By Dayo Johnson and Ola Ajayi
Ohanaeze, Igbo influential group; Afenifere, Yoruba socio-political group; and Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) say they support former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s call for national dialogue to resolve insecurity and some other challenges facing Nigeria.
Obasanjo had, in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, last Monday, raised the idea of the dialogue.
The former President had said: “In all these issues of mobilisation for national unity, stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no consensus. “Like in the issue of security, government should open up discussion, debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society. It will be a national programme.
“We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic roadmap that will not change with whims and caprices of any government. It must be owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the government no matter its colour and leaning.
“Some of the groups that I will suggest to be contacted are: traditional rulers, past heads of service (no matter how competent or incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we are in), past heads of para-military organisations, private sector, civil society, community leaders particularly in the most affected areas, present and past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders, past Heads of State, past intelligence chiefs, past Heads of Civil Service and relevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant.”
Ohanaeze Ndigbo said it aligned with Obasanjo’s position.
According to the group, it indeed raised the same issue of insecurity as the former President did last weekend when it reacted to the killing of the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Pa Ruben Fasoranti, Mrs. Funke Olakunrin.
It recalled that it advocated an emergency security summit over the problem, warning that failure to convene the discourse on the way out of Nigeria’s insecurity quagmire will still spell doom for the country.
Media Adviser to the President General of the apex Igbo group, Chief Emeka Attama, said, at the weekend: “Ohanaeze’s reaction is that this (Obasanjo’s letter) is in tandem with the views canvassed by its President General in a recent statement – a strident call for the convening of a national discourse on the way forward on the present security debacle.
“This is the only step that can assuage the current situation. It requires urgent action. We endorse his position absolutely. The sooner the better as things are really getting out of hand. Delay could spell doom for the country.”
Another Igbo group, Ala-Igbo Development Foundation, ADF, supported the call for national conference at this juncture to look at fundamental issues bedevilling the country.
Spokesperson for ADF, Abia Onyike, said his group’s position was that it is either the proposed national conference sets agenda for the restructuring of the country or determines its division for the ethnic nationalities to go their separate ways.
Onyike said, “ADF position is that we need to go back to restructure Nigeria into a federation or in the alternative the ethnic nationalities disintegrate either to form unions which is what is likely to happen.
“Obasanjo called for a National Conference but the Senate is talking about security summit which cannot achieve anything because of the inherent problems of the 1999 Constitution.
“We are calling for a National Conference that will return powers to the autonomous nationalities and regions. The call for state police formations does not make meaning because of what exists now as the security architecture.”
Spokesperson for Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, in the group’s reaction to the Obasanjo suggestion, said, “Afenifere believes in dialogue in all situations. Our understanding of the summit Obasanjo is suggesting is not a National Conference but an assemblage of leaders to proffer solutions to the insecurity in the land.
“The decisions they arrive at should then be tabled before a congress of representatives of all interest groups and social forces in Nigeria for discussions.
“All these should not be more than three days. We accept the recommendation as a veritable platform to steer Nigeria from the apparent anarchy that stares it in the face.
“It is the most patriotic suggestion for Nigeria in crisis”.
For his part, the President of YCE, Col Dansaaki Agbede (ret.), advised Obasanjo to liaise with other stakeholders in the South-West and stop acting as a lone ranger.
Though he said his group is not opposed to organising another National Conference, Agbede felt rather uncomfortable with non-implementation of the recommendations of the previous conferences, especially the one organised during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He believed the insecurity challenge stalking the nation cannot be resolved without combined efforts.
“Obasanjo should use his elderly statesmanship to bring all Yoruba groups and leaders together. Walking alone has limited advantages”, the YCE leader said.
“We can only resolve the issue with collective efforts. YCE has been saying it since February that we in the South-West should brace up, face the onslaught and do the needful.
“On the call for the convocation of another conference, what happened to the previous conferences we had?
“It all amounts to wasting our resources. Billions of naira was spent on the conference conducted by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Why not bring the recommendations out and let’s start from there?
“So, it is not organising another conference that is the matter, what will happen to its recommendations? Will they see the light of the day? Will they not end up like population census? I have no objection to it but it must involve all groups.
“I only wonder why we talk of another conference now when nothing has been done concerning the previous ones. If the caliphate is against it, it will fizzle away.
“Obasanjo should slow down and facilitate unity forum or platform for all Yoruba so that we can speak with one voice.
“He should identify young groups which are around 34. How do you solve security issue with all these groups working at cross purposes?”
Lending his voice to the discourse, the Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Ethics in Development, Comrade Mashood Erubami, disagreed with Obasanjo, saying, “I don’t agree with him, we don’t need a new conference but the Federal Government and states should hold security meetings to discuss stability and how we can live together peacefully. “It is not a kind of jamboree conference that Obasanjo is calling for. It should include labour unions, civil societies and the recommendations should be implemented within eight months”.