A group of southern leaders yesterday invited the North for talks on how to renegotiate the country, Nigeria.
In their message to the northerners they said current agitations will not stop until Nigeria is restructured along the paths of the 1963 Constitution.
The Southern leaders, who met under the aegis of the Southern Leaders Forum, in Lagos, included among others, Chief Adebanjo; former Director General of the Department of State Service, Chief A.K Horsfall; former President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof Joe Irukwu; Gen Ike Nwachukwu.
Others are Secretary of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide; Afenifere chieftain, Dr Amos Akingba and erstwhile chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw, Vanguard Publisher, Mr. Sam Amuka; former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Stella Omu, Col Tony Nyiam (retd); and Chief Guy Ikokwu among others.
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.”
Condemning the decision of the National Assembly to down the proposal on 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.
“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 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.
“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.