By Ovat Abeng
The need for the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, and priority, work towards the restructuring of the country and enthronement of true Federalism, formed the crux of discussions at a meeting of Southern and Middle Belt leaders’ forum held on Thursday in Abuja.
Leaders and elders of the South East, South West, South-South, and Middle Belt Regions represented by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and the Middle Belt Forum, attended the crucial meeting.
The Meeting further resolved to set up a Strategic Committee on Restructuring and expressed readiness to interface with the Federal Government, the National Assembly, and all other stakeholders, on the way forward.
At the end of the meeting, which discussed exhaustively on the current developments in the country, a communique was issued, signed by Chief (Dr.) E.K. Clark, SMBLF Leader; Chief Ayo Adebanjo Leader, Afenifere; Chief Dr Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide; General Zamani Lekwot rtd., Chairman, Middle Belt Elders Council, and Former Military Governor, Rivers State; Dr. Pogu Bitrus – President, Middle Belt Forum and Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, FNSE – National Chairman, PANDEF.
The communique while calling for the restructuring of the country and enthronement of true Federalism as was originally entrenched in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, stressed that without restructuring, the future of Nigeria and democracy remain bleak.
It expressed great concern and total rejection of the trend where certain sections of the country, are continually marginalized in the number of states, local governments, and even appointments to the Federal Executive Council. The group particularly requested that the South-East be appropriately represented on the Federal Executive Council, similar to other Geo-Political Zones, insisting that Nigeria must always remain a country where all citizens and sections enjoy a full sense of belonging and equality;
On the 2023 Presidential Election, the Meeting commended the political class, especially the leading Presidential candidates in the 2023 Presidential Election for their recourse to constitutional means in redressing their grievances. It said it has noted the Supreme Court judgment on the 2023 Presidential Election delivered on Thursday, 26th October 2023, which effectively brings to an end the legal processes on the conduct and outcome of the Presidential Election, and will in the coming days, make a substantial pronouncement on the judgment;
“The meeting calls on the Federal Government to urgently salvage the Naira, which continues to depreciate daily.
“It advises that the Federal Government should take urgent steps to release Nnamdi Kanu since a court of competent jurisdiction has ordered so. We believe that doing so will promote peace and security in the South East
“We also believe that the Federal Capital Territory remains the national patrimony of all Nigerians and as as such, condemn the present efforts by some to arrogate exclusiveness. This must be rejected and the promoters of such views should be called to order.
“The meeting insists that President Bola Tinubu takes an urgent look at the 2014 National Conference Report, concluded by 494 of the Country’s leaders, as well as the All Progressives Congress (APC) Report on True Federalism,” the communique read.
The meeting chaired by the Leader, Chief Dr. E. K. Clark, had in attendance several national leaders including Chief Ayo Adebanjo – Leader, Afenifere; Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide; Dr. Pogu Bitrus – President, Middle Belt Forum; Chief Sen. Cornelius Adebayo – former Governor of Kwara State; Obong Victor Attah, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, and Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien – National Chairman, PANDEF.
Others are General Zamani Lekwot rtd., former Military Governor of Rivers State; General Lawrence Onoja rtd. – former Military Governor of Katsina State; Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ishaya Bamaiyi, former Chief of Army Staff; Chief Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, – former Governor of Anambra State; Chief S.N. Okeke – former Chairman, Police Service Commission; Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, – former Chairman of NDDC; Chief (Barr.) Sola Ebiseni – National Secretary, Afenifere and Amb. (Dr.) Godknows Igali.
The meeting also had in attendance, Amb. Okey Emuchay MFR – Secretary General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide; Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange, Senator Musa Adede, Prof. G. G. Darah, Solomon Asemota SAN, D.I.G. Potter L. Dabup (rtd.), Engr. Marcus Gundiri, Akin Oshuntokun, Dr. Akin Fapohunda, Prof Charles Nwakeaku, Dele Farotimi, Prof. Echefuna Onyebeadi, Jonathan Tsaku, Mr. Mac Emakpore, Hon. Dr. Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia, Prince Maikpobi Okareme, Jonathan Asake, Mrs. Elizabeth Jibrin, Chief Hon. Olivia Agbajoh Esq, Dr. Ken Robinson, among others.