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South, Middle Belt groups unite, urge restructuring

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Prof. Banji Akintoye


Nigeria will remain in perpetual turmoil of misery, poverty and violence unless the country is urgently restructured, representatives of Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt peoples that met in Lagos have said.

The over 200 representatives of ethnic groups also promised to forge a united front against the spate of violence and killings being perpetrated against indigenous peoples across the country.

The meeting resolved that it will work with local communities, social and cultural movements in the South and Middle Belt to ensure that the 2019 elections is driven by the need to urgently restructure the country.

The conference was held under the auspices of Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt Development Forum, (SNMBDF). The group, which is driven largely by youths, also set up a Working Group to actualise the dream of uniting the peoples of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt.

“We have been divided for too long. Our strength lay in our unity. We shall no longer allow our people to live in the myth of divisions created to weaken us and strengthen our adversaries. From today, we are going to speak together, work together, walk together, smile together and if need be, share together the joys and the sorrows of our long suffering peoples” the groups stated in the communiqué issued at the end of the conference.

Part of the resolution included the holding of similar conferences in Port Harcourt, Jos in Plateau and Lokoja in Kogi State. The group had earlier met in Awka, Anambra state earlier in the week.

Representatives of ethnic groups drawn from 24 states of the South and Middle Belt at the conference said Nigeria was bleeding owing to the endless shedding of blood and the unchecked millions of deadly weapons on the hands of non-state actors.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, Professor Banji Akintoye, a former Unity Party of Nigeria, (UPN) Senator in the second Republic who was the Guest Speaker said the peoples of the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria need to unite and explore their shared history and vision for a greater country where justice and liberty are fully entrenched.

The communiqué issued at the end of the two-day conference established a Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt Working Group charged with the responsibility of sensitising the peoples of the South and Middle Belt towards the immediate restructuring of the country to ensure self actualiation.

Akintoye said with regards to the ongoing ethnic cleansing and genocide being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen and militias on the peoples of the Middle Belt and South, the emergence and growth of the Southern and Middle Belt solidarity is now sending a very powerful new message to the killers and destroyers, as well as to the whole world. The message simply is that any attack on any one of the peoples of the South or Middle Belt is now an attack on all.”

He said someday, somehow, the peoples of the Middle Belt and South will move beyond mere affirmations of solidarity, and beyond solidarity visits to the wounded, and find their way to some sort of solid and effective action in defense of the lives, the property, and the livelihood of the masses of their citizens.

The SNMBDF President, Mr Sidney Imobhio, a lawyer based in New York said the group was first launched two years ago and that it has continued to grow in cities and towns across the South and the Middle Belt. Chief Digifa Werinipre and Comrade Joseph Eva who represented the Ijaw nation, Mr Isaac Orido representing Urhobo and representatives of the Southern East said they would work hard to ensure a common front is established for the interest of the peoples. A Professor of human anatomy, Adesegun Banjo said the statement credited to the former Minister of Defence, Lt Gen Theophilus Danjuma was a clear warning that the security operatives are not neutral in the killings going on across the country.

Speaking on behalf of the Bwatiye ethnic group in Adamawa, Garba Yerimakudon said the herdsmen have graduated from the simple rod that the herders carried in the past to carry sophisticated weapons (especially, the AK 47 rifle) with which they intimidate the farmers to surrender their yet to be harvested crops!

He said: “Some of the demands made by the Bwatiye people in the aftermath of the crisis included, the need for restructuring of the country to give every ethnic nationality the right of self-determination, creation of state police that will always be at hand to handle crises whenever they occur and the cautioning of any traditional ruler who makes inflammatory remarks that are capable of exacerbating crisis between communities.

“The continued dominance in the headship of security structures of the country by persons from a particular geopolitical zone and religion does not augur well for the security of the nation for obvious reasons of bias against those from other sections and religious beliefs. Our people believe if done will bring about harmonious living among the people.

In his remarks, Mr Adewale Adeoye, a journalist and the South West coordinator of the group said Nigerians need some level of constructive engagements with each other to avoid violence and killings. He said the people need not wait for the government to drive the process of reconciliation or popular resistance against any form of evil being perpetrated against the people.


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Banji Akintoye
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