The Sun News

Southern leaders to Buhari: Restructure Nigeria now

•Want FG to declare killer herdsmen terrorists

From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu

southern leaders have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the country now, if he still desires Nigeria to be one.

The leaders, who made this demand at the Handshake Across the Niger Summit organised by Nzuko Umunna, at Base Event Centre, Enugu State, cut across the South West, South East, South South and the Middle Belt.

The leaders, in unison, bemoaned how the demand for restructuring has been rejected by the Buhari administration while Fulani herdsmen have continued to unleash mayhem and terror on southern Nigeria.

The leaders agreed that Yoruba and Igbo should bury all acrimonies and come together, again, to fight their relegation as ‘second class’ citizens in the country.

President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, who led Ndigbo to the summit said: “The Igbo/Yoruba alliance, which has catalysed the Southern Leadership Forum and the Middle Belt Union, is a bold statement that unity is possible in Nigeria.”

Nwodo disclosed that their irrevocable stand that Nigeria must be restructured is non-negotiable.

“To abandon restructuring is to self-destruct Nigeria. Every credible analysis shows that unless we devolve powers to the states and allow them control of their natural resources and basic utilities of powers, environment, education and infrastructural development, Nigeria will collapse. Anyone opposed to restructuring is a proponent of the liquidation of Nigeria,” he said.

Similarly, Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, who was represented by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said those opposed to restructuring are just deceiving themselves, and stressed that president Buhari is the problem of the country, by opposing restructuring.

He told the large gathering that the president will not agree to restructure the country in peace as his people are direct beneficiaries of lopsidedness in Nigeria.

“Buhari will not do it (restructuring) in peace because all the military and para-military are in his hands. He refused to declare Fulani herdsmen terrorists but did that to IPOB, who are just shouting for self-determination,” he said, and added that Fulani herdsmen kidnapped former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, in his farm and the president did nothing about it.

Adebanjo declared that the antagonism between Igbo and Yoruba has come to an end with the handshake across the Niger, even as he explained that the coming together of the two enthnic nationalities is not a gang-up in any way.

Niger Delta leader, Chief Edwin Clark, who was represented by Ndosit Ikanga, agreed with leaders from the other zones and insisted that Nigeria needs restructured fiscal federalism; as envisaged by the country’s founding fathers.

He told southern leaders that if the North has created a political North, through which they dominate others, the South should equally create a political South, to strike a balance.

Also former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, who led the Middle Belt to the summit, said restructuring is not debatable, and added that it must be supported by all.

Jang noted that it is the antic of those who do not want the country to remain as one that caused disaffection between Igbo and Yoruba. He advised the two ethnic groups to shelve their differences and begin to trust themselves again.

Jang insisted Nigeria must be restructured, to keep a country for Nigerian youths.

The crowd went hysteric when former Aviation minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, who represented Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, and the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) leader, Otunba Ganiyu Adams, rose and declared that “if there is no restructuring, there will not by any Nigeria anymore.”

Fani-Kayode said the day of reckoning has come as Igbo and Yoruba have come together, again, just as he called on the federal government to declare Fulani herdsmen terrorists, just as it was done to the proscribed IPOB.

He sympathised with the South East and the Middle Belt, on what they have passed through in the country, and added that Ndigbo deserves an apology from the country, for undue suffering.

“We need to come together, in one accord, to say that we are not slaves and will never be slaves,” he said, adding that the servant-master relationship existing in the country between the South and North must end.

The former minister said the coming together of Igbo and Yoruba was long overdue.

The summit honoured former Head of State, General Aguiyi Ironsi and former governor of Western Nigeria, Col. Adekunle Fajuyi on whose stead a new brotherhood was forged by Igbo and Yoruba.

At the end of the summit, a communiqué read by Ambassador Humphrey Orjiakor stated in part: “After today’s (yesterday) meeting of all strata of persons of Igbo and Yoruba origins in Enugu, the erstwhile capital of Eastern Nigeria, the conferees, comprising leaders of the South West, South East, the South South and the Middle Belt made several observations and resolved as follows: “Noted the immense strength of Igbo-Yoruba close affinities of kinship and brotherhood, shared origins and cultural/ethical values, a common world view and inherent love of freedom and justice.

“Noted that the Hand Shake Across the Niger (HSAN), anchored on the heroism of Major General J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi and Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, though long overdue, has finally burst the myth of Igbo-Yoruba irreconcilable differences and spiteful rivalry, thus, providing new impetus for resurgence of the same bold, patriotic and nationalist solidarity of the two ethnic groups from the 1930s to the 1950s, that earned independence for Nigeria in 1960; noted that in a long history of close relations and association, Igbo and Yoruba have no recorded instances of violence against each other’s ethnic group, such as inter-ethnic mass killings and destruction and/or seizure of property; that instead, they have lived, worked and prospered together, accommodating and respecting their differences.

“Expressed awareness that grievances generated by past errors on both sides can no longer justify or sustain dissention between the two groups whose solidarity and mutual collaboration have the capacity to dramatically change the fortunes of Nigeria, thereby also, changing the fates of the African continent and the black race.

“Noted that the HS has brought about a new dawn of irreversible amity in the horizon of Igbo-Yoruba relations, that they have, today (yesterday), declared time-up for, and permanently buried, the hatchet of distrust and spiteful rivalry, leading to a credible tipping-point of optimism and opportunity in realising the destiny of Nigeria as a start-up nation-state that can achieve great things.”

Other leaders from the zones who attended the summit included: Prof Anya O. Anya; Prof Pat Utomi; Chief Olu Falae; Prof Joe Irukwu; Chief (Mrs) Victoria Aguiyi Ironsi; former Imo governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim; Chief Chris Asoluka; Mr Tony Uranta; former Anambra state governor, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa.

Others were former governor of Ondo State, Chief Olusegun Mimiko, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who represented Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Chief Ayo Fagbemi who presented the book on Handshake Across the Niger, Oba Adedapo, who represented the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, Dr Patrick Ubah, who is the chairman Local Organising Committee of the summit, Senator Femi Okoronmu, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, former governor of Kwara State, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Donald Fajuyi and many others.

Governors Rochas Okorocha and Okezie Ikpeazu of Imo and Abia states sent their deputies while their other colleagues sent representatives.

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