The leaders of the South, Middle Belt Forum have insisted that the country must be restructured or else, 2019 elections will not hold.
They stated their position, even as the Igbo and the Yoruba ethnic groups on Thursday agreed to let go their differences and work towards a re-structured Nigeria based on equity, fairness and justice.
The two major ethnic groups in Nigeria reached the agreement at a historic meeting in Enugu, tagged ‘Handshake across the Niger’, which attracted representatives from pan Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere and its Igbo counterpart Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Speaking after speaker at “Nzuko Umunna” event which also attracted representatives from the Niger Delta and the Middle Belt, stressed the need for unity of purpose between the Igbos and Yoruba, especially in the quest to restructure the lopsided Nigerian federation.
Pa Ayo Adebanjo, frontline Afenifere chieftain explained that Igbo and Yoruba’s were not ganging up against the rest of the country, but only saying that we should come together on the terms agreed by Nigeria’s late founding fathers like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Sarduana of Sokoto in the 1950s.
Adebanjo said those who are talking about destroying Nigeria, were the ones destroying Nigeria, warning that Buhari cannot claim to be more Nigerian than Sarduana of Sokoto.
Pa Adebanjo equally took a swipe at Vice, Yemi Osinbajo, for trying to preach one Nigeria to him.
“We had one united Nigeria before he (VP) was born. I and his father were Awolowo’s followers. Let us look at what we are doing. If we want to stay together, let us do restructuring.
“Buhari is the problem of Nigeria by opposing restructuring. We will achieve it if we are united. Igbo, Yoruba mutual suspicion is a thing of the past. We are not looking at the past. We are looking at the future.
“Buhari will not do restructuring because his people are the beneficiaries of a lopsided Nigeria. We are in a serious situation. If you go to election without restructuring, you are done for. We are not ganging up. Let us come together on the terms agreed by Nigeria’s late founding fathers like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Sarduana of Sokoto in the 1950s.
Adebanjo recalled that even before Independence, Nigerians have agreed on terms to live together and even the issue of minorities was addressed by the Willink’s commission.
“If we don’t restructure now, we are gone. Look at what is happening in Benue. You are in power for two years and you don’t know this people exist. Now, you are sending committee. You keep saying, ‘I will arrest them’. The man going after them was the same man that said it was a communal clash. How is it communal clash? Are they indigenes of Benue State? We should consolidate this unity, South-East, West unity is sine qua non to peaceful united Nigeria” Adebanjo said.
He however made it clear that Buhari will not do restructuring in peace, pointing out that he ensured all the military and paramilitary were in the hands of the Hausa-Fulani.
Adebanjo regretted that Buhari could not take action against the rampaging herdsmen and yet he mobilized all the Nigerian security forces to clampdown on peaceful IPOB.
Making remarks, John Nnia Nwodo, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said at a time many Nigerians are losing hope in the joint enterprise called Nigeria as a result of religious and ethnic cleansing going on in the country, lamely attended to by national security forces, two major ethnic groups in Nigeria are coming together to re-emphasize their oneness, to recall the incidences in history that bind them together, to note their differences, historical disagreements and regrettable past and proclaim, let bygone, be bygone!
“Today, we have come to say thank you to the Fajuyi family for paying the highest price of solidarity and brotherhood to the Ironsi family and by implication to Ndigbo.
“Late Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi in offering to go along with his boss and guest rather than leave him alone to be slaughtered, was dramatizing brotherhood. We will be betraying him and his legacy if we do not continue to promote that brotherhood.
“At the dawn of self-government and the commencement of political parties, Sir Herberty Macauly exhibited that brotherhood with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. When Chief Obafemi Awolowo was incarcerated, Dr M.I. Okpara exhibited that bondness as he looked after him in Prison. Both of them sunk their differences and formed the United Progressives Grand Alliance. Many of us benefitted from this fraternity.
“At the end of the civil war, no Igbo man hand his property confiscated in Western Nigeria. I was elected President of Students Union in Yoruba dominated University of Ibadan. Today, Igbos abound in property ownership, manufacturing and commerce in Lagos. We implore Yorubas to also invest in Igboland” Nwodo said.
He described the Igbo/Yoruba alliance which catalysed the Southern Leadership Forum and the Middle Belt Union as a bold statement that unity is possible in Nigeria.
Nwodo maintained that their irrevocable stand that Nigeria must be restructured is non-negotiable, warning that to abandon restructuring is to self-destruct Nigeria.
According to him, “every credible analysis show that unless we devolve powers to the states and allow them the control of their natural resources and basic utilities of powers, environment, education and infrastructure development, Nigeria will collapse.”
Former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode also threw his weight behind the call for restructuring, saying that those who consider themselves masters in Nigeria, see others as slaves and vassals.
Fani-Kayode said that Nigeria has to apologise to the people of the South-East for their suffering, adding that over 300 Igbo officers were killed during the counter coup, over hundred thousand slaughtered during the pogrom in the North and over two million killed during the civil war.
“We know who does slaughtering. Yesterday, it was Benue. Before Christmas, it was in Taraba. The other day it was Numan” he said.
Fanikayode who also sent goodwill messages from Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and Gani Adams, asked President Buhari to say Nnamdi Kanu’s whereabouts.
He said the President should tell Nigerians if he killed the IPOB leader.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe who represented Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, reaffirmed the support of Southern senators for restructuring.
Other speakers at event including former Governors, Jonah Jang (Plateau) and Olusegun Mimiko Ondo, also supported the quest for restructuring, saying Nigeria would remain at crossroads until restructuring happens.
Notable among other dignitaries at the event were the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Olu Falae, Professor Anya O. Anya, Yinka Odumakin, Sam Ohuabunwa and Air Commodore Edang Esa (rtd) who represented E.K Clark and