By Emmanuel Aziken, Okey Ndiribe, Soni Daniels, Charles Kumolu, DAPO AKINREFON & Gbenga Oke
LAGOS— Northern interest groups and leaders, yesterday, flayed Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark’s assertion of the culpability of Northern leaders in the Boko Haram insurgency, describing his claim as extreme ethnic jingoism.
In their various reactions to Clark’s claim of northern conspiracy against the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the northern groups and elders said the depiction of the President as a victim was a wrong assessment of what they separately described as the inability of the regime to address a problem that has spread through ethnic and religious divisions in the north.
The northern leaders’ reaction came in the face of the assertion by Clark at a public lecture in Abuja on Wednesday that powerful northern leaders are orchestrating the Boko Haram insurgency to destabilise the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
File photo: Crowd at the Abubakar Gunmi Central Market in Kaduna State on June 24 after relaxation of 24hrs curfew engendered by multiple bomb attacks which killed many in the state Photo by Olu Ajayi.
Among those who reacted yesterday were the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF; the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF; prominent northern leader, Alhaji Lawal Kaita; fiery northern political commentator Dr. Junaid Mohammed; prominent lawyer, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and Rep. Zakari Mohammed, the spokesman of the House of Representatives.
Clark is wrong — ACF
Reacting to the assertion, the ACF speaking though its spokesman, Anthony A. Z. Sanni said:
“If Chief Edwin Clark believes Northern Leaders brought about Boko Haram in order to make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan; you in the media should remind him that President Umar Yar’Adua used force and killed 700 members of the sect and their leader in 2009 when there was no politics of zoning.
“What is more, President Jonathan’s ruling party controls about 14 northern states. The numbers 2,3,4 and 5 in the government are from the North. How would the North make the country ungovernable under such situation?
“I have made this point clear that it is unhelpful to associate Boko Haram with a region, with religion or with ethnicity. Were it strategic to think so, America would have associated al-Qaeda with Saudi Arabia or with Islam, since Osama Bin Laden and most of the 19 pilots who brought the New York twin towers down on 9/11 were of Saudi extraction.
“Nigerians passed their judgment and rejected politics of zoning when they voted President Jonathan in 2011. As democrats, northern leaders under ACF congratulated President Jonathan and all those who won their elections. ACF also paid courtesy call on Mr President and urged Nigerians to support the government and that politicians should go to the trenches for 2015 only when the whistle is blown by the authority.
“What else should northern leaders do in order to assure Chief Clark that the security challenges and the national malaise have not been brought about by northern leaders? The media should also help dispel such misconceptions for national interest,” Sani said.
It’s pure blackmail — Arewa youths
The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, in its own reaction described the assertion as pure blackmail that would inevitably compound the problems of the president.
“That is a blackmail and one is not surprised because the elder statesman, though I have respect for him, but sometimes, his utterances seem to compound more trouble for the Niger Delta people and even the president,” Alhaji Yerima Shetimma, the national president of the AYCF told Vanguard yesterday.
“One of the issues they have raised is that often time, when they talk, they say ‘our president, our son’, ‘our oil and our money’, that does not protect the unity of this country; in fact, it is a threat to national unity.
“When there was crisis in the Niger Delta, some of us did not see it as a Niger Delta crisis but as a Nigerian problem. Of what importance will it be to a northerner to sponsor Boko Haram and at the same time, the direct victim is the northerner because, over 99 per cent of victims of Boko Haram are northerners.
”Jonathan did not become President because of the support he had only from the South-south. In fact, some of us did the work for him to be there. Some of us pushed for the Doctrine of Necessity and I was one of the vocal voices that stood and insisted that the right thing must be done. If they continue doing that, they are treading on the wrong path and they might end up ruining. This must stop, this madness must stop. So, nobody should accuse the north, this is blackmail and we will resist it”.
Kaita, Mohammed, others react
Prominent Northern leader, Kaita on his part described the claim by Clark as a lie, saying that most northern leaders no longer take Clark serious.
“That was a dishonest lie by E.K Clark. Northern elders have never been against Jonathan’s administration. And northern elders are not Boko Haram. We all want peace for this nation. Unfortunately, the government has allowed Boko Haram to be in charge. They are not doing enough in that respect. For anybody to say that we are using Boko Haram to destablise Jonathan’s administration means that the person is telling a blatant lie. Even the casualties resulting from Boko Haram attacks are mainly northerners, how can someone now say that the elders are using it to destabilise Jonathan’s administration? We northern elders no longer take E.K Clark serious. As far as we are concerned, he is not serious on his positions on the state of the nation, although he used to be a very good friend of the north before now.
“Jonathan’s administration will collapse by its non performance, especially non implementation of the budget,” Kaita said.
Dr. Junaid Mohammed in his own reaction said: “I wouldn’t want to go mad with a reckless statement credited to Chief Edwin Clark. I can confirm to you that the event was conceived and financed to do exactly what Chief Edwin Clark did and those who are behind the event have been handsomely paid in addition to promises made to them.
”Secondly, he is a man of age but no wisdom”, he said.
Expressing his disappointment that Clark who is a lawyer could express such comments, Dr. Mohammed said: ”Where is the proof from Barrister or Lawyer Edwin Clark? Where is the proof from those who are peddling this irresponsible talk? The statement he has made is very baseless and irresponsible.
“They should have enough evidence and proof before making this kind of inflammatory statement and if they cannot prove, they should be prosecuted.”
In his own assertion yesterday, Rep. Zakari Mohammed the spokesman of the House of Representatives described the depiction of northern leaders by Clark as grossly sensational.
Responding to Clark’s charge to Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to condemn the activities of the Boko Haram group, Mohammed said:
“These two leaders have demonstrated their commitment to the united existence of this country. They don’t need to openly say what they have been doing about the prevailing situation in the country.
“It is unfair for him to cast aspersions on these past leaders. There should be mutual respect in this country; that is what makes a nation. The problem of terrorism in this country is not a sectional one. Both Muslims and Christians are being killed. During the general elections, both Christians and Muslims voted for President Goodluck Jonathan.”
Prominent northern lawyer, Abubakar Malami, SAN, also absolved northern leaders of complicity in the charges against them by Clark in the raging Boko Haram violence that has wreaked havoc in many parts of the north.
Malami said the ongoing security challenge in the land was borne out of government inability to deal with the monster, and not instigated by northern leaders.
He stated that it was the government’s total incompetence that had given rise to the state of insecurity in the country.
The lawyer said that it was wrong for Clark to accuse northern leaders of taking side with Boko Haram when they neither control security votes nor the apparatus of fighting crime.
“The man should not look for scapegoats for what the government has clearly failed to address. If the administration is incompetent to tackle insecurity, nobody should blame it on innocent citizens who have not been given any money or tools to fight crime,” Malami said.
“What we are witnessing in the country today is purely a case of incompetence on the part of the government. It is appalling that after budgeting about N1 trillion for security and doing nothing about it even with the huge sum, someone is turning round to blame other persons,” he added.
Malami, however agreed with Clark that the country did not need a Sovereign National Conference but the devolution of powers to enable other tiers of government to tackle their developmental challenges more effectively.
According to him, SNC is alien to the Nigerian Constitution and should therefore be discouraged while Nigerians who have genuine issues can initiate private bills to address them.