Bad Call from the Northern Elders Forum
On Tuesday last week, the Northern Elders Forum issued a statement calling for the immediate resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari from office due to the growing challenges of insecurity in the country. The statement, made available to reporters by the NEF’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said, among other things, that: “President Buhari’s administration does not appear to have answers to the security challenges we face. We cannot continue to live and die under the diktat of killers, kidnappers, rapists and various criminal groups who have deprived us of our rights to live in peace and security. Our Constitution contains provisions allowing leaders to resign voluntarily if they are challenged for personal reasons or if they prove unable to lead. Now is the time for President Buhari to seriously consider this option, as his leadership has proven spectacularly incapable of keeping Nigerians safe”.
The Forum further noted that they are “aware of the weight of this advice”, but at the same time, also “aware that we cannot continue to live under these conditions until 2023, when President Buhari’s term in office will take end”.
Unsurprisingly, the NEF call generated much controversy among large sections of Nigerians in the regular press and on social media. The statement was roundly condemned by many Nigerians on social media, but also welcomed and widely publicized by others.
Speaking on behalf of the president in a reaction statement titled “Internal security reforms must be implemented at the earliest,” the president’s special assistant for media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said that “ the presidency does not wish to be drawn”. in the high-decibel spectacle in the media, taking the nation by storm from the Northern Elders Forum. “Advertising is oxygen for politicians who have failed to connect with voters in a democracy. Suffice it to say from us that calling for the resignation of the President is not a solution to the security challenges facing the country, which have accumulated to a worrying level, after decades of neglect”.
The presidency added that “it is more important that citizens know what their government is doing to deal with this situation and that politicians accept the fact that it is beneficial for all if they help to preserve the state in order to that when it is their turn, they will have a place that they will manage. People don’t have to destroy what’s there in a desperate quest for power.
We at Daily Trust believe that the NEF’s call for the resignation of President Buhari is unwarranted, unnecessary and unlikely to help in any way to resolve the situation. We also find the verbal exchange between the Presidency and the Northern Elders Forum regrettable, after all the President is also an elder from the North and the country. Of course, we understand the frustration of the Northern Elders Forum following the growing problems of insecurity and the wave of murders, kidnappings and general lawlessness in the country, especially in the northern part of the country .
We also share the Forum’s view that the Federal Government, and President Buhari in particular, could better address the security situation in Nigeria and the North.
But President Buhari’s resignation is not in itself a solution to these challenges, nor is his appeal, politically expedient as that may seem. The complexity of the security situation in Nigeria goes beyond any silver bullet or what can be blamed on a single government, although as we have said many times on this page, the current government can do well better than it does now. The entire security architecture in the country has been mismanaged for decades, and the growing challenges we face today are, in a sense, an indication of that. And by security, we mean more than just the armed forces, which themselves have decayed to their roots over these decades. The collapse of societal moral values and the continuing economic downturn are all part of the security architecture. Neither the resignation of the president nor any successor can solve these problems the next day.
Moreover, the resignation of the president in an election year is likely to cause its own constitutional and security crises, resulting from the heat and tension within national politics that such a decision will cause. Nigeria doesn’t need all that right now. Instead, we call on the NEF and all leaders across the country to join the government in working together to address security issues and ensure a peaceful, free and fair election. Indeed, virtually none of the dozens of presidential candidates from all political parties seeking to succeed President Buhari have shown Nigeria’s plan to tackle rising insecurity in the country.
This is worrying in itself, as any successor to Buhari will inherit both assets and liabilities, including insecurity, thus making it important for Nigerians to know now how they intend to solve our toughest problems. We therefore urge the NEF and all others of goodwill to shine their spotlight not just on the current government, but on those who aim to replace it soon enough. In the meantime, let Buhari complete his last term.