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Northern leaders, including state governors and traditional rulers, on Monday met in Kaduna, where they condemned #EndSARS protests.
Their positions on the protests were contained in a communiqué issued after the meeting and read by the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong.
In the communiqué, the northern leaders, who alleged that separatists hijacked the #EndSARS protests, said the demonstrators were targeting regime change.
Youths calling for the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force began protests on October 8. The protests, which were held in major cities, lasted for two weeks.
But on Monday, northern leaders dismissed the protests as subversive, adding that they had separatist agenda.
Criticising the northern leaders, groups including the apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, insisted on restructuring.
Reading the communiqué issued by the northern leaders, Lalong stated, “The meeting rejects and condemns the subversive actions of the #EndSARS protests. The agitations and other change-regime actions outside the ballot box soon took advantage of the peaceful protests to push for their separatist agenda. The meeting endorses the indivisibility, indissolubility and oneness of the nation.”
The meeting was attended by the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan, the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.
Also at the meeting were the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar lll, who led other traditional rulers to the parley, the governors of Gombe State, Inuwa Yahaya; Nasarawa, Abdullahi Sule; Jigawa, Babadaru Abubakar; Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwal, his Kaduna State counterpart, Nasir El-Rufai; Bello Matawalle (Zamfara); Sani Bello ( Niger) and the deputy governors of Katsina, Kogi among others.
Lalong said the leaders appreciated the role of the traditional rulers in curtailing the #EndSARS protests from escalating in the North.
The Plateau State governor disclosed that the meeting noted the devastating effect of the uncontrolled social media in spreading fake news and called for major control mechanism and censorship of the social media practice in Nigeria
We must not allow destructive protests in Abuja — Northern leaders
He said the meeting emphasised the need to closely watch the Federal Capital Territory to “guard against unwarranted and destructive protests to safeguard critical assets of the nation.
“The meeting resolved that there is the need for regular meetings of this nature,” and called for further engagements with religious leaders, business community, youth leaders and other stakeholders.
According to him, the meeting approved the setting up of two major committees: the committee on roles of traditional rulers membership and the committee on the youth and civil society
He said the meeting called for collective effort in addressing the lingering challenges of the North, especially Almajirinci system, insecurity, illiteracy and poverty.
Lalong said the meeting appreciated the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and his cabinet for “their quick intervention in meeting the demands of the #EndSARS protesters.”
He also said, “the forum also appreciated the role of the youth for their response to the #EndSARS, in curtailing the spread of hooliganism, thuggery and other separatist tendencies.”
Insecurity: let’s reconsider state police, says El-Rufai
Earlier, while welcoming his colleagues to the meeting, El-Rufai said it was high time Nigeria considered the establishment of state police, following the #EndSARS protests which rocked parts of the country.
Specifically, the governor said the recent happenings in the country provided an opportunity to redesign the security architecture between the states and the Federal Government.
He asked, “Is it not time to make the establishment of state police a key part of policing reforms?
“Has the recent crisis not exposed again the inadequacy of the numbers, ordnance, training and unitary structure of the police in a federation?”
“In our view, it is an understatement to describe the last few weeks as challenging moments for our country.
“A cry by the youth for reform of policing has somehow snowballed into tragic events and a challenge to the authority of the Nigerian state.”
Restructuring has started, northern leaders can’t stop it – Ohanaeze
Condemning the northern leaders, the acting Secretary General and National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, said that those trying to give #EndSARS protest against police brutality, extrajudicial killings and extortion, ethnic and sentimental colorations would fail completely.
He said that restructuring of Nigeria had already begun, noting that the “#EndSARS brouhaha is just the icing on the cake.”
Achi-okpaga said, Just like the world went digital those who remained analogous were swept off by the digital wave.
Restructuring has begun in Nigeria already. The #EndSARS brouhaha is just the icing on the cake. Those who are now trying to give it ethnic and sentimental colorations will fail completely.
Northern governors, others on their own, Buhari’s regime’s nepotism must not continue—M’Belt Forum
Also, the Middle Belt Forum rejected positions of the northern governors and traditional rulers on Nigeria’s unity and EndSARS protests saying they were on their own
The National President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Porgu, in an interview with one of our correspondents, in Jos on Monday, noted that those who attended the meeting failed to acknowledge the need for a positive turnaround in the affairs of the country.
According to him, this shows that the northern governors and traditional rulers are together with the President in the mess going on in the country.
Describing the view of the northern governors and others as selfish, the National President of the Middle Belt Forum called on them to have a rethink in their assessment of the Nigerian situation and push for restructuring of the country.
Porgu said, “As far as we are concerned, their (Northern governors) views are for them. They do not represent our views because they are selfish. Are they saying that the current situation in Nigeria where nothing is working should continue? We have always said that bad governance, nepotism and other divisive tendencies brought by this administration must not continue. Anyone who is saying a different thing is simply on their own”
North sees itself as superior to others – PANDEF
The spokesman for the Pan-Niger Delta Forum,, Ken Robison, flayed the present arrangement. “whereby a section of the country seems to be superior to other parts of the country.
“The issues raised by the #EndSARS protesters are fundamental. In terms of police brutality, in terms of extortion and harassment of young people in the southern part of the country, and surprisingly and very unfortunately the northern region is saying that these activities of brutality and extortion and extrajudicial killings that were taking place in the southern part of the country were not so in the North. So that means we are not one country.
“That what happens in one part of the country does not happen in another part of the country. Why is it so? There are questions to be answered by the leadership of Nigeria, by the high command of the police and other security agencies. Why is there discrimination or disparity or imbalance as it were that while some persons are saying that experiences in some part of the country are not so in other parts of the country.
“And a police unit that is being condemned in one part is being celebrated in another part. So already there are divisions. There are inequalities. There are disparities and Nigeria cannot continue like that. Nobody will continue to say that Nigeria is indivisible in an unbalanced, in a skewed and lopsided structure.
“What we are insisting is that Nigeria has to be restructured. And the reality is that if this country is not restructured, the country will restructure itself.”
North fixated about ruling Nigeria – Afenifere
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said, “The unity of Nigeria is negotiable and we must negotiate it to have a functioning country. If we continue this Arewa song, the country will collapse.
“#EndSARS was a revolt and not for regime change. It is only those fixated only on their ruling of Nigeria at all costs without a thought for its health that would only be talking of a regime in the midst of all we are going through.”
Northern leaders lack understanding of issues – #EndSARS protesters
Commenting on the statement by the northern leaders, a member of the #EndSARS movement, Raphael Adebayo, said it showed that they had a shallow understanding of the issues being canvassed by the campaigners.
According to him, it is sad that the leaders fail to grasp the crux of the clamour by the youth despite the number of protesters brutalised and killed by security agents during the street rallies.
Adebayo noted, “This exposes their shallow understanding of the issues being canvassed by the #EndSARS. It also shows the quality of leaders we have in the country.
“After weeks of protests during which scores of protesters were violently killed by paid thugs and security agents, the best certain group of leaders can come up with is to say it was targeted at regime-change. Telling us that their only concern is about political spillover shows that they are not concerned about issues that #EndSARS protests are raising.”
The activist, who reiterated that the #EndSARS protesters were only interested in reform of the Nigeria Police, further said that regime change might happen if the government continued to turn a deaf ear to the demand of the people.
“Because they have done so badly, so wickedly, they should be worried this would eventually get to them asking them to leave power. For now, the #EndSARS protest is not about regime change but if the government wants it so, then it should be prepared because if this legitimate demand for justice continues to be ignored, Nigeria will see change and there would be no way out for this regime that has declared itself anti-people,” Adebayo stated.
The spokesman for Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, Luka Binniyat, said the aim of the #EndSARS protest was for good governance and justice.
Binniyat said it was the same mass protest over perceived incompetence of President Jonathan Goodluck that paved the way for Buhari.