Former member, House of Representatives, Uche Onyeagocha (left); Leader of the Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo; Chairman on the occasion and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa; Spokesman, Northern Elders Forum, Hakeem Baba Ahmed and past National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) boss, Dr Usman Yusuf, during the ‘‘Ripples Nigeria Dialogue’’ in Lagos…yesterday. PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN
Ex-lawmaker wants Kanu, Igboho released unconditionally
Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, leader of Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo and other eminent Nigerians have insisted that until the country changes the current 1999 Constitution to a truly federal article, current challenges to its unity, economy and politics would not be resolved.
Okowa lamented that the unending crises in the country snowballed with the #EndSARS protests and labour agitations, saying these further placed a wedge between the citizenry and the leadership.
The leaders spoke in Lagos, yesterday, at the second Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism (RCDIJ) Project Ripples Dialogue, themed: ‘Rebuilding Trust in a Divided Nigeria – Advancing the Conversation’.
They charged the Federal Government to urgently reduce insecurity and ensure food security. They also blamed governments at various levels for being major contributors to disunity.
In his speech, Okowa said the country could only grow if ethnic and religious divide give way for a pan-Nigeria goal, which must be truly desired and pursued by all.
Okowa said the decision by former Head of State, the late Aguiyi-Ironsi, to promulgate a unitary decree in place of the federal constitution, with the hope of replacing the regions with a strong Federal Government, to unify all sections of the country, was counter-productive.
According to him, it ended up becoming the root of Nigeria’s political albatross. “It was an exercise in futility that turned to the seeds of discord in the nation till today,” he said.
The governor, who chaired the occasion, noted that Nigeria battled with mutual distrust and prejudice, with various ethnic nationalities locked in battles for supremacy or minority rights. He said early attempts to break up Nigeria derived from those challenges.
Okowa said there is need for reconciliation, not a conference to proffer a new constitution. He said Nigeria is not managing its population well: the economy is going down, while people continue to give birth to children amid unemployment.
Adebanjo said Nigerians are living in denial. He said the country would only be saved if it changed its existing constitution.
“Anything outside that, there is no future for Nigeria. Corruption is worsening now than it has ever been because of the people Buhari surrounds himself with. The President has all the wrong people in his cabinet.”
He asked Nigerians to interrogate why the Northern region has more states and local governments than other parts of the country.
“The military made it so, to favour the north. We, in Afenifere, once campaigned for Buhari because he promised us restructuring. But, now, he has disappointed us all, including those who brought him to power in 2015.”
A former lawmaker, Uche Onyeagocha, called for the unconditional release of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and Yoruba freedom fighter, Sunday Adeyemo (aka Sunday Igboho).
Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Director, Publicity and Advocacy of Northern Elders’ Forum, lamented that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will inherit the misfortune of APC while the citizens inherit the misfortune of both parties.