•Reject regime change label on #EndSARS protesters
•Core North doesn’t dictate to others, ACF replies
By Deji Elumoye in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
Southern and Middle Belt leaders yesterday drew a battle line with their northern counterparts over what they called the domination of the federation by the core north, saying Monday’s meeting of the region’s governors with their monarchs and top federal government officials from the North was divisive and distractive.
The leaders, under the auspices of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum (SMBF), rose from a meeting in Abuja on the state of the nation with a vow to henceforth resist what they described as the dominance by the core north of the nation’s governance.
They said no section of the country could claim superiority over other sections, adding that failure of the federating units to live as equals may result in SMBL seeking alternatives as worthy individuals.
In a communique signed by Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere), Chief John Nwodo (Ohanaeze Ndigbo), Chief Edwin Clark (Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and Dr. Pogu Bitrus (Middle Belt Forum), the leaders described the meeting of northern governors, ministers, traditional rulers and other senior officials of the federal government as against the concept of indivisibility of Nigeria, which the meeting made heavy weather of.
They expressed concerns about the state of the nation against the backdrop of Monday’s meeting by the northern leaders in Kaduna during which they backed the federal government’s quest to censor the social media and described the #EndSARS protests, hijacked by miscreants, as an attempt at regime change outside the ballot box.
They wondered where Nigeria would be heading to if they also decide to call their own meeting with their governors and top officials in the federal government.
They faulted the regime change label against the #EndSARS protests and said the protesters were peaceful and their demands clear until the Nigerian state hired thugs to attack them.
But in a swift response, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) denied the allegation that the core north is dictating to other parts of the country, saying that every section of the country is free to express itself in a democratic setting.
The Southern and Middle Belt leaders stated in their communique: “We make it abundantly clear to our colleagues from the core North that yesterday (Tuesday) ended last night and never again shall this country be run the same old way as no section of the country can play any supremacist role again as if the rest of us are fools.
“It is either, we live together as equals under the same rules of engagement, or we explore other options as dignified human beings.”
The SMBLF explained that its latest stand is not unconnected with the Monday meeting of northern governors with emirs, chiefs and northerners in senior positions in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The leaders described the Kaduna meeting, coming soon after the #EndSARS protest when everyone should be putting heads together nationally to seek solutions to Nigeria’s problems, as most distractive and divisive.
They said the Kaduna meeting made Nigeria widely scattered as against the indivisibility and other non-sequiturs that were regurgitated at the end of it.
“Where would this country be heading to if we also decide to call our own meeting with our governors and top officials in the federal government?” they asked.
According to them, “We do not see any responsibility displayed by those who have been serially accused of sectionalising our national government to allow such insensibility, insensitivity and total subversion of the unity of the country that only exists on the lips of those behind the meeting.
“It not also lost on us that the communiqué of the meeting was making space for National Executive Council (NEC) nominations to a sectional initiative as the utmost level of disregard to the rest of the country whom they are treating as serfs when we are supposed to be joint and equal stakeholders in the project Nigeria.”
The communiqué added: “The meeting wondered the quality of humanity of any group meeting at this period of mourning not to have a word of compassion for those that were recklessly murdered by state forces and hired thugs during the protests.
“We reject the indecent approach to paste the peaceful protesters in dark colours. They made their demands clear and were orderly before the violent Nigerian state deployed armed soldiers and thugs in 911 Lorries against them.
“It is wickedness to place ‘our power’ above every other national interest by playing the ‘regime change’ label on the peaceful protesters who were not armed like Boko Haram that the regime is chasing about with negotiations in the same spirit it has been cuddling and pampering killer herdsmen.”
The leaders said they did not see the thoughtfulness in the celebration of northern youths not participating in the #EndSARS protests as if they did not also loot like their deprived young people in other areas of the country, which showed they were suffering the same thing.
The stated: “We foresaw all that is happening now, which is why we have been calling for restructuring as a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria can only be run along federal lines.
“We were not oblivious of the damage the military did to this country by using fiat to create LGAs with headquarters in the villages of top shots mostly from the North.
“Kano State today has 44 local governments and Bayelsa has eight. When you want to recruit 10 policemen per LGA, Bayelsa will have 80 and Kano 440. That affects where the materials to be drawn into SARS and others are drawn. The inequalities multiply everywhere. And this is why we insist on restructuring of the country now before we go for any national election.”
Other leaders of the SMBF who signed the communiqué for PANDEF are Air Vice Marshal Idongesit Nkanga (rtd.), Chief Broderick Bozimo, Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN), Senator Bassey Henshaw, Prof. Gordon Darah and Chief TKO Okorotie.
Other Afenifere signatories are Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Senator Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor, Oba Oladipo Olaitan, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, Chief Supo Shonibare, Chief Demola Folarin and Dr. Akin Fapohunda.
Those who signed for Ohanaeze Ndigbo are Chief Guy Ikokwu, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Mr Chuks Muomah (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), Mr. Madu Bright O Allwell, Mr. Chuks Achi- Okpaga and Chief Alex Ogbonnia.
The representatives of the MBF that signed the communiqué are Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd.), Dr. S D Gani, Mr. Stephen Bangoji, Hon. Jonathan Asake, Mr. Chris Aba, Mr. Mark Jacob and Mr. Festus Nyiwo.
Core North Doesn’t Dictate to Other Parts, ACF Replies
However, in a riposte to the allegations against the North, the ACF said every section of the country is free to express itself in a democratic setting.
The spokesman of ACF, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, told THISDAY yesterday that politics is a game of numbers and that northerners always vote together.
He said: “These groups are free to say what they want. After all, Nigeria is said to be a democratic country. They are talking to a section of the North they call ‘core north.’
“We in the Arewa Consultative Forum do not discriminate where a Northerner comes from.
“Once you come from the defunct Northern region, you are accepted and treated as equal in the ACF.
“They say the ‘core North’ cannot dictate to them anymore. That means there was a time they accepted dictation from the core north.
“It will be nice if they go further and tell us what they did together at that time.
“These groups are looking for whom to fight in Nigeria. We in the ACF count ourselves lucky because we are not their target.
“If you look at the heads of state most of them come from the North.
“But most of these heads of state did not come through democratic means, they came through undemocratic means.
“So, when we are talking in a democracy, it is different from somebody who carried a gun and chase people out of power.
“We have had more heads of state than the South. But they came through a democratic process. You see politics is a game of number. If the North has dominated the politics of the country, it means they have more numbers and they always vote together.”