By Gbenga Oke
LAGOS — EMINENT Nigerians from the southern parts of the country, yesterday, backed clamour for restructuring and opposed secessionist moves, saying dismemberment of the country would not benefit anyone.
Gathering under an inter-ethnic platform known as YIIEGBA, the elder statesmen at the parley in Lagos were former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade; former Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Prof. Anya O. Anya; former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (retd); former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife; an elder of Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo; former Director of Ground Operation in Nigeria Airways, Captain Prokeme Porbeni (retd); Senator Ebenezer Ikenyina; Rear Admiral Alison Maduekwe (retd); Sen. Oladipo Olaitan; Amb. Uche Okeke; Elder Nathaniel Okoro; Shyggle Wigwe; Dr. Amos Akingba and Yinka Odumakin, among others.
From left, Co-chairmen YIIEGBA an inter-ethnic coalition, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Dr. Christopher Kolade; Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and General Ike Nwachukwu(retd) at a meeting on restructuring of the nation in Lagos.
Canvassing unity to build a strong, workable and viable Nigeria, they said there was no alternative to one Nigeria and dismissed agitations for disintegration and secession, saying no one stands to gain anything meaningful from dismemberment of the nation.
In his opening address, Kolade said: “It is imperative to build a stronger and viable Nigeria and there is need to have a peaceful, productive and progressive country and the only way this could be achieved is to stand in unity.
“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. Those that had witnessed war will never stay quiet when some elements are pushing the nation to the precipice again.”
Also speaking, Prof Anya said there was need to explore everything humanly possible to create a new foundation for Nigeria.
He said: “We need a Nigeria that would be fair to all, peaceful and where everybody, irrespective of ethnic background, would be free. We need a country that would put its citizens to work and not war and in which all will benefit and not few individuals.”
Speaking in a similar manner, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said time was running out for Nigeria to be restructured, warning: “If we don’t get restructured between now and next year, we may lose this country. There is need to go back to the type of Nigeria which our founding fathers agreed on, that is regionalism and true federating units.”
On his part, Chief Ayo Adebanjo encouraged those who were still sceptical about the trending relationship among the South-East, South-West and the South-South elders to see beyond their doubts, noting that the bond was not a gang-up as some people tended to believe, rather it will further make the country stronger to reform the present skewed system.
A communique which was presented after the meeting by the elders stated equality for all Nigerians whether male or female.
The communique also posited that based on the bitter African experience, “war and violent expressions have produced no benefits, instead dialogue should be encouraged at all times and non-violent approach adopted to re-engineer our diversities as a strength rather than weakness.’
It harped on the fact that the legitimacy of all forms of government should be based on the consent of the governed and must exist solely for the betterment of citizens in the form of security, education, healthcare, and social welfare.