The Southern Leaders Forum tagged ‘Only Restructuring will Ensure the Unity, Peace and Development of Nigeria.’ Wednesday in Lagos challenge President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement that issues of national discourse should be taken to the National Assembly and the National Council of State and deploying the imagery of the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu in his broadcast to play down the demand for the renegotiation of the structure of Nigeria.
The Southern forum, represented by Chiefs Edwin Clark, Albert Horsefall (South-South); Chief John Nwodo, Prof. Joe Irukwu (South-East); and Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo (South-West), spoke in Lagos at a press conference .
Other Members at the forum are included Prof. Banji Akintoye, Tony Uranta, National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Chief Gani Adams; Supo Shonibare, Guy Ikokwu, Tony Nyiam and Prof. Walter Ofonagoro.
The Southern Leaders’ Forum Wednesday accused President Muhammadu Buhari of deploying the imagery of the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu in his broadcast to play down the demand for the renegotiation of the structure of Nigeria.
He said Buhari’s claim that they both agreed in Daura in 2003 that the country must remain one and united was mere political gimmicks.
Buhari had on Monday at a nationwide broadcast after 104-day medical trip to the United Kingdom, said he and Ojukwu had agreed many years ago that Nigeria must remain one.
Reacting to Buhari’s claim, the forum said the president’s comment that the country’s unity was not negotiable was out of point.
The forum, represented by Chiefs Edwin Clark, Albert Horsefall (South-South); Chief John Nwodo, Prof. Joe Irukwu (South-East); and Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo (South-West), spoke in Lagos at a press conference titled, ‘Only Restructuring will Ensure the Unity, Peace and Development of Nigeria.’
Others at the event included Prof. Banji Akintoye, Tony Uranta, National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Chief Gani Adams; Supo Shonibare, Guy Ikokwu, Tony Nyiam and Prof. Walter Ofonagoro.
The SLF said, “The meeting between the two of them could not have been a Sovereign National Conference whose decisions cannot be reviewed. We agree with their conclusion that we should remain united, but that does not foreclose discussions of the terms and conditions of the union.
“The claim that Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable is not tenable. Every country is in a daily dialogue and there is nothing finally settled in its life. Stable nations are still fine-tuning details of the architecture of their existence.
“How much more Nigeria that has yet to attain nationhood? If we are settled as a nation, we will not be dealing with the many crises of nation-building that are afflicting us today, which have made it extremely difficult to squarely face issues of growth and development.
“The British negotiated to put the various ethnic groups together. All the constitutional conferences held in the years before independence were negotiations. When the North walked out of the parliament in 1953 after Chief Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for independence, it took negotiations to bring them back into the union after an eight-point agenda, which was mainly about confederations.”
“While the composition of the National Assembly is clearly jigged and indeed one of the bodies to be restructured, the National Council of State is not open to Nigerians. If any discourse is to take place on constitutional changes within the democratic framework, Mr. President is the one who has the responsibility to initiate the process,” the SLF said.
The legality of the National Assembly and NCS, the bodies were not the appropriate bodies to superintend the discourse on the social contract that could bind Nigeria together.
The Forum said, the attempt to treat hate speech as terrorism was a veiled threat to bare fangs and criminalising dissenting opinions in the national discourse.
It pointed out that the one sentence in the President’s speech that every Nigerian could live anywhere without let or hindrance, if meant to address the quit notice by Arewa youths to the Igbo living in the North, was too short to check the unwarranted threat.
The group further said it was miffed by Buhari’s description of the attacks by deadly Fulani herdsmen on defenceless farmers as conflict between two quarrelling groups.
“To present the various onslaughts on farmers by the herdsmen as ‘two fighting,’ would portray the President as taking sides with the aggressive Meyitti Allah. While we do not hold the administration responsible for all agitations in Nigeria due to the crises of unitary constitution, there are clearly many errors of commission and omission that have accentuated the strong self-determination feelings across the country which only restructuring can tame,” the group said.
According to the leaders, some of the errors made by the current administration are lopsided recruitment and appointment into federal institutions, breach of the Federal Character principle, early retirement of mostly Southern senior officers from the Armed Forces and other security services and concentration of most heads of Armed Forces and other national security agencies in a section of the country.
The group identified others to include the appointment of the legal adviser of Meyitti Allah as the secretary of the Federal Character Commission, indifference to the deadly activities of herdsmen and the President’s declaration that he could not treat those who gave him five per cent votes equally with those who gave him 97 per cent votes in the 2015 presidential election.
The Southern elders noted that having spent most part of their lives fighting for the country’s unity based on justice, fairness and equity, it was necessary to urge the President to realise the mess the country was in and exhibit statesmanship and not ethnic, religious, regional and political partisanship in renegotiating Nigeria along federal lines to tackle separatist feelings and agitations.
No united Nigeria without restructuring, says N’Delta agitators
Some Niger Delta agitators on Wednesday faulted the position taken by President Buhari on the calls for restructuring.
They said without restructuring as being suggested by prominent Nigerians, the nation would not remain united.
The agitators’ position was contained in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.
Signatories to the statement included John Duku (Niger Delta Watchdogs); Ekpo Ekpo (Niger Delta Volunteers); Osarolor Nedam (Niger Delta Warriors); Henry Okon Etete (Niger Delta Peoples Fighters); Asukwo Henshaw (Bakassi Freedom Fighters); Ibinabo Horsfall (Niger Delta Movement for Justice); Duke Emmanson (Niger Delta Fighters Network) and Inibeghe Adams (Niger Delta Freedom Mandate).
“We wish to thank all well-meaning Nigerians who threw their weight behind restructuring and disassociated themselves from the President’s position on restructuring.
“We want to remind him (the President) that without restructuring, there would be no united Nigeria,” the agitators said.
They said they were surprised that the President said the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable when “indeed he did not believe in other Nigerians apart from those from the North.”
They insisted that Northerners and the Yoruba must leave their region before October 1.
“The Coalition of Arewa Youths’ quit notice to Igbo was in collaboration with the Northern elders, the President’s cabal and top security chiefs from the North. They were properly consulted by the youths.
“Therefore, we maintain our previous position that Northerners and Yorubas should vacate the Niger Delta region before October 1, 2017, until justice is done,” the statement read.
The agitators called on Buhari to reshuffle the Federal Executive Council, as well as appointments into boards of agencies and parastatals in a manner that would reflect federal character.
They also called for the return of oil blocks to natives of the region and the immediate relocation of the oil companies’ headquarters to their operational base, as well as relocation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s headquarters to the Niger Delta region.
They claimed that over 75 per cent of the oil blocks in the Niger Delta region were owned by Northerners, 20 per cent by Yoruba, three per cent by Igbo and the remaining two per cent by people of the region.
“We can no longer tolerate this injustice, marginalisation and being treated as slaves in our own land. We therefore demand that the Northerners should return 70 per cent and Yorubas 15 per cent of their oil blocks to the Niger Delta people for justice to prevail,” they said.