Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, on Monday, expressed concern about the rising tension in the country.

Abdulsalami said some of the problems the country had been experiencing demanded urgent action from government and individuals.

The ex-dictator spoke at a roundtable discussion on the security challenges facing the country organised by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Minna, Niger State. The event began on Monday.

He said, “There is anger in the land and voices of reason are drowning very rapidly. It is clear that the situation requires that we all live up to the expectations of a nation that puts so much value on elders.

“The roundtable discussion, which has participants drawn from across the country and represents interests and perspectives of the nature of the issues and the solutions needed to resolve them, is the centre’s contribution to the search for solutions to the problems we are currently experiencing.”

He added, “We are all here as Nigerians who share responsibility for the state of our nation. Therefore, if any forum can help in the accurate identification of the problems and solutions to a peaceful and united Nigeria, let us be counted among such a forum.

“This roundtable discussion is not a mini-national conference or a forum to review the constitution, neither will it be fixated on those issues that feed the prevailing tensions. These are matters that will doubtless appear in our discussions, but they should not be allowed to distract from the key goals of the roundtable discussion.”

The Chairman of the roundtable discussion and former Minister of External Affairs, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, told those clamouring for the disintegration of the country as the solution to the current security crisis to take a second look at the experiences of other countries that had done so.

Gambari also said there could never be a military solution to any conflict, insisting there was no alternative to dialogue in resolving conflicts.

He added, “To bring conflicts under control, you must look for a common ground.

“The forum should not be a mere paperwork, but taking real action. A lot is expected from this forum, we must not allow things to fall apart.”

Ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, Northern Elders’ Forum leader Prof Ango Abdullahi and the Emir of Bida Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar are participating in the event.

Meanwhile, the National Secretary of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Othman Ngelzarma, on Monday, said the decision of leaders from the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum to shun the event would not stop them from being part of the programme.

SMBLF, comprising pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere; Ohanaeze Ndigbo; Pan-Niger Delta Forum; and the Middle Belt Forum, said in a statement co-signed by Chief Edwin Clark (PANDEF); Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere); Chief John Nwodo (Ohanaeze); and Dr Bitrus Pogu (MBF) that they would not be part of the event because MACBAN was invited to the meeting.

In an interview with one of our correspondents, Ngelzarma said the herders were not bothered by SMBLF’s decision.

He said, “I am already at the summit. The Southern and Middle Belt leaders are entitled to their opinions as association leaders. We are right now attending the historic summit.”