By Anayo Okoli
UMUAHIA – FOUR two days, elder statesmen and prominent leaders from the Southern Nigeria under the umbrella name of Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA) converged on Umuahia, Abia State capital to discuss way forward for the country. The Umuahia meeting was unique as it was an Expanded Elders/Management Committee.
The meeting was chaired by First Republic Minister for Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi and had in attendance co-Chairman and Leader of the South South, Chief Edwin Kiagbado Clark and Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi, co-Chairman and Leader of the South West who was represented by Senator Femi Okurounmu.
Also at the meeting were Senator Adolphus Wabara, former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, Senator Kofo Bucknor Akerele, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator Anthony Adefuyi, Iyom Josephine Anenih, Gen Tony Etukudoh, Prof. George Obiozor, Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike and Senator Adelekan. Others were Dr. Gregory Ibe, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, Rt. Hon Tunde Akogun, Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, Senator Roland Owie, Col. Pam Oga, Chief Simon Okeke, among so many other elders and leaders from the three zones of Southern Nigeria.
The meeting deliberated on some of the contentious issues such as calls for Nigeria to be restructured, continuous herdsman attack on Southern Nigeria, the controversial grazing bill before the National Assembly, the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers and the military presence in the Niger Delta Region as well as the Nigeria Economy and President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war.
Southern leaders at the meeting had harsh words for Northern who they accused of causing division and suspicion between the Buhari Government and the Southern people.
They said that the Northern elders see Buhari’s administration as exclusively theirs to the exclusion of the people of Southern Nigeria, and warned them to stop it for the good of the nation.
“The Northern Elders should desist from infusing the present administration with the “we versus them” mentality which is responsible for creating division and suspicion in the polity”, Southern elders warned and urged the government to consciously ensure equitable distribution of appointments and projects.
They also expressed worry that “the rampaging attacks, raping, wanton destructions of lives and properties of innocent Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen have continued unabated particularly the recent killings in Enugu state, Benue State which borders with Cross River state” and warned that the attacks by the herdsmen do “not make for peaceful co-existence and stability of the country”.
The Southern leaders also noted with concern what it called “the draft ill-conceived grazing bill which seeks to establish grazing reserves across the states of Nigeria”, saying that it “is not only anachronistic and antiquated, but also an unfortunate imposition of what ought to be private commercial business ventures into a national or government business”, and urged the National Assembly to oppose the grazing bill in both chambers and also urged the State Assemblies from the zone to legislate the prohibition of nomadic grazing by herdsmen and the establishment of grazing reserves and ranches with public funds.
They also urged the Southern Governors and the States Assemblies of the South to follow the Ekiti Model of handling the Herdsmen attack.