The Southern Leaders Forum (SLF) says the claim by President Muhammadu Buhari in his nationwide broadcast on Monday that Nigeria’s unity is settled and non-negotiable is untenable.
Buhari had said he and the late Chukwuemeka Ojukwu at a meeting agreed that Nigeria must remain one.
But in a statement on Wednesday, the southern leaders said although they agree that Nigeria should remain one, the meeting between Ojukwu and Buhari did not foreclose discussions of the terms and conditions of the country’s union.
They said the president has the responsibility of initiating the discourse that could bind Nigeria together not limiting it to the national assembly which needs to be restructured and the national council of state (NCS) that is not open to Nigerians.
While noting that stable countries are still fine-tuning details of “the architecture of their existence”, they said negotiation is important to Nigeria’s unity.
“The claim that Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable is not tenable. Every country is in a daily dialogue and there is nothing finally settled in its life. Stable nations are still fine-tuning details of the architecture of their existence. How much more Nigeria that has yet to attain nationhood? If we are settled as a nation, we will not be dealing with the many crises of nation-building that are afflicting us today, which have made it extremely difficult to squarely face issues of growth and development,” the forum said.
“The British negotiated to put the various ethnic groups together. All the constitutional conferences held in the years before independence were negotiations. When the North walked out of the parliament in 1953 after Chief Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for independence, it took negotiations to bring them back into the union after an eight-point agenda, which was mainly about confederation.
“While the composition of the national assembly is clearly jigged and indeed one of the bodies to be restructured, the national council of state is not open to Nigerians. If any discourse is to take place on constitutional changes within the democratic framework, Mr. President is the one who has the responsibility to initiate the process.
“The meeting between the two of them could not have been a Sovereign National Conference whose decisions cannot be reviewed. We agree with their conclusion that we should remain united, but that does not foreclose discussions of the terms and conditions of the union.”
They further highlighted lopsided recruitment and early retirement of mostly southern senior officers from the army as some of the errors that the Buhari administration has made.
Members of the forum are Edwin Clark, Albert Horsefall, John Nwodo, Joe Irukwu, Reuben Fasoranti, and Ayo Adebanjo amongst others.