Southern Leaders Insist on Restructuring of Nigeria

Atiku hails APC governors’ position

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Shola Oyeyipo in Lagos

As the acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, moves to douse the political tension between the northern and southern parts of Nigeria, appropriate authorities in the country have been warned to urgently set up a committee to commence the processes that will culminate to restructuring the nation or else risk losing the country altogether.

This was the assertion a new coalition of prominent southern leaders after a meeting held at the Ikoyi, Lagos residence of Professor Pat Utomi Tuesday.

The meeting was co-chaired by the duo of former Vice President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof. Anya O. Anya and former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade.

It had in attendance, among several others, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), Afenifere chieftains; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Chief Amos Akingba, Senator Ebenezer Ikeyima, Mrs. Grace Chugbo and several notables from the South-west, South-east and South-south.

While speaking against the background of the sustained clamour for secession by the South-east, the threatening quit notice issued the Igbos by northern youths on the platform of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Prof Anya stated that the people of the southern part of Nigeria are more united to forge a common front to collectively protect the interest of the region, stressing that the meeting that lasted over four hours was in the bid to arrive at what he called a new Nigeria.

“We want to explore that has to be explored in order to prepare for a new Nigeria that is to come. A Nigeria that is fair to all, peaceful, with justice available to all; all Nigerians should get food. We prepare for a country that cares about its people so that all the great things under our grounds can be used for the good of everybody,” Anya said.

He also eulogised Babangida and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for supporting the growing call for restructuring Nigeria, stating that: “I thank my younger brother, Atiku and former military Heads of State, Yakubu Gowon and Ibrahim Babangida for lending their voices to the demand of Nigerian to restructure Nigeria. Because of such heavy voices, we can say half the battle has been won.

Kolade on his part said the elders in the South are using the medium to put their experiences to work in ensuring that Nigeria does not split and that the country achieves it full potential in oneness.

“We know that the condition in the country causes the occasional disturbances in our midst. All kinds of things have been said that point to implication on our oneness. Building this medium is the best way to go. Elders, by their experiences, they can say this is the best thing we should do.

“This is a think-tank effort to make sure that we do not do something that will defeat the true objectives of the founding fathers of Nigeria. It is a platform to work together. We are not looking at religion, political affiliation or ethnicity. We must work together to build a new Nigeria,” Kolade stressed.

Also speaking after the meeting, former Governor of the old Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, in a chat with THISDAY after a meeting, commended former military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, saying it was time to restructure Nigeria.

Ezeife reiterated that the only alternative available to Nigeria is to restructure so as to achieve the set objectives of the founding fathers and avoid a situation that the country breaks.

“At a meeting recently held at Ladi Kwali Hall, I told them that time is running out for Nigeria. If we don’t get restructuring by mid next year, we may be losing the country. The federal government should finish with restructuring the country by mid next year, even if it will involve referendum. We should go back to what was given to us by our forefathers.

“If we add 18 more states to the current ones we would be having 54 states. It is essential that we narrow down. We are already operating a six geopolitical units. Each of the regions should operate their states,” Ezeife suggested.

Meanwhile, former Vice President and chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar, said in statement yesterday that he welcomed the resolution of the APC Progressive Governors’ Forum which has called for restructuring and true federalism.

So far, notable political and government leaders like the ex-military President Ibrahim Babangida, Atiku Abubakar, APC governors and social-cultural groupings such as the Afenifere, Ohanaze and the Middle Belt Forum have endorsed a proposal for a national dialogue aimed at restructuring the federation.
The Nigerian Senate has also moved to consider the report of the 2014 National Conference which addressed most of the agitations for a reviewed federal structure.

The issue of returning the country to the path of true federalism has generated public debate and is seen as being behind the resurgent agitations by groups across the country.
However, Atiku, in welcoming the position of the governors of APC-controlled states, said the issue transcends religion and ethnicity.

In a statement issued yesterday by his Media Office in Abuja, the former vice president also described “as patriotic the convergence of positions around restructuring by leaders and stakeholders from diverse regions of the country, noting that it confirms that he (Atiku) was not just a lone voice in the wilderness in the inevitability of restructuring of Nigeria for the good of all.”

He explained that the agitations for secession would not have arisen if the country had shown sincere readiness to address the underlying problems that feed the agitations by separatist forces.

According to the restructuring debate transcends the ambition of any single politician in Nigeria, and that any attempt to ignore the agitations could make a bad situation more complicated.
He stated that avoiding a problem won’t solve it, adding that with so much hate, distrust, suspicions and fears in the country, political leaders shouldn’t be afraid to confront the challenge.

The former vice president said the current federal structure should be freely discussed by allowing the federating units voice their grievances with a view to finding workable solutions that protects the rights and interests of all.
He said the country could not afford to allow bottled up frustrations of the people to explode into violence, which threatens not only innocent lives, but also harms the country’s economic assets.

Atiku, therefore, praised the APC governors and other leaders and groups for their courage to confront the country’s most urgent national challenge, adding that separatist agitations are dangerously threatening the country’s unity and indivisibility, adding that no country could afford to take these threats lightly.

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