‘Osinbajo Has no Magic to Stop Agitations, Tension’

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• Kukah, Okoye, Attah speak on restructuring

By Paul Obi in Abuja

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan See, John Cardinal Onaiyekan yesterday said notwithstanding the efforts of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, he did not have the magic to stop the current agitations and tension in the country.

Onaiyekan stated this at a Mass to mark the Centenary of the Late Eminence, Ignatius Cardinal Ekandem, the first Episcopal Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Metropolitan in Abuja.

He further stated that the unity of Nigeria was not in the capacity of any political, traditional or religious leaders to determine but the people of Nigeria.

The cleric however, urged the people to shun those who were beating the drum of disintegration and chaos, saying they always run abroad to hide when the thing go out of  hands.

He said the presidency could only calm nerves; it was Nigerians who could refuse to be used to cause havoc.

According to him, “the Acting President is not God and he has not gotten the magic to stop all agitations.

“He can of course take position; make statement that will calm nerves and encourage those who are working for peace and tranquility.

“I think he is making effort in that direction, but it depends on all Nigerians. The point I have always made is that it is the ordinary Nigerian who will decide whether we should live together or not.

“The people on top when they start playing their game sometimes they even forget the people on the ground.

“We on the ground too, we should remember that when the thing gets hot, there are certain people up there who always find a way out. They pack their family on board, fly abroad and leave the poor people on the ground to suffer. We better think that seriously and not allow anybody to push us into a situation, where there is chaos”.

 Onaiyekan admonished the federal government to refrain from gagging or preventing people from protesting against bad governance, as they had the right to voice out whenever they were shortchanged by their leaders.

“People are angry and when they are angry, they have the right to say so. Therefore, I don’t think government can stop people from making pronouncement explaining what is annoying them, but in doing that, one should count the consequence of what one says. We have the freedom of speech but cannot say everything. So, let us live together in peace and be patience,” he said.

Former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah called for true fiscal federalism.

Attah argued that restructuring should not be done for the sake of it, but that it should focus on the main issues of resources and fiscal federalism.

Delivering his Homily at the Mass, the Catholic Archbishop of Calabar, the Most Rev. Joseph Ekuwem emphasised the need for Nigerians to live in harmony.

“God said He will give us rest if we come to him. So, if God loves us so much like this, we also must love one another,” he said.

Ekuwem described the Late Dominic as an epitome of humility, the quality that all people must emulate. Late Ignatius Cardinal Ekandem lived between 1917 to 1995, and that, the Mass signals the process of his canonisation.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Most Rev. Mathew Hassan Kukah insisted that the implementation of the 2014 National Conference Report should kick start by making the report public.

He called on Nigerians to demand for the report as a strategy to arm themselves with the details of the report for proper understanding of the recommendations.

Kukah told THISDAY that “the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report is not a ping-pong thing between the Senate and the executives.

“Such initiatives are always ongoing, it is left for the citizens to demand to know the details of the recommendations about what is dearest to them.”

The Bishop added that the call by the Senate though “is a good omen,” naturally, such demand ought to fall within the purview of “the people’s parliament.”

Also, General Overseer of the All Christians Fellowship Mission (ACFM), Rev. William Okoye warned that the meeting hosted by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo with leaders of Arewa and Ohaneze Ndigbo to pacify agitators on the lingering ethnic agitations and tension amounted to just scratching the surface of the crisis.

He called on the federal government to face the real issues and put forward practical solutions to the problem, which he said, revolved around restructuring and the return to true fiscal federalism.

According to him,  “I think the federal government should respond to their (Senate) demand, they are being patriotic in doing that. That’s the only way government can lower the tension now.

“If you see the great works Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is doing now, trying to meet with various ethnic groups, that’s commendable.

“But that’s stressful; that’s like just scratching the surface, it will not last. But if we pick up that conference report and begin to do something about it, in the area of need we can do something about right now, it will lower the tension, that will be a more permanent way of addressing the problem,” Okoye said.

The General Overseer warned that if the government failed to heed to the current overwhelming demand for restructuring, the existence of Nigeria would continue to be threatened.

“They should think again, because, like many have said, if we don’t do something about the present tension that is burning all over the country, in a very short time, the nation might explode, that is my fear.

“I agree that a return to federalism will help douse the tension, that’s undoubtably the fact. Because there are a lot of things we have in the system that are putting pressure on the people.

“But if we go back to true federalism, it will be a kind of unbundling the nation in such a way that people are able to breath fresh air and do their best,” Okoye stressed.

While calling on the youth who were agitating to be patient, he urged the federal government not to fail to seize the opportunity offered by the current agitations to use the 2014 National Conference report in restructuring and ensuring that the component states or region become stronger.

Okoye maintained that though the current economic situation might pose as obstacle in restructuring the country, but only “the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report to ensure true federalism will send a message that the government is serious.”