Southern leaders under the aegis of Southern Leaders Forum on Sunday called on their colleagues from the North to renegotiate Nigeria.
The Southern leaders, drawn from three geopolitical zones of the south, made their position known after a meeting in Lagos.
The leaders, according to Vanguard newspaper, said Nigeria was approaching a terminal crisis from which it cannot recover unless it is restructured along the paths of the 1963 Constitution.
The southern leaders included Afenifere leader, Ayo Adebanjo; former Director General of the State Security Service, A.K Horsfall; former president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Joe Irukwu; Ike Nwachukwu; Secretary of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Kunle Olajide; Afenifere chieftain, Amos Akingba; former chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Bassey Ewa-Henshaw, and Vanguard Publisher, Sam Amuka, among others.
The leaders said the National Assembly’s rejection of the proposal for devolution was against popular demand, vowing that they will press on with their demand until the issue was brought to a conclusion.
They also berated security agencies for threatening to deal with agitators of the country’s restructuring, describing it as empty and ineffective threats.
Mr Adebanjo, on his part, specifically flayed Acting President Yemi Osinbajo over his reported comment that agitators for restructuring were those looking for appointments.
“That is a very unfortunate statement. I would not like it to appear that we are attacking our acting president. The Acting President was born on the principle of restructuring. I and his father were followers of Awolowo since the 1950s,” he said.
Speaking further, the Afenifere chieftain said: “He cannot say we are looking for appointment; Is it me or Horsfall or Gen. Ike Nwachukwu? It just shows someone in a position but does not understand the problem of the people he is leading. It is an unfortunate statement to make, I am not going to engage in brickbats with him, it shows the limit of his knowledge of how the country came together. I think he should know better. He is not only a lawyer, he has been an Attorney-General and Vice President.”
Afenifere Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, who read the communiqué of the forum, said: “We do not want a Nigeria where any section will live as slaves of another, but rather we want a Nigeria where all citizens irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliation are able to live their lives to the fullest and in happiness without let or hindrance.
“We hold dearly that anyone who is opposed to this vision is an enemy of Nigeria of our dream,” the statement said.
Flaying the decision of the National Assembly to shoot down the proposal on the devolution of powers during the recent Constitution alteration exercise, he said: “Their decision reflects the deepest disregard for the popular demand for the freeing of more powers to the federating units from our shocking central government. Instead of devolving power, the National Assembly has now given us a stronger centre that will now conduct elections in local governments against extant provisions of the federalism.
“It is obvious that the National Assembly has taken itself out of the resolution of the Nigerian crisis by foreclosing devolution of power. Unknown to the lawmakers, they have unwittingly given more ammunition to self-determination forces by attempting to collapse the restructuring column in the battle for the soul of Nigeria.
“It would, however, be short-sighted for the National Assembly and their sympathisers to think this is the end of the matter. The demand for restructuring cannot end with their decisions as Nigeria has reached a terminal crisis from which it cannot recover except it is restructured.”
Vowing to continue on its insistence for the restructuring of Nigeria, the leaders said, “for emphasis, the restructuring we demand is a return to principles of federalism in Nigeria as obtained in the 1963 Constitution, which allowed the federating units to have autonomy over their local affairs to create a Nigeria that sustains the principles of fairness, equity, respect for all constituent units of Nigeria.
“We restate in clear terms that this country has gone through war once and it is not likely to survive another one. The only way therefore to have a peaceful Nigeria is to have a country based on justice and equity for all Nigerians. In order to achieve the above, there is a need for sacrifices on all sides as the only insurance for peace and justice is equity.
“We, therefore, call for immediate meeting of well-meaning leaders from the South and the North to find a way to save Nigeria from destruction and crisis. An urgent return to the principles our founding fathers agreed as the basis for our independence is the only way out for Nigeria as most sectors of our country have lost faith in the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.”
Commenting on the threat to deal with agitators of the country’s restructuring, the forum faulted the security operatives, saying: “Lastly, we are aware of the threat issued from the recent security meeting in Abuja where operatives of the government were issuing threats against agitators for renegotiation of the polity.
“We, therefore, say that such threats are not taking into account the realities on the ground,” the forum said.