Southern Leaders Push For National Consensus On Restructuring

 Southern Leaders Push For National Consensus On Restructuring

The agitation for the restructuring of the country gathered more steam at the weekend as Eminent Leaders of Thoughts, a group of Southern leaders clamouring for the rebalancing of the Nigerian federation, said it would meet next week to review emerging position of the North on the issue.
The meeting is expected to initiate a Southern synergy that would interface with those of Northern leaders on the imperatives of tinkering with the current federal structure, which many people believe has inhibited the country in its march towards economic growth and development.
The leaders of thought’s meeting will hold under the aegis of Project Nigeria Movement, led by Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN), which is already making overtures to Northern leaders for a meeting to harmonise their views on the controversial issue.
However, one of the Northern leaders expected to be contacted, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, was in Okigwe, Imo State at the weekend, lamenting the deepening divide in the country, putting the problem at the door steps of the skewed nature of the Nigerian federation.
“Never have we been this divided in the history of our country,” the former vice-president told students and members of Federal Government College, Okigwe Old Students’ Association, who were celebrating the school’s 40th anniversary.
But hope for a solution to the mounting divisions in the country beckons with the overture to the North for a national meeting on restructuring.
The quest for restructuring has been tied down by lack of consensus among the proponents. While the South appears to have a settled view of how and what should change in the country, the North has not been too forthcoming on the issue, save for clamouring for true federalism.
However, Nwabueze said his group is determined to change that.
A notice of the meeting sent out by the Head of the Secretariat of Project Nigeria Movement (PNM), Mr. Olawale Okunniyi, to members of the leaders of thought, said the meeting would take place in Lagos.
He also said that the PNM’s secretariat was already putting together the machinery for an inclusive platform of both Northern and Southern leaders of thought to agree and negotiate the restructuring of the country through a new constitution.
The Lagos meeting, according to him, would consider the position of the North on restructuring and explore the possibility of harmonising it with that of the south.
He said Nwabueze and some Southern leaders had been carrying out national consultations to facilitate a negotiated consensus among stakeholders on the restructuring of Nigeria, explaining that the PNM meeting would prepare the grounds for a national consensus on restructuring.
A group of Northern leaders of thought named Friends of Democracy (FD) had last week released a Northern proposal on the restructuring of the country, with a suggestion that the country should return to the 12-states structure, among other issues.
Okunniyi said the PNM secretariat had commenced informal talks with the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) secretariat as well as some members of FD on how best to move the ongoing debates and process of restructuring forward.
Okunniyi said consultations were also ongoing with the Pro National Conference Organisation Action Group (PRAG), led by Alhaji Shettima Yerima, and others in the youth organ of the group on how best to facilitate the proposed people-driven independent national conference on restructuring, in the event that all efforts to make the federal government address the agitations for restructuring fail.
PRONACO had last month announced that it had already adopted its 2007 peoples constitution as a working document for its proposed peoples national conference scheduled to commence in January 2018.
“We are not leaving any stone unturned in this matter of democratic constitutional restructuring, which is conceived to help the country achieve political stability and economic prosperity of the diverse peoples of Nigeria. So all efforts and initiatives in this regard are already being synchronised to ensure a productive outcome,” Okunniyi said.

Tolani Giwa

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