Middle Belt, Southern Leaders’ Alliance Unsettles Northern Elders

James Abraham, Jos

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has expressed fears over the perceived alliance between some Middle Belt leaders and their Southern counterparts on issues of national interests, describing it as dangerous to Northern interests.

The forum’s reaction followed what it called an attempt to distance communities in the Middle Belt region in the Northcentral zone from decisions and interests of two other zones of the Northwest and Northeast that formed the old Northern Region of Nigeria.

In a statement issued in Jos on Monday by the Northern Elders Forum and signed by its Deputy Chairman, Northcentral zone, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, the forum insisted that the political divisions in the country remained Southwest, Southsouth and Southeast for the Southern region while the divisions in the North remained Northwest, Northeast and Northcentral.

The forum vowed to resist any attempt to distort the historical divides and warned those scheming to cause confusion within the Northern Region to stop henceforth.

The statement read in part, “The Northern Elders Forum is concerned that several statements have been credited to persons claiming to be the leaders of the Middle Belt Forum and their friends in the Southern part of our country.

“The statements claim to speak for and on behalf of all citizens and communities in the states of Middle Belt constitutionally known and grouped in the Northcentral including Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau and Benue states.

“They also seek to distance our communities from those in the two other zones of the Northwest and Northeast that form the North and suggest that we are effectively part of the communities in former Southern Nigeria made up of Western, Midwest and Eastern Nigeria in our political disposition.

“While we share many bonds with other Nigerians from the three Southern zones, we wish to emphatically state that we are Northerners and have always been so from the creation of Nigeria.

“Our history, destiny and mode of life have always been Northern, and our region of the Middle Belt is an integral part of the North.

No "North" without Middle Belt

Most of the 1st Republic’s Northern Region is the Middle Belt. The voice and preferences of Middle Belters have either been totally suppressed or subsumed under the ruling minority Fulani aristocracy domiciled in the Arewa North.

“We, therefore, reject any attempt to detach our communities from others in the North by negative interests or identify us with a political disposition which is fictional.

“We also disagree with the idea of the Middle Belt that goes beyond the geographical area of the present Northcentral zone.”

The statement further reiterated the commitment of NEF to continue to work with other Nigerians from other regions to improve the unity and economic wellbeing of the country.

It also advised those who speak against their identities to stop henceforth, adding that “there are no ambiguities regarding where our interests lie as they are located with the interest of the North.”