By Time Nigeria
In line with the position of the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka who had earlier said that, the unity of Nigeria as a nation is an issue that must be debated and discussed in order to address lingering echoes of marginalisation.
Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to the nation claiming his meeting with the late military figure and elder statesman, Chief Emeka Ojukwu in 2003 has settled the issue of unity of the country, Nigeria, the Southern Leaders Forum (SLF) has said that the President’s meeting with Ojokwu does not end the discussion on Nigeria, added that the unity of the country would be at stake if not restructured.
The position of the Forum was made known at a press conference titled, ‘Only Restructuring will Ensure the Unity, Peace and Development of Nigeria’ held in Lagos.
At the conference, the forum insisted that the discussion on restructuring starts with the president and not the National Assembly as contained in Buhari’s speech.
According to the Forum, “While the composition of the National Assembly is clearly jigged and indeed one of the bodies to be restructured, the National Council of State is not open to Nigerians and if any discourse is to take place on constitutional changes within the democratic framework, Mr. President is the one who has the responsibility to initiate the process,” the group said.
SLF also alleged that Mr President was trying to downplay the discussion on restructuring by referring to his discussion with Ojukwu.
“The meeting between the two of them could not have been a Sovereign National Conference whose decisions cannot be reviewed. We agree with their conclusion that we should remain united, but that does not foreclose discussions of the terms and conditions of the union.
“The claim that Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable is not tenable. Every country is in a daily dialogue and there is nothing finally settled in its life. Stable nations are still fine-tuning details of the architecture of their existence. How much more Nigeria that has yet to attain nationhood? If we are settled as a nation, we will not be dealing with the many crises of nation-building that are afflicting us today, which have made it extremely difficult to squarely face issues of growth and development.
“The British negotiated to put the various ethnic groups together. All the constitutional conferences held in the years before independence were negotiations. When the North walked out of the parliament in 1953 after Chief Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for independence, it took negotiations to bring them back into the union after an eight-point agenda, which was mainly about confederations,” the group added.
The group berated President Buhari’s position liking Fulani herdsmen attack on farmers as a case of “two fighting” groups.
“To present the various onslaughts on farmers by the herdsmen as ‘two fighting,’ would portray the President as taking sides with the aggressive Meyitti Allah. While we do not hold the administration responsible for all agitations in Nigeria due to the crises of unitary constitution, there are clearly many errors of commission and omission that have accentuated the strong self-determination feelings across the country which only restructuring can tame.” SLF maintained.
The Forum however advised Mr President to see restructuring as a way of moving the country forward.
The forum, represented by Chiefs Edwin Clark and Albert Horsefall for the south-south, while Chief John Nwodo and Prof. Joe Irukwu represent south-east and Chief Reuben Fasoranti and Chief Ayo Adebanjo stood-in for south-west.
Others at the event included Prof. Banji Akintoye, Tony Uranta, national coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Chief Gani Adams; Supo Shonibare, Guy Ikokwu, Tony Nyiam and Prof. Walter Ofonagoro among many others.