Southern Leaders Forum (SLF) on Sunday commended the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors Forum (PGF) on their resolution that the current structure of Nigeria was not working, while deliberating on the crisis bedevilling Nigeria, which culminated in a quit order issued by the Arewa youths to the Igbo living in the North to leave by 1st October 2017.
SLF gave the commendation in a release issued by Mr Yinka Odumakin, Senator Bassey Henshaw and Dr Okey Anueyiagu on its behalf, even as it strongly recommended a meeting between the governors, National Assembly leadership and leaders of ethnic nationalities in the six geo-political zones to agree on the critical areas of 2014 National Conference that need to be incorporated into the constitutional amendment in the country.
According to the Southern leaders, the suggestion became imperative in order to move Nigeria forward in concrete terms and to demonstrate that the governors were ready to walk the talk.
“To this end, we strongly recommend a meeting between the governors, National Assembly leadership and leaders of ethnic nationalities in the six geo-political zones to agree on the critical areas of 2014 National Conference that need to be incorporated into the constitutional amendment so as to move Nigeria forward in concrete terms and to demonstrate that the governors are ready to walk the talk,” the SLF said.
The group, while highlighting the focus of APC Governor’s Forum on the need to have Nigeria’s Federal system reformed to “true federalism,” a review of “the long exclusive list in the 1999 Constitution” in favour of the states as well as the review of the revenue sharing formula between the Federal Government and the federating units, said it could not but agree more with the PGF on such decision.
This was just as it restated its wish to have Nigeria remain an indivisible entity “but the terms must be right for all the constituent units of Nigeria to have a feeling of inclusiveness and acceptance so that we can live together in peace and harmony with all groups pursuing their happiness according to their aspirations.
“In the same vein, we noted the observation by the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo that ‘we have agreed to live together’ with the observation that the decision was made by British amalgamation. It is unfortunate, however, that we have not been allowed to move beyond amalgamation to integration by fashioning the framework necessary for peaceful co-existence in a multi-ethnic country,” the group said.
Speaking further, the SLF regretted that it could not be said that “agreement” to live together in Nigerian in all honesty had “terms such as herdsmen terrorising farmers or cows chasing pupils out of their classrooms.
“Neither does it involve the palpable injustices built into the union to make some sections of the country subservient to the other through the politics of exclusion, command and conquest that characterize our union presently,” it added.
It said, “This is why while we appreciate the fence-mending measures of the Acting President and the proclamations of the APC Governors, we want to see them move beyond the same rhetoric Nigerians having been hearing for so long into practical actions as leaders of our people.”
SLF reminded the Acting President, Osinbajo and the APC Governors of a promise they made in their party manifesto to “Initiate action to amend our constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true federalism and federal spirit.”
It urged the Acting President and the governors to lead the way by taking concrete steps to facilitate the implementation of what it described as this all-important promise to arrest the continuing drift to the edge of the precipice at this critical juncture in the life of Nigeria.
The group drew the attention of the Acting President and the Governors to some vital recommendations contained in the 2014 National Conference Report, including equity in the number of states per geopolitical zone with the states remaining as Federating units, greater autonomy for the states including their individual constitutions, police and freedoms to manage their affairs and resources and to cooperate or even amalgamate if they so choose, among others.
According to SLF, this is imperative in order to facilitate action and get the restructuring exercise in the country in place with ease without time wasting.
“We do not think we need to impress on these leaders at this point that time is running out for the polity and concrete and urgent steps have to be taken to save the Republic not by mere platitudes but proactive measures towards building an inclusive country along Federal lines.
“In the language of precision: urgent steps have to be taken to restore Nigeria to pre-1966 constitutional arrangements to stop the drift in the land,” the group concluded.
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