By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi
Southern elder statesmen, who met under ‘The Yiiegba Charter’, rose from a meeting in Lagos, yesterday, and insisted that Nigeria must remain one united, indivisible country.
Yiiegba is an inter-ethnic coalition established to ensure unity, progress and good governance in the country.
At the meeting, the southern leaders dismissed agitations for Nigeria’s disintegration and secession and reiterated that nobody would gain from the country’s dismemberment.
The elder statesmen, led by the country’s former high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade and former chief executive officer of Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Prof. Anya o. Anya, and others, spoke in Lagos, yesterday. Other prominent members of the coalition are include Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo; former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife; Senator Ebenzer Ikenyina; Gen. Ike Nwachukwu; Navy Capt. Alison Maduekwe (retd); Senator Oladipo Olaitan and Ambassador Uche Okeke.
Others were: Elder Nathaniel Okoro; Captain Prekeme Porbeni (retd); former director general of the Nigeria Television Authority, Shyngle Wigwe and Yinka Odumakin, among others.
After the parley, Kolade said: “Leaders, in any society, who have seen many things, who have experienced many things… one of the benefits that the nation has, is that these elders can take the wisdom of the years and the experiences they have and say ‘if we want to continue to have a peaceful, productive country, then, these are the things we should do, these are the things to avoid…’
“So, we have to think about those things and help other people to think along that line…This is a think-tank effort.
“We believe that staying together and working together is the only viable way to go. There is no alternative to one Nigeria. As elders, we shall do everything necessary to keep the nation as one.”
“We are facing current challenges with the wisdom of the past for a better future.” Kolade warned against hate speeches and other acts capable of disintegrating the nation, saying the price for peace are always cheaper than that of war.
Anya, co-chairman of the coalition, praised former military President, Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, for speaking up for restructuring of the country. “I want to thank my younger brothers, Atiku and Babangida, for lending their voices and great stature for a restructured country…
“Since Northern voices have been added (to restructuring), the job is half-done… By the combined wisdom of the elders, in the phase we are in, the elders can’t sit on the sidelines
He also reiterated that the nation must restructure to avoid looming conflagrations and added that, with the coalition, “the journey for a new Nigeria, birthed with equity, fairness and progress” has begun.
On his part, Adebanjo warned those beating war drums to desist, and said non-violent approach remains the most viable way to resolve Nigeria’s problems.
Odumakin emphasised that yesterday’s meeting was “to reaffirm the June 18, 2017 meeting we had in Lekki.”
That meeting, which was held in one of the leaders’ residence in Lagos, had leaders from the South-East, South-South and South-West regions in attendance.
The meeting, according to the organisers, was on the tension in the country and the threat to national unity, with the October 1, 2017 quit notice to Igbo in the North, by a coalition of Arewa youths. The leaders said they were looking into the options on the table and strategising on the best moves in achieving peace, equity among the different ethnic nationalities within the country.
Among those at that meeting were Afenifere leaders such as General Alani Akinrinade (retd), Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Senator Femi Okunrounmu.
President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, and others from the South-South region, including one of the region’s vocal activist, Tony Uranta, were also at the meeting. Thereafter, in a communiqué signed by leaders from the three regions, the meeting, among others, called for concrete steps to be taken on the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report before October 1, 2017.
They agreed to forge a common front to pursue the interest of the region, and noted that rather than reduce the issue of quit notice to the North and South-east, it was resolved to treat the matter as the entire Southern and Northern Nigeria.