The leadership of some major socio-cultural groups from the Southern and Middle Belt part of the country on Monday adopted a common position and called for an emergency national conference that would lead to the emergence of a new constitution and restructuring of Nigeria.
The groups, comprising the Afenifere, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Middle Belt and the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) made the call in Abuja at a dialogue session titled ‘The Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential Transition Inter-ethnic Peace Dialogue.’
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According to them, it is possible to reverse the current challenges facing and prevent Nigeria from breaking into pieces if the federal government listens and implements the recommendations they are putting forward.
President of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, while presenting the position of the Yorubas, which was also adopted by both the Ohaneze and Middle Belt Forum, said the process for a genuine consensus on an acceptable national constitution should henceforth begin with the production of position documents by all nationalities between now an December.
He said going forward, Nigerians should be allowed to exercise their mandate and sovereignty on how they want to live together under mutually beneficial terms.
Speaking on behalf of the Ohaneze, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said while it fully endorsed the proposals by Afenifere, there was a need for an emergency national conference to consider the proposals of various ethnic groups and also to review the reports of previous national conferences so as to come up with a new constitution accepted by all.
He said the problems being witnessed in the country started when the military took over power in 1966 and removed the federal constitution that would have guided the country to a viable economic and political entity.
Also speaking, the leader of the Northern Consensus Initiative, Dr Awal Abdullahi, said: “The North before now was saying we don’t believe in separation but as I’m standing, I’m telling you that if there’s going to be separation tomorrow, the North is ready for it, we’re also ready, let’s go our different ways and I’m telling you this with all sincerity.
“Northern Nigeria before now did not want to hear anything separation, but as at today, as I speak to you, the North is equally ready. What I’m saying might be controversial, but I’m speaking the mind of northerners and I have no apology to anyone in this hall.”
Reacting, the president of the Middle Belt Forum, Pogu Bitrus, said the Middle Belt would not pull out of the country with the core north.
He said: “So if my brother says the north is going, be sure the middle-belt is not going with you, you’re on your own. We’ve served and sacrificed for this country.
“The war that occurred, the middle-belt was used to fight while the North sat back to enjoy.”
Also speaking, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, Umar Ghali Na’abah observed that the leadership of the country was not serving the people properly.
“We have weak and irresponsible leadership in the country. We need to talk as one Nigeria and not people from the North or from the South,” Na’abah, who is also the chairman of the National Consultative Forum(NCF) said.