By Ralph Madugu
Rising from an expanded meeting of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) in Abuja, the leaders from the South and the Middle Belt regions of the country have urged the Federal Government to heed the unending calls for a transparent National Dialogue as a step towards restructuring and bringing back unity and harmony to the country.
The group issued a communique at the end of the meeting which brought together leaders of various socio-cultural organizations, including the Afenifere for the South West, Ohanaeze Ndigbo for the South East, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) for the South-South and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) for the Middle Belt.
SBMLF noted that the northern part of the country would have fully enjoyed the Office of the Presidency of the country for the full statutory period of 8 years by 2023, hence it should yield to the South and cautioned that any ill-advised steps to arrogate power to only one part of the country will aggravate the existing tension and unhealthy drift.
While enjoining political stakeholders from the South not to be lured into “the unpatriotic step of seeking such other positions as National Chairmen of the main political parties, but join forces to demand and ensure that the Presidency moves to the South in 2023,” it called on the APC and PDP to zone the Presidency of the country to the South.
It also reminded all leading political parties, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, is fair and even sharing of power.
“Therefore, unequivocally and in full resolve, calls on the APC and PDP to zone the Presidency of the country to the South.”
On the ongoing efforts by the National Assembly to amend the 1999 Constitution, SBML cautioned that the necessary courage and statesmanship should be displayed to ensure that the process culminates in the fundamental restructuring of the country.
Calling on the Federal Government to urgently come up with firm and proactive strategies to restore peace and security to all parts of the country, the group emphasized that if the security situation was not dealt with, it would not be feasible to have acceptable elections in 2023.
The SBML leaders condemned what they termed “the cavalier attitude of the federal government” towards the resolutions of the Governors of Southern States at their meeting, held in Asana, Delta State on May 11, 2021, insisting that cattle rearing is a business enterprise, as such, the Federal Government should avoid committing state resources to promote any particular business, beyond providing the enabling environment and performing its regulatory roles.
The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the unity of Nigeria hence must only be sustained on the principles of Equity, Fairness and Justice.
Also in attendance at the meeting former governors, former ministers and former National Assembly members from the respective zones.