Unongo is new Northern elders’ chair



By Bashir Mohammed Kano

Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has elected a former Minister of Steel Development in the Second Republic, Dr Paul W. Unongo, as its new chairman. Speaking yesterday when members of the Forum paid a condolence visit to Governor of Kano state, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, at the Government House over the death of the Damasanin Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, he said those agitating for secession were “unpatriotic Nigerians doing the bidding of agents of disunity to cause disaff ection and chaos.” Unongo said the breakaway renegades had completely lost touch with the prevailing realities on ground, adding that the apologists of the secession campaign were not with the Forum and lacked the legitimacy to be recognised.

He said the bitter lessons of the nation’s civil war had made “every responsible and patriotic Nigerian to oppose any move aimed at putting Nigeria asunder,” adding that the Forum was “no safe haven of those whose penchant for disunity is on a crude pedestal, regardless of the consequences of their campaign of attrition.” He said: “An evidence of our commitment as one northern entity and to sustain the legacy left behind by Danmasanin is the decision of my colleagues in the Forum to trust me with its leadership.

“Th is clearly shows that our commitment to reinforcing the idea of one North, one people as left behind by Danmasanin was not just a slogan, but the expression of the reality that while we may speak diff erent languages and worship God in diff erent ways, history, destiny and the realities of our existence have combined to make us one entity as northerners who must swim or sink together.” Unongo berated some elders in the region for making remarks the Forum perceived to be detrimental to the unity of the people of the region.

“It is unfortunate that at this moment, such unguided remarks are coming out from supposedly elders of the region. Th e events of the past few weeks, and even as we speak now, Babel of divisive rhetoric, threats and insults are being thrown across the nation and are drowning sensible and responsible voices of caution. “Today, every element of our lives and existence as a nation appears vulnerable to assault or questioning. Tragically, even some senior citizens with distinguished records in key events at turning points in our history, people who know what it took to build this country and pull it away many times from edges of disaster, people who benefi tted from peace and development, are today stoking the fi re of crisis and unimaginable disaster.”

He said the Forum drew its inspiration from the fact that while recent negative developments had saddened the late Sule, “he never lost hope and belief that both the symptoms and manifestation can be understood and resolved in favour of greater quality of coexistence and security for all Nigerians.” In his remarks, Governor Ganduje described the Forum as an indispensible engine of change in the present democratic setting given the caliber of personalities controlling its operations and activities. He added that the vacuum created by the death of the revered nationalist could only be fi lled by those who had possessed the trait he had exhibited.

Th e governor said his administration had conceived the idea to rename the Northwest University after the late elder statesman and patriot, in recognition of the spectacular role he had played in shaping the destiny of the nation. Ganduje said he was ready to liaise with the Forum in launching a book he had written which was planned to be offi cially launched under the Chairmanship of the late Danmadanin Kano. In a related development, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, and the Tor Tiv, Professor Ben Ayatse, also paid a condolence visit to Governor Ganduje, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, and the family of the late Danmasani Kano, who according to them was “a veritable pillar of unity and oneness of Nigeria as an indivisible entity.”

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