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A United Call for Change: Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Rally for Restructuring

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ABUJA, Nigeria – In an unprecedented display of unity and concern for the future of Nigeria, leaders and elders from the South East, South West, South-South, and Middle Belt Regions converged in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria on Thursday, October 27, 2023.

This powerful assembly, represented by prominent regional groups such as Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Afenifere, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and the Middle Belt Forum, was an undeniable testament to the pressing issues facing the nation.

Chaired by Chief Edwin K. Clark, the assembly saw participation from a plethora of national stalwarts. From Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Leader of Afenifere, to Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ishaya Bamaiyi, former Chief of Army Staff, and even Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, National Chairman of PANDEF, the meeting resonated with voices of experience and leadership.

After extensive discussions on the current developments in Nigeria, the leaders reached several unanimous conclusions. Chief among them was a fervent call for the Federal Government to prioritize the restructuring of the country to usher in True Federalism, reminiscent of the principles embedded in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions.

“There’s an evident urgency to restructure. Without it, our democracy’s future looks grim,” declared Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide.

The meeting also touched upon the recent 2023 Presidential Election, commending the political leaders for their dedication to constitutional means. The assembly made note of the Supreme Court judgment regarding the election, promising to soon provide a comprehensive stance on it.

A point of significant emphasis was the deteriorating living standard of Nigerians. Calls were made to the Federal Government to stabilize the rapidly depreciating Naira and to act on the release of Nnamdi Kanu, a gesture the leaders believe would foster peace in the South East.

Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President of the Middle Belt Forum, voiced his concerns, saying, “Our Federal Capital Territory is a treasure shared by all Nigerians. We must sternly reject attempts to monopolize it.”

An urging was also made for President Tinubu to revisit the 2014 National Conference Report and the All Progressives Congress (APC) Report on True Federalism. In a move to facilitate these demands, the meeting resolved to establish a Strategic Committee on Restructuring. The committee aims to liaise with the Federal Government, the National Assembly, and all pertinent stakeholders.

Amidst the serious discussions, there was a moment of celebration as the leaders extended their warm congratulations to Chief E. K. Clark on his 96th birthday and the successful launch of his autobiography, “Brutally Frank”.

The meeting concluded in a spirit of mutual respect and unity, echoing a powerful message of change and progress for Nigeria’s future.

The full communique delivered to The Trent by email is reproduced below:

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF A MEETING OF THE SOUTHERN AND MIDDLE BELT LEADERS’ FORUM (SMBLF) HELD IN ABUJA, ON THURSDAY, 26TH OCTOBER, 2023

Leaders and Elders of the South East, South West, South-South, and Middle Belt Regions represented by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and the Middle Belt Forum, respectively, held a crucial meeting in Abuja on Thursday, 26th October 2023.

2. The meeting was chaired by the Leader, Chief Dr. E. K. Clark, OFR, CON, and had in attendance several national leaders including Chief Ayo Adebanjo – Leader, Afenifere, Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, MFR, OFR, CFR, President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Dr. Pogu Bitrus – President, Middle Belt Forum, Chief Sen. Cornelius Adebayo – former Governor of Kwara State, Obong Victor Attah, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, and Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien – National Chairman, PANDEF. Others are General Zamani Lekwot rtd., former Military Governor of Rivers State, General Lawrence Onoja rtd., Ph.D., mni – former Military Governor of Katsina State, Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ishaya Bamaiyi, CFR, former Chief of Army Staff, Chief Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, CON – former Governor of Anambra State, Chief S.N. Okeke – former Chairman, Police Service Commission, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, CON – former Chairman of NDDC, Chief (Barr.) Sola Ebiseni – National Secretary, Afenifere, Amb. (Dr.) Godknows Igali, Amb. Okey Emuchay MFR – Secretary General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange, Senator Musa Adede, Prof. G. G. Darah, Solomon Asemota SAN, D.I.G. Potter L. Dabup (rtd.), Engr. Marcus Gundiri, Akin Oshuntokun, Dr. Akin Fapohunda, Prof Charles Nwakeaku, Dele Farotimi, Prof. Echefuna Onyebeadi, Jonathan Tsaku, Mr. Mac Emakpore, Hon. Dr. Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia, Prince Maikpobi Okareme, Jonathan Asake, Mrs. Elizabeth Jibrin, Chief Hon. Olivia Agbajoh Esq, Dr. Ken Robinson, among others.

3. The meeting discussed exhaustively current developments in the country, and arrived at the following conclusions:

i. That the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, and priority, work towards the Restructuring of the country and enthrone True Federalism as was originally entrenched in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions;

ii. That, without restructuring, the future of Nigeria and democracy remain bleak and must, therefore, be carried out immediately;

iii. Expresses great concern and total rejection of the trend where certain sections of the country, are continually marginalized in the number of states, local governments, and even appointments into the Federal Executive Council.

iv. Particularly requests that the South-East be appropriately represented on the Federal Executive Council, similar to other Geo-Political Zones.

v. Insists that Nigeria must always remain a country where all citizens and sections enjoy a full sense of belonging and equality;

4. The 2023 Presidential Election:

i. The Meeting extensively discussed the outcome of the 2023 General Elections;

ii. Commends the political class, especially the leading Presidential candidates in the 2023 Presidential Election for their recourse to constitutional means in redressing their grievances;

iii. Notes the Supreme Court judgment on the 2023 Presidential Election delivered today, Thursday, 26th October 2023, which effectively brings to an end the legal processes on the conduct and outcome of the Presidential Election, held on 25th February 2023. We will in the coming days, make a substantial pronouncement on the judgment;

5. National CONCERNS:

i. SMBLF urges that efforts be redoubled to assuage the daily depreciating living standard of Nigerians;

ii. Calls on the Federal Government to urgently salvage the Naira, which continues to depreciate daily;

iii. Advices that the Federal Government should take urgent steps to release Nnamdi Kanu since a court of competent jurisdiction has ordered so. We believe that doing so will promote peace and security in the South East;

iv. That the Federal Capital Territory remains the national patrimony of all Nigerians; thus, condemns the present efforts by some to arrogate exclusiveness. This must be rejected and the promoters of such views should be called to order;

v. Insists that President Tinubu takes an urgent look at the 2014 National Conference Report, concluded by 494 of the Country’s leaders, as well as the All Progressives Congress (APC) Report on True Federalism

vi. The Meeting resolved to set up a Strategic Committee on Restructuring and expressed readiness to interface with the Federal Government, the National Assembly, and all other stakeholders, on the enunciated issues.

6. The Meeting congratulated Chief E. K. Clark on his 96th Birthday, which was on 25th May 2023, and on the successful launch of his autobiography “Brutally Frank”, held on 17th August 2023.

7. The meeting was held in an atmosphere of cordiality and general unanimity.

Signed:

Chief (Dr.) E.K. Clark – Leader

Chief Ayo Adebanjo – Leader, Afenifere

Chief Dr Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, MFR, OFR, CFR – President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide

General Zamani Lekwot rtd. – Chairman, Middle Belt Elders Council, and Former Military Governor, Rivers State

Dr. Pogu Bitrus – President, Middle Belt Forum

Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, FNSE – National Chairman, PANDEF

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