‘North Central Can Stand On Its Own’

Barrister Kunle Sulyman is a legal practitioner and the initiator of North Central Consultative Assembly. He has worked in several significant campaign organizations which include that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan. He also served as the Director, Planning and Strategy of Dr. Bamanga Tukur, PDP National Chairman’s campaign organization. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the pioneer chairman of Kwara State PDP chapter, bares his mind on the state of affairs in the nation’s polity among other issues.

What is the North Central Consultative Assembly all about?
It is a response to what is happening in the country. Since the advent of democracy, the concept of political zones, though not constitutional, became distinct for government administration. It has also being used for zoning political offices. They have been using it for appointment; like the 36 ministers, there are six others representing each of the zones. So we now realized that geo-political zones have become reality in Nigeria.

Then all other geo-political zones especially from the south set up a political platforms based on their political affiliation – like the south/south, south/west which is Afenifere and now is Yoruba Unity Forum, the Igbo’s have Ohaneze, and the north /east now has? a forum. So why should we fold our arms when others are using these fora to draw attention to their areas; to address the problems that confront their geo-political zones.

Our vision is to facilitate the return of peace and unity to the various parts of the six states and the FCT that make up the North Central Zone of Nigeria. You know communal, ethnic or religious crisis have become the order of the day in most of our states.

For instance, in Nasarawa, the Fulanis and Eggons have been on each other’s neck. In Kwara, it is the Offa Vs Erin-Ile Community, Plateau – Settlers/Indigenes issue is making the place a hot bed of crisis. Even in Benue…except probably Niger State. So we are designing strategies to complement the efforts of various authorities and stakeholders in such areas.

Similarly, we are desirous of facilitating return of the zone to its pre-independence status as the economic hub of the nation, by embarking on aggressive campaign for massive investment intervention by the federal government in the solid mineral sector, particularly in the North central Zone where we have enough to sustain the country’s economy even better than the oil sector. You may also recall that experts report that oil and gas has been discovered in the Bida Basin of Niger State.

It has also been observed that despite donating our vast arable land for the now Federal Capital Territory, and the sites of the hydro-electricity power stations that generates the major power consumed by the country, we have continued to suffer marginalization in terms of infrastructural development and maintenance as well as in the allocation of federal revenue.

What do you hope to achieve at the end of the day?
We want to achieve the unity of these political zones. If you look at it, we are different from all the geo-political zones. If you go to south/east, they are all Igbo and they are united by their religion and tribe. If you go to south/west, they are all Yoruba, but in north central, we are so divided in terms of religion, culture, language and the rest.

We are very lucky that despite all this, there has not been any friction excerpt within the states like what we have with due respect in Plateau, and the one we have in Kwara, Nasarawa and other minor skirmishes. We have not had any serious inter-state or inter-religious crises.

So, that one helps us a lot. So this focus is to see to the sustenance of peace and unity of these region, to draw the attention of government because if we are to be a neutral state. We can stand on our own because impression is already given that Nigeria cannot survive without the oil from the south/south. But I know the North central can survive while we are the solid mineral base in this country. The only problem is that it has not been explored. So we can survive…

But will Sovereign National Conference solve our problem as a nation?
I don’t believe in that because the word sovereign denotes that there is no government and we start afresh. If you say national conference, then it is another thing. What are we going to convene a national conference for? We also have representatives in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assemblies to represent us.

How many states can claim unity? Some states are by birth Nigeria. Take Plateau, Kwara where I come from. So I don’t think national sovereign conference will solve our problem, rather it will create more problems.

What are the differences between this forum and Arewa Consultative Forum?
The Arewa Consultative Forum is for the whole north and North Central Consultative Assembly is for the Middle Belt. We limit ourselves to what will happen within our geo-political zones. We believe the existence of other organization like the Middle Belt Forum. We are playing a complimentary role to what they are doing. We are not in conflict with them.

It is common knowledge that the north is fragmented because of the insurgency and insecurity; do you see the north coming together ahead of 2015?
When we are thinking of North Central Zone, we are thinking purely in terms of developmental purposes, and we intend to come together even politically to project an image of the north central as a solid block which can give its vote to anybody who can protect the area. It could be somebody from amongst us, it could be from any area but our interest is the major focus. I don’t see the north as fragmented, there are so many people from north central in ACF.

I know Joseph Waku from Benue, Jeremiah Useini from Plateau and so many people. The politics of the north has always been the dominant party that we had during the time of the NPP, NPN, and the dominant party; there would be the opposition party. At a point they try to come together and we always know how it ends.

You said the organization is only for developmental purposes. Who should be blamed for the lack of development in your zone knowing that General Gowon was there, Babangida was also there?
I will blame successive governments at the center, irrespective of where their leadership comes from. I agree with you that Gowon period was during the war; he came to prosecute the war and we congratulate him. Babangida came and he did a lot for Nigeria. Most of the things he did, no president has done it since, though they will abuse him.

But if you are versed in the art of governance, you will know that, he ran into problems over the June 12. His position as at that time has perfected Nigeria, if you want to see it as a positive action. It led to the change of power from the north to the South/west; that is positive. The negative aspect is that, he denied Abiola.

The opposition have successfully formed a mega party; what is going to happen to the PDP now?
The past ones have not won. If you remember, during the NPN, there was a similar move. The PRP, GNPP, NPP, and the rest all came together. Now, they are talking about new party. The move is always from South/west because they are always in the opposition in their politics. So it is coming from the same axis, the response from the north is also coming from the same axis.

So if you are conversant with Nigerian politics, I believe it will deepen Nigerian democracy; it is going to strengthen the opposition and will serve an s an alternative to the ruling party. This will ginger because before now, the PDP has been doing anything they want but now, they will sit up because many people will move to join other party. It is a good political idea.

The South/south has come up to declare their support for Jonathan, and the governor of Niger has said that the president made a pact to spend one term…
I want us to move away from question of pact or no pact. There is no legal implication of it; it is a moral question. I believe if anybody in the north is interested in the presidency should come out in respective of whether there is a pact or no pact. The people will decide because Jonathan has the constitutional right to contest again.

Anybody that wants to do his homework and run against him should go ahead and do so. If the north is desperate about getting power back, there is nothing tying you to a particular party.

If party A refuses to use your party, vote for party B, it is matter of what you believe. I don’t belie what the South/south is saying because Jonathans has not come out to say anything. South/south is not Jonathan and he has not appointed them as his mouth organ, he has not inform the party that he will run. So as far as I am concerned, the presidency is open for everybody.
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