The National Chairman, North Central People’s Forum, Chief Gabriel Aduku, is a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, the former Minister of State for Health explains the rationale behind the formation of the North Central People’s Forum. He also spoke on other issues bordering on insecurity, restructuring, and the way forward.
What factors informed the establishment of the North Central People’s Forum?
One of the major issues that agitated our minds which led to the formation of the forum is development. The North Central comprises seven states, including Kogi, Benue, Nasarawa, Kwara, Niger, Plateau as well as Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The zone needs more development and has enormous resources to drive it. For this to happen, efforts of the state governors need to be harnessed by ensuring their coming together with other progressive-minded people and stakeholders within the zone. That was why said, let’s pull the organ and use it to achieve the purpose. But in a nutshell, the North Central Forum is a development platform that would enhance discussions to think out what matters in the zone and not an agitation group.
What shall be the major activities of the forum?
The major activities have to do with galvanizing resources and galvanizing the governors into understanding issues that would essentially and sufficiently stimulate the development of their states within the zone. Several development resources must be maximized. The North Central Zone is full of development tools that can be used to harness the whole country together. Iron and steel is one big issue. But for the past 30 years, it has been abandoned. That was a project that would have landed the country in a full global iron and steel economy apart from other local market opportunities that it would have offered the people for economic prosperity. Since 1983 when it became moribund, it has not received any appreciable support to resuscitate it. The economic benefits of iron are so enormous and do not need much cry for it to be given attention. Pressure from this kind of platform can go a long way in influencing the government to do something about it.
What other development resources do you think could be maximized to engender the development you are advocating?
There are over 40 mineral resources under the soil. Kogi has a lot of them. Instead of leaving them to banditry exploitation, the right people must be engaged to maximize them for economic prosperity. In Niger State, you have the Kainji dam. Over the years, it has been maximized to generate electricity steadily. But somehow, we are still in a terrible energy situation. An ally like the North Central People’s Forum can convince the authorities to do the needful.
We need to expose so many things in addressing issues that will bring about solutions to the diverse problems that this country is facing.
The Jeba Paper Mill could be resuscitated to maximize its economic potentials. But we prefer to be importing papers from countries that are not blessed with rich vegetation like ours because papers come from wood. Newspaper industries spend staggering amounts of money on the importation of papers. If we can develop our paper mill, we too can become an exporter of papers and a source of supply to the newspaper industry; and then, our economy can be better for it. If the North Central People’s Forum draws the government’s attention to it on a serious note, then we shall begin to achieve good results.
Are you also considering the River Niger/Benue dredging as a part of the development drive that you are talking about?
That is our prime. I have written to our colleague, the Arewa Consultative Forum, to take it up with Mr. President to dredge the river. But from the records so far, especially since the beginning of Independence, till now, every government has been saying that it would try to dredge the river. But over the years, the dredging has not seen the light of day. I have been on this issue since 2012. In 2018, I went to Area Consultative Forum (ACF) but up till now, there is a lackadaisical attitude towards it. I personally would like to see River Niger and Benue come upstream. But all Nigerians must think about it because the fruits in it are enormous.
To what extent do you carry along the North Central state governors in the light of the development agenda that you have been advocating?
When we visited the Nasarawa State governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, he agreed to be the patron of the forum. He also promised to talk to all his colleagues to be part of the move. The governor of Niger State who is the chairman of the forum promised to do the same for them to support the forum and cooperate by contributing to the development of the zone.
There is a need to give more authority to the states, especially the local governments.
The Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, who has been with us from the word go has been sponsoring our programmes even right from the inauguration of the forum. The Kwara State governor, AbdulRahman Abdul Razak, also came out to do the technical analysis of what we should be doing. The chapter of the forum has been inaugurated in his state and functioning. We are looking forward to inaugurating chapters in all the states after the inauguration of the executive committee which took place in Abuja recently. The chapters are to coordinate the activities of the forum to ensure development in the zone.
In what specific ways do you think the insecurity problem could be solved?
People must be involved in the fight right from the grassroots. There must be a sincere approach from the grassroots and then we shall, together, rid this country of banditry, Boko Haram insurgency, terrorism, and kidnapping. Also, other countries that are supporting them must be fought nationally. The guns that they are using, where are they getting them from? They are from those countries. The names of the countries and dates that they were manufactured are there on the guns. They can be easily tracked with such identities.
People have been derailed by anger, frustration, and depression due to agitation for equity and fairness.
We are working towards holding a security and development summit which all the governors and the minister of the FCT are expected to attend. The submit is a prime action because insecurity is building up all over the place. We recognize the problem and need to come out with our own solution to ensure that in the end, there would be a harmonized security action that would save this country. We need to expose so many things in addressing issues that will bring about solutions to the diverse problems that this country is facing.
The former military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), is also from the North Central. How does the forum intend to tap from his political experiences in achieving some of its objectives?
He is an asset to the forum. His message has always been one Nigeria. He has been warning that the way of secession being agitated for is not the right way to go. He has also been advising seriously that we should stay together and face our challenges together as a country. We shall keep tapping from his experiences on how to live together in unity and peace which are crucial tools to drive the development that the forum is talking about.
What is your take on restructuring?
I am very much for restructuring. That is the best way to go now.
There should be moral rearmament among the people. People have been derailed by anger, frustration, and depression due to agitation for equity and fairness. Attitude must change. We need moral education. We need to rearm ourselves seriously towards peace and unity. Why must we be fighting ourselves just because of poor governance that everybody is complaining about? There is a need to give more authority to the states, especially the local governments. Governance has to be taken to the grassroots where moral education must be stimulated by breeding responsible youths that can reason and participate in the nation-building and development efforts.