The Arewa Consultative Forum has declared that the North has no plan to secede from Nigeria.
The ACF also reacted to an interview granted by Alhaji Balarabe Musa to one of the national dailies where he was quoted as saying that, “I have regarded Afenifere, ACF, Ohanaeze and surrogates, like the APC, as socialist secessionist groups in Nigeria, even though they talk about federalism.”
Reacting to the interview, the northern body said it was most embarrassing and provocative, adding that “it was not in the ACF character to respond to such a reckless and unfortunate utterance coming from a former governor and an elder statesman of Balarabe Musa’s status.”
The ACF said as an umbrella body for all northerners, it would never support any call on the North to secede from Nigeria.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Muhammadu Ibrahim, in a statement in Kaduna, said, “It is not in the character of the ACF to respond to such a reckless and unfortunate statement, especially by a former governor and an elder statesman.
“However, the ACF found it imperative to state that as an umbrella body for all northerners irrespective of their religion, tribe, ethnicity and political leanings, it has never and will never call on the North to secede from Nigeria.
“It is however the business of the ACF to help and encourage constructively, our political leaders at all levels to pursue their political ambitions consistent with the long-term benefit of our people, survival and development of our country.
“The ACF is therefore not a secessionist group, as its primary objective is to foster, promote, defend and strengthen national unity, peaceful co-existence and development in the context of one indivisible Nigeria,” he added.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is a political and cultural association of leaders in Northern Nigeria formed in 2000 which has considerable influence in the political scene. (Arewa means “Northern” in Hausa, the primary language of the region.) The forum is a successor to the Northern People’s Congress, which collapsed after the coup of 1966. The ACF has been associated with the Arewa People’s Congress (APC), a militant group set up to protect the interests of the Hausa-Fulani people in the north. However, the forum is committed to democratic processes within the Federal constitution.
The forum originated from a meeting held on 7 March 2000 in Kaduna at the initiative of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido. The purpose was to establish unity of Northern leaders, working through elected officials to achieve progress in the Arewa area within the democratic framework. In September 2000, former head of state General Yakubu Gowon agreed to act as chairman of the Board of Patrons of the forum. The forum appointed a retired Inspector General of the Nigerian Police, Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko Yusufu, as chairman.Belying its common image as a champion of the interest of the Moslem Hausa and Fulani, the ACF appointed Sunday Awoniyi, a Christian Yoruba as chairman of the Board of Trustees in 2000, a position he held until his death in November 2007.
On 8 August 2001 the ACF announced that it was forming three teams to visit the 19 states of the North and Abuja, to be led by All People’s Party (APP) leader Olusola Saraki, ACF Chairman M.D. Yusufu and Lt. Gen Jeremiah Useni. The goal was to meet and discuss common goals with state governors and other leaders. The group met a cool reception in Jos, Plateau State from members of the Middle Belt Forum, who felt that they would be marginalized in a forum dominated by northerners.
In August 2001 the forum recommended that former Heads of State, Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar defend themselves against allegations made against them at the Human Rights Investigations Commission, sitting in Abuja, and said the ACF was conducting an independent investigation. In December 2003, the new ACF chairman, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, said the forum would try to persuade Buhari, Babangida and Vice President Atiku Abubakar to resolve their differences for the sake of greater unity of northern leaders.
In March 2009 the ACF expressed concern over deteriorating liquidity in the banking industry and demanded that the Central Bank of Nigeria provide information on the size and origins of the problem.
In late 2009 the illness of President Umaru Yar’Adua, the first Northern President of the Nigerian Fourth Republic, and the possibility of his vice-president Goodluck Jonathan from the South assuming power became a contentious issue in the forum. On 16 December 2009, the forum issued a communiqué calling for further information on the health of the President, and saying that if a succession issue arose it should be resolved according to the constitution.Later that month, the ACF called on the President, then hospitalized in Saudi Arabia, to formally release a letter that would authorize the Vice President to act in his absence.
In January 2010 the former secretary of the ACF, retired colonel Umaru Ali, asked the president to resign so that his deputy could take over.In February 2010 the ACF said unequivocally that Yar’Adua should transfer power to Jonathan. Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, former Liaison Officer to President Shehu Shagari and a founding member, quit the ACF due to the forum’s statement.
Alhaji Tanko Yakassai has since returned to the ACF as a member of its Board of Trustees and is playing active roles in the organisation.
In March 2010 the ACF rejected a statement by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who had recommended a break-up of Nigeria along religious lines, saying he was ignorant of the diverse religious make-up of the country.The ACF condemned the recent killings in Plateau State, which had triggered Gaddafi’s remarks, describing them as “senseless”.That month the ACF formed a Political Committee headed by former Minister of State of Power and Steel, Mohammed Ahmed Gusau. The committee’s goal was to set the ACF agenda ahead of the 2011 elections.
Omolara Adegoke- Abuja
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