SAYING that the Nigerian nation is facing very challenging times is merely stating the obvious. The auguries are increasingly being manifested in the repulsive conducts of Nigerians and their exasperation in the course of their endeavours.
MANY parts of the country were daily thrown into a tailspin by the rumbles of #EndSARS nation-wide protest. Delving deeper, it was clear that the pith and marrow of the social upheaval stemmed from the masses’ disenchantment with the unrestrained brutality by the special squad of the Nigeria Police, parlous state of affairs and deformed structure of governance which is at the root of the challenges facing the country.
APART from the fact that the president of Nigeria, Muhammdu Buhari had addressed the angry youths and agreed to accede to their five demands demonstrating listening ear, he also constituted a presidential team charged with meeting with leaderships of the geopolitical zones and segments of the society in the country with a view to finding inclusive and pragmatic roadmap for the country to stem the tide of seething anger across country.
THE presidential team, led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, who had been going to the geo-political zones, were at the Lion Building, Government House, Enugu, and had a fruitful dialogue with the leadership of the South-East Geopolitical Zone. They included the governors of the five states, traditional rulers, Ohaneze Nd’Igbo leadership, women leaders and youth leaders.
GAMBARI, while expressing profound appreciation for welcome given to the delegates by the South-East leaders, conveyed President Buhari’s message of abiding faith in the unity of Nigeria and advised against measures that would detract from conducts that nibble at the corporate existence of the country.
IT IS exhilarating that the South-East leaders acknowledged the concept of Nigerian unity but made point blank appeals to base the unity on manifest equity, fair-play, justice and inclusiveness in the distribution of the commonwealth since these parameters are germane to societies with diverse ethnic and religious configurations.
ON THE political template, the South-East leaders did not mince words in demanding that the next president of the country should be of Igbo extraction given that the other two major ethnic groups in the country have produced presidents of the country.
IN ADDITION to that, the South-East group drew attention to the manifest marginalisation against Ndigbo which has to do with the way the instruments of governance or government is run. They also drew the attention of the delegates to the monumental havoc and rampaging gambits of herdsmen in the zone, including slaughtering of defenseless villagers who protest against their herds roaming unchecked into their farms and eating up their crops.
To solve the problem, the group demanded in the short run a joint operation into all the forests in the region to flush out the killer herdsmen wielding lethal weapons like AK47; while in the long run, to compel the cattle business people to establish ranches as done in other West African countries. The atrocities of the herders have created the potentiality of poor agricultural harvest and looming hunger.
OTHER demands include the age-long agitation for the creation of additional one or two states in the geopolitical zone to enable the zone be at par with other geopolitical zones that have six or seven states which give them more slots in the House of Representatives, in addition to more local government council areas that go with privileges like more federal constituencies for equality in the national legislature.
ABOVE all, it was the position of the leaders that the region needs critical public infrastructure like roads and deplored the snail-speed in the rehabilitation of Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Port Harcourt Express Ways.
They also stressed the need to rehabilitate Port Harcourt-Enugu Railway and having people from the zone in the strategic MDAs like security, customs and excise, oil and gas sector, financial institutions, immigration and faithful adherence to the Federal Character Principles in the recruitment and promotion even in the federal public/civil service and reduction of police and military check-points in the zone.
The delegates were also reminded that the 2014 National Conference recommended the setting up of South- East Development Commission in addition to one more state and capped the appeals for the development of the River Niger Port at Onitsha and restructuring of Nigerian federation to restore true fiscal federalism as obtained in the first republic.
NATIONAL Light is on all fours with the demands of the leadership of the South-East Geopolitical Zone so that the concept of Nigerian unity will have human face. We implore the presidential delegates to make the president to be fully aware of the anger across the country and be factual in addressing the existential issues in the country taking into due cognisance the concept of federalism in vogue in the country.