Attack on Igbo, aggression against entire South, says group
•Another group calls for regional autonomy
The Southern Leaders’ Forum rose from a Monday meeting in Lagos to declare that any attack by youths in the northern part of Nigeria would be considered as an attack on the entire people of the Southern Nigeria.
In a 16-point communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the leaders who include Senator Bassey Henshaw, Chief Albert Horsefall, Dr Okey Anueyiagu and Yinka Odumakin noted with concern that no action appears to have been taken regarding the October 1 ultimatum to the Igbo residents in the North by some Arewa youth groups.
The group demanded that the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo should address Nigerians to inform all on what steps the Federal Government has taken to ensure that the Igbo and southerners generally, are protected against the threats of attack by the northern youths.
They however commended Osinbajo for the statement credited to him that the issue of restructuring would be addressed soon and urged him to follow up with renewed action by acting on the recommendation of the 2014 National Conference.
They also asked the Federal Government to act immediately on the agenda they submitted to Osinbajo to avoid resurgence of youth restiveness in the region by sustaining the current peace.
They observed that the issue of restructuring and change was an important part of the All Progressives Congress (APC) manifesto but wondered why the party is not acting in accordance with its pre-election promises.
The southern leaders also noted with concern, the menace of armed Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria and called on the government to make official statement on the development and take appropriate action.
While reinstating their call for restructuring and the solidarity of the entire south, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the unity of the country and also insisted on the urgent need to achieve true federalism.
The statement read, “for the avoidance of doubt, restructuring means a return to the Independence Constitution which our founding fathers bequeathed to us. That constitution allowed the regions of that time substantial autonomy in the management of their affairs.”
According to them, the federating units in the new federation would prefer to have their own constitution, have the power to control resources located in their domains and make contributions to the centre for general services.
Meanwhile, a group, The Core Federalists, has called on the All Progressives Congress (APC) government to implement restructuring as noted in its manifesto with which it campaigned and won the 2015 election in order to stem the negative trend in the country.
The group comprising key Southerners, including Mr. Yinka Odumakin (South- West), Humphrey Orjiako (South- East), Ambassador Ozo Nwobu (South East), Dr. Dele Oluwatade (South South), Kunle Fagbemi, Col. Gabriel Ajayi, Aliyu Abiola, son of late MKO Abiola, among others, made the call during the weekend at a press conference in Lagos, shortly after a closed door meeting.
Delivering the communiqué of the meeting, Fagbemi, said it was important that the Federal Government rose to the occasion and stop ongoing negative trend in the country, which he said had the potential of exacerbating into violent conflicts and another civil war.
He said it was the belief of the group that the government should restructure the country using the report of the 2014 National Conference “as a source of document.”
He therefore urged the Federal Government to formally avail the National Assembly, state governments and State Houses of Assembly, copies of the 2014 confab report in order to commence the implementation of clauses localised to their jurisdictions.
According to him, it is also important that the Federal Government develop well-articulated advocacy and mobilisation efforts that should be extended to other stakeholders “such as traditional and religious leaders on the benefits of the sustainability of the Nigerian nation.
Responding to questions from reporters, Odumakin, Col. Ajayi, Princewill and Orjiako, maintained that restructuring the country is the best way to strengthen it and make it stay together, contrary to postulation by those opposing the idea and projecting it as a way to break up Nigeria.
According to Odumakin, those who are opposed to restructuring are ignorant. He declared that restructuring would strengthen Nigeria and bring much more progress.
Orjiako, a former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, contended that there was already a congruent voice in the whole of the country in favour of restructuring, declaring that those opposed to the idea do not have peoples’ interest but are only out to serve their personal interests.
According to Princewill, restructuring is the only option that could douse the tension in the country, particularly in the South-South, saying, “I wish Nigeria well, but some people do not wish us well.”