By Chris Ochayi
ABUJA—Leaders from the South-West, South-South, South-East and Middle Belt, yesterday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take urgent action towards restructuring of the country.
The leaders of thought, who gathered under the aegis of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, in Abuja, resolved that Nigeria, as it is currently, was not a proper federation, as the structure is over-centralized, unjust and anti-development and, therefore, unacceptable.
They, therefore, called on President Buhari to initiate processes that should lead Nigeria towards confronting its structural challenges through the legal instruments of the National Assembly and representatives of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
Prominent leaders in attendance at the meeting include, Ijaw leader and former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and Minister of Finance, Chief Olu Falae; former Information and Orientation Minister, Professor Jerry Gana; former Presidential candidate, Professor John Dara; former NADECO leaders, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, and Air Commodore Dan Suleiman.
Others include former Military Administrator of old Bendel State, Brigadier General Tunde Ogbeha (retd), Senator Stella Omu; Senator Barnabas Gemade; Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, and Professor Banji Akintoye, among others.
According to the communiqué read by Professor John Dara, the forum also condemned recent deployment of troops in the South-East against agitation in the region by IPOB, leading to avoidable loss of lives.
The communiqué read in part: “We remain convinced that as a multi-ethnic country Nigeria can only enjoy lasting peace, development progress and happiness under a federal system, which allows all the federating units to develop at their own pace under full cultural expression. We, therefore, restate our commitment to the Federal Republic of Nigeria as one entity under God.
“However, we firmly believe that Nigeria as it is, is not a proper federation, as the structure is over-centralized, unjust and anti-development and therefore unacceptable. There is no gainsaying the fact that this is at the core of the many agitations across the country with some delving into separatist feelings.
“We call on President Buhari to move a step forward by initiating processes that should lead Nigeria towards confronting its structural challenges through the legal instruments of the National Assembly and the representatives of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
“Forum deplored recent developments in the South East, which led to deployment of troops against agitation in the region by IPOB leading to avoidable loss of lives. We equally reject the hasty tagging of IPOB as terrorist organisation in the face of contrary evidence.”
“We call on the Federal Government to always exercise restraint in the deployment of troops in quelling civil agitations, which is the responsibility of the police in any democracy.
“Consequently, we call on the Federal Government to reconsider similar operations that the Army is embarking on in the South West and South South zones, which are peaceful areas.
“We do not need these exercises, which are seen largely as sheer intimidation and barring of fangs. Under federalism, you do not deploy troops to the federating units without the invitation of the affected local authorities. The federal Government must also employ dialogue above raw force in engaging dissension.
“We are worried about the spate of systemic kidnappings, rapes and extortions across the minority areas of northern Nigeria, which has become a major threat after the militia herdsmen menace.
“The fact that these kidnappers are allegedly arrested without trials and non-revelation of their contacts/sponsors and details of their activities suggests possible shielding from the law and a sinister agenda behind their operations.
“In the same vein is the troubling spate of abductions, forced marriage and conversion of underage girls in non-Muslim communities in violation of section 38 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We equally strongly condemn the incessant invasion by the herdsmen militia, which we believe is aimed at dispossessing our agricultural lands for their settlements and grazing.
“We call on the Federal Government to immediately take urgent measure to put an end to these crimes
“Forum commends the Yoruba for the successful conference on restructuring held in Ibadan on September 7th 2017. The Ibadan Declaration was recommended as a blueprint for all federalists in Nigeria.