From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to address Nigerians on the various challenges facing the country, including insecurity.
National leader of the body, Chief Edwin Clark, stated this at a meeting in Abuja where he expressed the worry on the state of the nation.
“Where are we going in Nigeria? Some are asking for secession, others for a breakup, others running a unitary system of government. Time is moving fast and there is the need to state our position very clearly to Nigerians.
“Mr. President is not an emperor, he is not a king, he is not a monarch, he is a politician. He should come out and meet some of us who where here even when he was an ordinary soldier. This country belongs to all of us, the north alone or the south alone cannot rule this country.”
Clark said Nigeria is running a unitary system of government, insisting it is time to restructure it. He said though zoning is not constitutional, it is conventional and was needed to keep the country together. He also stressed the need for the 2023 presidency to be zoned to the south since the north would have had eight years at the end of Buhari’s tenure.
“We want a brand new constitution. Any amendment of the constitution, I have no confidence in it. We are here for two things: Nigeria should be restructured. President Buhari once said if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. I say if we don’t restructure, Nigeria will die. Secession is not the answer. Secondly, we want zoning to continue. We want the 2023 presidency zoned to the south.”
In a communique read by Dr. Pogu Bitrus, National President, Middle Belt Forum at the end of the meeting, the leaders resolved and called on both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressive Congress (APC) and other political parties to zone the Presidency in 2023 to the south.
They also enjoined political stakeholders from the south not to be lured into the unpatriotic step of seeking such other positions as national chairmen and vice president of the main political parties, but join forces to demand and ensure the Presidency moves to the South in 2023.
The elders also called on President Buhari to heed calls for a national dialogue to trash out contending issues facing the country.
They reiterated that like other stakeholders, they were opposed to the use of federal or state resources to fund private cattle business other than providing enabling environment for owners of such businesses.
The group also called on the Federal Government to declare a national emergency on security and urgently come up with proactive strategies to restore peace and security to all parts of the country.
“If the security situation is not dealt with and banditry stopped or reduced to the barest minimum, it would not be feasible to have proper elections in 2023.” It condemned the cavalier attitude of the Federal Government towards the resolutions of the governors of southern states at their meeting, held in Asaba, Delta State on May 11 as it pertains to ban on open grazing and restructuring. It also reaffirmed its commitment to the unity of Nigeria, which it said must only be sustained on the principles of equity, fairness and justice.
The communique was signed by Chief Clark, Leader; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Leader of Afenifere; Prof George Obiozor, President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide; Dr. Bitrus, National President, Middle Belt Forum; and Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, National Chairman PANDEF.