The Southern Leaders’ Forum Wednesday accused President Muhammadu Buhari of deploying the imagery of the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu in his broadcast to play down the demand for the renegotiation of the structure of Nigeria.
He said Buhari’s claim that they both agreed in Daura in 2003 that the country must remain one and united was mere political gimmicks.
Buhari had on Monday at a nationwide broadcast after 104-day medical trip to the United Kingdom, said he and Ojukwu had agreed many years ago that Nigeria must remain one.
Reacting to Buhari’s claim, the forum said the president’s comment that the country’s unity was not negotiable was out of point.
The forum, represented by Chiefs Edwin Clark, Albert Horsefall (South-South); Chief John Nwodo, Prof. Joe Irukwu (South-East); and Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo (South-West), spoke in Lagos at a press conference titled, ‘Only Restructuring will Ensure the Unity, Peace and Development of Nigeria.’
Others at the event included Prof. Banji Akintoye, Tony Uranta, National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Chief Gani Adams; Supo Shonibare, Guy Ikokwu, Tony Nyiam and Prof. Walter Ofonagoro.
The SLF said, “The meeting between the two of them could not have been a Sovereign National Conference whose decisions cannot be reviewed. We agree with their conclusion that we should remain united, but that does not foreclose discussions of the terms and conditions of the union.
“The claim that Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable is not tenable. Every country is in a daily dialogue and there is nothing finally settled in its life. Stable nations are still fine-tuning details of the architecture of their existence.
“How much more Nigeria that has yet to attain nationhood? If we are settled as a nation, we will not be dealing with the many crises of nation-building that are afflicting us today, which have made it extremely difficult to squarely face issues of growth and development.
“The British negotiated to put the various ethnic groups together. All the constitutional conferences held in the years before independence were negotiations. When the North walked out of the parliament in 1953 after Chief Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for independence, it took negotiations to bring them back into the union after an eight-point agenda, which was mainly about confederations.”
The group further said it was miffed by Buhari’s description of the attacks by deadly Fulani herdsmen on defenceless farmers as conflict between two quarrelling groups.
“To present the various onslaughts on farmers by the herdsmen as ‘two fighting,’ would portray the President as taking sides with the aggressive Meyitti Allah. While we do not hold the administration responsible for all agitations in Nigeria due to the crises of unitary constitution, there are clearly many errors of commission and omission that have accentuated the strong self-determination feelings across the country which only restructuring can tame,” the group said.