Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the publicity secretary of Pan- Yoruba Socio- Cultural group, Afenifere, said: “I think the essence of federalism is that we design a system of government that should allow us to deal with our differences and live in harmony and peace. I can tell you that today, there are states in America that would have been at war permanently if not that America had developed a true federal system where each flower can blossom and each bird can fly without touching each other.
“In 1966, Chief Awolowo wrote a book he titled: “Part of Nigerian constitution.” He said that given the heterogeneous nature of the Nigerian society, any attempt to run a country like Nigeria along regional lines would produce disharmony, fighting among the nationalities and total breakdown of government structure, which have happened today. That is why Nigeria today is at rift, there are all kinds of differences, we have splits among regions and religions and there are fighting and killings all over the place.
“The stage that we are today, we must embrace true federalism, so that we can live together in peace and harmony. But if some people still remain opposed to true federalism and will not allow regional autonomy, state police and everything that can allow us to live in peace and harmony, if separation is the solution that everybody should live on their own, so be it. If that is what would bring peace so be it because the way we are going now, we are on the verge of immediate catastrophe that may consume everybody.
So the issue is let us live in peace and harmony under a true federal arrangement and if we don’t want a true federal arrangement, let everybody go their way in peace.
“I believe that Nigeria should not disintegrate violently because that has a lot of implications in terms of the humanitarian catastrophe that would take place in bringing Nigeria back to be at par with the rest of Africa and the world. We are a large country.
Even in peace time if 10 Nigerians enter a city, they will know that somepeople have entered not to talk of in war time. So a violent split will not go wellfor Nigeria. If the different parts of the country come together and agree that they can no longer live together, let them agree peacefully for people to go their way. And we can relate, we can have cordial services among ourselves.
There are very small countries in Africa, Equatorial Guinea is about 180,000 people. Go to United Nations today, there is a small country called Naura, they are about less than 10,000 people. We cannot continue in this national greed of violence, killings and shedding of blood on daily basis.”
Some of us are deliberately cheating on others — Remi Kuku
Remi Kuku, a delegate on the platform of National Council of Women’s Societies, NCWS, said that deliberate marginalization of people and intolerance were major hurdles to seamless co-existence in the country.
She said: “You can see that Nigeria is a very large country but that is not the issue. The issue is tolerance. Even in a home, in a family of three, you can have misunderstanding but if you learn according to the word of God, patience, tolerance, perseverance and long suffering, in the end you will live harmoniously.
So the issue now is for us to preach tolerance, forgiveness, commitment to anything you are assigned to do, by being committed to it and learn to forgive one another. If we forgive one another, there will be peace.
”Another factor is, some of us are deliberately cheating on others and that is the reason some people agitate for breaking up because of oppression. For instance, I am from the South-South. In the history of Nigeria, this is the first time a President from the South-South is leading this country and some people in this country are agitating that he must not run for a second tenure. Meanwhile every president that was ever elected ran for a second term in office, so what is the problem?
”And if you look at it, it is the South-South that is feeding the country. So how would you feel with the action of these people? But I from South-South would not agitate for a split. I plead with Nigerians to be patient. Four years is not a long time, four years is just tomorrow and the president is doing well. And if this issue of tolerating one another, forgiving one another and accommodating one another is maintained, then Nigeria would live as a country.”
Let’s separate if what is uniting us is far less than what is dividing us –— Uwazurike
Chief Goddy Uwazurike who is the President of the group, Aka Ikenga, is a delegate on the platform of South- East Geo- political Zone of the country and served on the committee on Law, judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reform.
Asked his stand on the continued unity of Nigeria amid recurring bloodletting and the future of the country, he said: “Whether we should still be called one Nigeria as a country or a federation of independent states is a decision for Nigerians to take, not for this confab. The reason is that the President, who set us up, swore to uphold the constitution. One of the things he has to fight is the indivisibility of Nigeria, to make sure that Nigeria is one indivisible country.
”So if there is any other way somebody can go ahead and say I’m splitting this country, fine, nothing will happen; we will all go our separate ways. We will be visiting each other as foreigners or we will be living in each other’s country as individuals in another country. So I would say without any fear of contradiction that unity is desirable but not all cost.
If what is uniting us is far less than what is dividing us, let’s go our separate ways. There are many countries like Czech and Slovakia and when a push comes to a shove, I believe that we on our own will say we want to go our separate ways but for now, that situation has not arisen.
On whether the confab will get us to where Nigeria ought to be, he responded: “I don’t think the confab was set up to divide Nigeria. Mr. President said ‘discuss everything except your indivisibility’ and we are sticking to that. So, most of us who are speaking fervently, speak as individuals. And when we can no longer stay together, we go our separate ways and when that happens, it doesn’t need somebody to prompt you.”
Nigeria’s unity is like Catholic marriage — Bishop Bagobiri
To Bishop Joseph Bagobiri, 56, the Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan Diocese, who is representing Christian leaders at the conference, there is no going back on Nigeria’s unity. Reason: “The marriage entered into in 1914, between the Southern and the Northern protectorates should be viewed by all Nigerians as a catholic marriage and when we describe this as a catholic marriage, we mean that it should be indissoluble.
That does not mean that there are no problems. But we will be better off as a nation if we try to look at our own differences and see how we can resolve them and build one united, strong nation that will meet with all our yearnings and aspirations.”