The people of South-east and South-south have unanimously called for a restructuring of Nigeria to ensure proper balancing of the various interests.
The calls for restructuring of Nigeria to ensure all citizens of the country are equal did not start today. Over the years, some people from the South-east, South-west, and South-south among others, have consistently agitated for a system that would be beneficial to every part of the country.
Some of the stakeholders at the meeting include Chairman/Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena; Elder statesman and Ijaw National Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, the President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Major. General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), Alabo Tonye-Douglas, Senator Ewa Henshaw, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, Chief Guy Ikokwu, Prof. G.G. Darah, Dr. Steve Oru, Chief Albert Horsfall, and Uche Okwukwu.
Speaking at the meeting, Clark said: “We are light years away from the kind of country our founding fathers bequeathed to us. At independence in 1960, the Richard’s Constitution spelt out what Nigeria should be – a Federal Republic with three regions – North, East and West as the components.
According to him, “Each of the regions is equal and each is allowed to develop at its own pace. Whatever resources you have in your region, you take 50 per cent and the remaining 50 per cent is sent to the centre, which is further shared between the centre and the regions. That was the country we knew.”
Today, Clark said: “The reverse is the case. We complain of xenophobia in South Africa, what do we have in Nigeria? A situation where some groups of Nigerians speak and others listen but cannot speak, which means we don’t have a country.”
The revered Ijaw leader canvassed for an egalitarian society where everyone would be equal because the country does not belong to one person, saying, “This country belongs to all of us.” He however, expressed hope that the meeting of the leaders would bear good fruits.
Nwodo, who also spoke at the meeting, condemned the alleged marginalisation of the Igbo race in Nigeria. He expressed belief that the marginalisation of the region angered the youths of South-east to keep agitating for the creation of the state of Biafra.
According to him, “Our children are agitating. Our children don’t want to be part of this thing anymore because they feel that we are second class citizens and because they feel that their parents are incapable of standing out for them. They want the Biafra because most of us who are their parents have seen war before and we know that to unleash war in this country is the worst thing any one of us can bring about.
“We think that in the African continent, our size is our asset. We think we have built a brotherhood over the years since 1960, we cannot break it if can mend it. Consequently, we have to put our heads together and find a federal structure, a constitution structure which gives every part of this country satisfaction. In weeks, months, the socio-cultural organisations will come together, put heads together to seek an end to this impending catastrophe.
“Our father (Edwin Clark) has touched some of the fundamental point, but I just want to tell him that we must not be sleeping in the same bed but we are dreaming the same dream
“We aspire to have a Nigeria where the every part of this country feels a sense of belonging; we aspire to have a Nigeria where the people of Nigeria participate in crafting the constitution by which they are governed. We aspire to have a Nigeria in which those coming after us will enjoy a better standard of living than we enjoy in our time.”
Nwodo said: “It is important to us, that in democracy we must reflect the thinking of the people. Our governance must be a reflection of our aspirations, wishes and our desires. We are not politicians, to become a member of National Executive of Ohaneze Ndigbo, you must dispossess yourself of any political colouration.
“So, I can speak on behalf of all the Igbos, who are in all political colouration. You in the press already know that we feel discriminated. We do not feel that we are equal members of this federation, and I have enunciated the characteristics before.
“We belong to the country but every region of this country has more than five states but we are the only one that has five states. When I listen to the speeches of Emir of Kano about an agreement to keep us down because we went to war, I wonder when the war will ever end and when that agreement will be reviewed.
“All the security services of this country none is headed by an Igboman. We are not Chief of Army Staff, we are not Chief of Naval Staff, we are not Chief of Air Staff, we are not head of immigration, we are not head of Customs, we are not head of state security service, we are not head of national intelligence agency, we are not inspector General of Police, we are not head of Federal Road Safety, we are not head of civil defence. Consequently, the average Igboman feels not trusted enough to be put in charge of security services in our country.
“I don’t want to talk about the infrastructure because it appears that there have been such a cumulative neglect that the rest of Nigeria is now becoming like an Igbo land in terms of the inability to move through our roads comfortably,” the Ohaneze leader added.