The North has disagreed with those who have branded President Muhammadu Buhari a sectional leader, saying there is nothing in the region to show that he has favoured the area more than other parts of the country. Leaders across the North, who were in unison on the position, therefore, challenged those crying marginalisation to come out with verifiable statistics to show in which areas Buhari’s kinsmen have advantages over others in his administration.
President Buhari has come under fire over a statement credited to the President of the World Bank Group, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, last Thursday, that Buhari specifically requested that the bank shifts focus to the northern region.
But, a cross section of northern leaders and groups, in separate interviews with New Telegraph at the weekend, described insinuations that Buhari is favouring the North as unfounded.
According to majority of them, the North only has the presidency, while the South is holding power. Among those who spoke with our correspondents were Second Republic presidential adviser and Chairman of Northern Elders’ Council (NEC), Alhaji Tanko Yakasai; former governor old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa; elder statesman and chairman of Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Dr. Paul Unongo; Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed and leader of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima.
The groups were apex northern group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Arewa Youth Forum (AYF). ACF, which spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, said the insinuation that Buhari is favouring the North against other regions is uncharitable and preposterous.
The group added that the cry of marginalisation is without facts and has caused mistrust among the people. ACF said: “President Buhari was elected as the president of Nigeria and not that of the North or South. In the last two years, he had presented national budgets to the National Assembly, which contained developmental projects for the entire country being his constituency.
“The budgets were passed into Appropriation Acts and implemented according to available resources, which Nigerians are fully aware of. It is, therefore, the considered view of the ACF that ascribing primordial considerations to projects to where the president comes from is preposterous and uncharitable.
“The claims of favouritism or marginalisation by one part of the country against the other, which have created unnecessary mistrust among the various components of the country is, in most cases, not based on facts, but rather on speculations.” AYF also insisted that the South has benefited more from the Buhari government.
The Arewa youths stated that the North only have the Presidency while the projects are in the South. “The South is in charge and any fair-minded Nigerian will tell you that. It is only in this government that someone from the South, Babatunde Fashola, is holding three ministries.
“Most of the projects executed in the last two years are in the South, the North only have the president and some appointees to show for it. Which project can anybody point at by this government in the North? Please tell me, I want to know,” ACF National President, Alhaji Gambo Gujungu, told New Telegraph.
Yakasai, who faulted those twisting President Buhari’s comments on World Bank’s support to the North-East, said the same thing was done by General Yakubu Gowon to the South-East shortly after the Nigerian/Biafran war He reminded critics of the president that in the two and half years of the present administration, the South has benefitted more than the North, adding that even the president clearly told the South-East leaders recently that their zone got senior ministers against most northern states, which have only junior ministers.
He said the comments of the president that the World Bank should focus more on the North-East was the right thing to do by every right thinking leader because the zone was totally destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents. His words: “When Gowon was Head of State, he took money from the national treasury to rebuild the South-East after the war, nobody called him a sectional leader, but today, for asking for the reconstruction of the North-East, Buhari is a sectional leader.
This is unfair. “Government then had money to rebuild the South- East, but in the case of Buhari, the nation has no money, so even the World Bank’s assistance is a loan payable in a long time and there is no crime in him wanting the ravaged North-East rebuilt.”
On the cry of marginalisation, Yakasai said: “I want you to ask those who are talking about marginalisation to tell us where and where they are marginalised. The North-West, where I come from, don’t have four senior ministers and, which government’s position is bigger than that of a minister? “Let me tell you, after the president and the vice president, minister is the next important position in government.
These people have four senior ministers and North-West don’t have four senior ministers. “On the issue of projects, let government tell us any project it has brought to the North that is more than those in the South.” Unongo, a Second Republic minister of steel, in his reaction, also dismissed the impression that Buhari is favouring the North, warning that such statement is capable of breeding disunity.
He said the Buhari administration has been fair to all the six geo-political zones of the country, adding that the zones still crying marginalisation are those agitating for disintegration, particularly the South-East. The NEF chairman said: “It is not possible to say that Buhari is favouring the North to the detriment of other regions.
The North occupies over 80 per cent of the total landmass of Nigeria and it has the population as well. If everything was given to the North proportionate to its size and population, it wouldn’t be so backward the way it is today.” Unongo further said that if any group is to protest against marginalisation, it should be his Tiv nation, which, according to him, constitutes the fourth largest ethnic group in the country, but has no representation in the national scheme of things despite voting overwhelmingly for the party in power. Junaid Mohammed, on his part, told those saying that Buhari is president of the North and not the president of Nigeria, to go to hell.
His words: “I believe in assessing a man, particularly a politician like Buhari, you assess him not only on what he says, but on what he does. If you look at the cabinet, it is clear that most of the important assignments (portfolios) went to the South, particularly the South-West. They have Finance, Health, Power/ Works/Housing and Communication.
So, for anybody who is rational, that statement made about Buhari asking World Bank to concentrate its activities in the North was false. “In fact, if you move ahead and you assess his words and deeds, you will find out that Buhari hasn’t done anything to advance the interest of the North in any way whatsoever.
The infrastructure projects that have been carried out in the last two and half years are the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway; the Second Niger Bridge at Asaba; the ongoing East/West Road; the rail project from Lagos to Calabar. Go and check them out.
These are the key projects of this administration and none of them is in the North. “For those who are using the mischievous report to say that Buhari is now president of the North and not the president of Nigeria, let them go to hell.
The facts are there and anybody who wants to check should go and check.” Also speaking, Balarabe posited: “This is a mere allegation by people from the South. I have not seen anything in the North to justify that assertion until we have figures. I believe the North and South-West are in this government together.
This government is a political conspiracy between the South-West and the North; that is the truth. But, as far as marginalisation is concerned, we can only talk with statistics.
“When people talk about appointments, I will appreciate if they line up the names and portfolios for us to see. I believe they cannot talk about marginalisation in economic matters or political appointments, when they cannot show us who and who is involved.” Also insisting that Buhari is not favouring the North, former Deputy National Publicity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Abdullahi Jalo, said there is nothing in the region to show that the president is disposed to the area.
“Buhari has done nothing to the North since he became president. Almost all the roads are bad, poverty is still there,” he said. He also disputed the appointments made by the president, saying: “Buhari has been taken over by the Yoruba. Most of the lucrative positions go to the Yoruba. Fashola has three ministerial positions.”
AYCF leader, Shetima, who described the criticisms against Buhari as blackmail against the North, said: “The president is on track, there is no big deal in what he said; we need to develop another part of this country that belongs to all of us. “What happened to the North-East can happen to any part of this country.
How could anyone be happy with the state of the North-East and the plight of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)? We must do away with sentiment and rally round this government and international community to move our people out of this despicable situation. Enough of all these petty politics; let us face the reality the situation demands.”