Ahead of the meeting of Igbo and Yoruba leaders in Enugu on Thursday, tagged ‘Handshake across the Niger’,a chieftain of All Progressives Congress,APC, and the Director General of Voice of Nigeria,VON, Mr. Osita Okechukwu has congratulated the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo for convening the meeting.
Okechukwu also appealed to Igbo and Yoruba leadership to support the Rails, Roads, and Power (RRP) projects, the economic restructuring initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a statement on Tuesday in Enugu, Okechukwu assured the Igbo and Yoruba delegates to the Enugu meeting that President Buhari would address the issue of political restructuring in his second term.
The chieftain of APC noted that the meeting provides an opportunity for Igbo delegates to lobby their Yoruba counterparts to support the creation of additional state in the South-East and a President of Igbo extraction in 2023 after Buhari’s second tenure.
Describing the meeting as a welcome development, Okechukwu congratulated the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, for convening this all important meeting between two brothers – Yoruba and Igbo leadership – the two major ethnic nationalities south of Nigeria.
He stated: “To be candid, am one of those, who view the two as competing brothers rather than adversaries as some have internalised. I also share the view that the unity of the two will in no small measure enhance the unity of our dear country.”
“Before, one suggests or proposes possible take-aways, from the meeting, let me without being immodest state that I only read about the meeting in one of the major national newspapers, the Vanguard to be specific. From the story one of the cardinal agenda is restructuring, if this is the case, one therefore may humbly seek permission to propose a way forward.
“That delegates should take serious and deep analysis of President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic restructuring captured in RRP – Rails, Roads and Power projects, as enunciated in his 2018 New Year Speech.”
“This to me is important because Mr. President has in the midst of competing options elected to first embark on massive critical infrastructure renewal, after which he will embark on political restructuring. The infrastructure renewal is an urgent programme in the face of huge infrastructural deficit.”
“I agree that some may argue, why not both together or no, we can do better infrastructural development in regional units. Those who argue the regional option born out of devolution of power, easily forget that our governors control about 48% of monies accruing to the Federation Account and nobody queries them like the federal government” Okechukwu quipped.
Mr Okechukwu said that because the State Governors were not held accountable like the President at the federal government, the APC chieftain regretted that State Houses of Assembly act like Rubber-Stamp Assembly; leading to democracy recession compounded by lack of free and fair local government council election and no anti-graft agency at the local unit.
While arguing that until will grow democracy at the State level and hold the State Governors, Chairmen and Councillors accountable, we will never appreciate the critical infrastructural foundation being laid by President Buhari. It is in this connection that a large spectrum of Buhari’s supporters nationwide have agreed with him to first embark on RRP and to embark on political restructuring during his second term.
“Mr. President I know, is aware that one of the cardinal programmes in our great party’s manifesto is devolution of powers from the center to the units. He has this on his cards. And therefore no political party, at least, not All Progressives Congress (APC) for sure will hold on ad infinitum to 68 items in the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without amendment.” he said.
He reminded the Igbo delegates to the meeting the demand of President Buhari from our leaders in the last meeting at Aso Presidential Villa, where in response to their demand for an additional state to par the South-East with other geopolitical regions with 6 states, the President demanded that we should name the particular state of our choice, which has not been done.
Okechukwu maintained that the meeting provides a golden opportunity for Igbo delegates to lobby their Yoruba brothers to buy into redressing this equity and justice placebo, of South-East region, which some have dubbed shortchange or as some cynics posit, punishment because of the civil war.
He noted that the rigorous process of state creation requires lobbying for buy in of this nature, adding that the buy-in of Yorubas will strengthen the hands of Mr. President in lobbying his brothers in the north to create additional state in the South East.
Okechukwu appealed to Ndigbo not to work out of the conference hitting the table, out of lamentation, without tangible take-away of items like State creation.
“Thirdly, our Igbo delegates need to also lobby that after Buhari’s second term in 2023, it will be our turn. For the Yorubas and our South South brothers had had their turn as presidents since our return to civil rule in 1999. We must utilise the essence and hallmark of equity and justice” the VON DG said.
He wished the delegates a fruitful deliberation guided by the collective interest of our unemployed youths and poverty ridden citizenry, many of whom will be lifted out of poverty by the audacious RRP projects.