other well-meaning northerners are taking stock of infrastructural and economic development President Tinubu is putting up for the productivity of the North. We shall soon publish the compendium when all professionals involved in the project have certified them. What he is doing now will give him massive votes from the region.

If the NEF feels they have a better leader to pilot the affairs of the country they should wait till 2027. Political battles are won through perfect planning and a clear strategy, rather than through unconstructive propaganda, roadside gossips and childish tantrums.

Very soon we, the northern leaders, will seek legal redress to urge all our anti-corruption agencies to prosecute looters who stole public funds, especially those from the North and ensure the loot are returned to the nation’s coffers, as well as to expose those behind kidnapping, banditry, insurgency and other heinous crimes.

May Almighty God bless our president, Tinubu, my highly respected NSA, Ribadu, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, and the Minister of State for Defence, Matawalle, for standing firm for the unity of Nigeria.