Posted by Emma Nzomiwu | 12 January 2018 | 1,936 times
The Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups on Thursday agreed to let go their differences and work towards a re-structured Nigeria based on equity, fairness, and justice.
This is as Southern and Middle Belt leaders agreed that without restructuring the country there should be no election in 2019.
The groups reached the agreement at a historic meeting in Enugu, tagged ‘Handshake Across the Niger’.
The event attracted representatives from pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, and its Igbo counterpart, Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
The leaders at the event, which also attracted representatives from the Niger Delta and the Middle Belt, stressed the need for unity of purpose between the Igbo and Yoruba, especially in the quest to restructure the Nigerian federation.
Pa Ayo Adebanjo, frontline Afenifere chieftain, explained that the Igbo and Yoruba were not ganging up against the rest of the country, but that they were asking that the unity of the country be based on the terms agreed by Nigeria’s late founding fathers like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Ahmadu Bello in the 1950s.
Adebanjo said those who were talking about people trying to destroy Nigeria were the ones destroying Nigeria.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari could not claim to be more Nigerian than Ahmadu Bello, the late Sardauna of Sokoto.
Pa Adebanjo equally took a swipe at Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for trying to preach one Nigeria to him.
“We had one united Nigeria before he (Osinbajo) was born. I and his father were Awolowo’s followers.
“Let us look at what we are doing. If we want to stay together, let us do restructuring.
“Buhari is the problem of Nigeria by opposing restructuring. We will achieve it if we are united.
“Igbo, Yoruba mutual suspicion is a thing of the past. We are not looking at the past. We are looking at the future.
“Buhari will not do restructuring because his people are the beneficiaries of a lopsided Nigeria.
“We are in a serious situation. If you go to election without restructuring, you are done for.
“We are not ganging up. Let us come together on the terms agreed by Nigeria’s late founding fathers like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Sardauna of Sokoto in the 1950s.
“Adebanjo recalled that even before Independence, Nigerians had agreed on terms to live together and that the issue of minorities was addressed by the Willink’s Commission.
“If we don’t restructure now, we are gone. Look at what is happening in Benue.
“You are in power for two years and you don’t know these people exist.
“Now, you are sending a committee. You keep saying, ‘I will arrest them’.
“The man going after them was the same man that said it was a communal clash.
“How is it a communal clash? Are they indigenes of Benue State?
“We should consolidate this unity, South-East, West unity is sine qua non to a peaceful, united Nigeria,” Adebanjo said.
He, however, made it clear that Buhari would not do restructuring peacefully, and pointed out that the president had ensured all the military and paramilitary were in the hands of the Hausa-Fulani.
Adebanjo expressed regrets that Buhari could not take action against the rampaging herdsmen whereas he mobilised all the Nigerian security forces to clamp down on peaceful IPOB.
John Nnia Nwodo, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said the event was taken place at a time that many Nigerians were losing hope in the joint enterprise called Nigeria as a result of the religious and ethnic cleansing going on in the country, lamely attended to by national security forces.
He noted that two major ethnic groups in Nigeria were coming together to re-emphasise their oneness, to recall the incidents in history that bound them together, to note their differences, historical disagreements and regrettable past, and proclaim ‘let bygone be bygone’!
“Today, we have come to say thank you to the Fajuyi family for paying the highest price of solidarity and brotherhood to the Ironsi family and, by implication, to Ndigbo.
“Late Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, in offering to go along with his boss and guest rather than leave him alone to be slaughtered, dramatized brotherhood.
“We will be betraying him and his legacy if we do not continue to promote that brotherhood.
“At the dawn of self-government and the commencement of political parties, Sir Herbert Macauly exhibited that brotherhood with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
“When Chief Obafemi Awolowo was incarcerated, Dr M.I. Okpara exhibited that bond as he looked after him in prison.
“Both of them sunk their differences and formed the United Progressives Grand Alliance. Many of us benefitted from this fraternity.
“At the end of the civil war, no Igbo man had his property confiscated in Western Nigeria.
“I was elected president of the Student Union in Yoruba dominated University of Ibadan.
“Today, Igbos abound in property ownership, manufacturing and commerce in Lagos.
“We implore Yorubas to also invest in Igboland,” Nwodo said.
He described the Igbo/Yoruba alliance which catalysed the Southern Leadership Forum and the Middle Belt Union as a bold statement that unity is possible in Nigeria.
Nwodo maintained that their irrevocable stand that Nigeria must be restructured was non-negotiable, warning that to abandon restructuring was to destroy Nigeria.
According to him, “Every credible analysis shows that unless we devolve powers to the states and allow them the control of their natural resources and basic utilities of powers, environment, education and infrastructure development, Nigeria will collapse.”
The delegates also demanded that the Federal Government declare Miyetti Allah cattle breeders group, and Fulani herdsmen as terrorist groups.
The groups are accused of killing over 70 people in Benue State in the last two weeks. The Benue government held a mass burial for victims on Thursday.
Femi Fani-Kayode, former Aviation Minister, also threw his weight behind the call for restructuring, saying that those who considered themselves masters in Nigeria saw others as slaves and vassals.
Fani-Kayode said Nigeria had to apologise to the people of the South-East for their suffering, adding that over 300 Igbo officers were killed during the counter-coup, over a hundred thousand slaughtered during the pogrom in the North, and over two million killed during the civil war.
“We know who does slaughtering. Yesterday, it was Benue. Before Christmas, it was in Taraba. The other day it was Numan,” he said.
Fani-Kayode, who also sent goodwill messages from Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and Gani Adams, asked President Buhari to state Nnamdi Kanu’s whereabouts.
He said the president should tell Nigerians if he killed the IPOB leader.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who represented Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, reaffirmed the support of Southern Senators for restructuring.
Other speakers at the event, including former governors, Jonah Jang (Plateau) and Olusegun Mimiko Ondo, also supported the quest for restructuring, saying Nigeria would remain at a crossroads until restructuring happened.
Notable among other dignitaries at the event were the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe; Olu Falae, Professor Anya O. Anya, Yinka Odumakin, Sam Ohuabunwa, and Air Commodore Edang Esa (rtd), who represented E.K Clark. (INDEPENDENT)
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