By Uzoh Ugwueze – Enugu
Calls for the immediate restructuring of Nigeria’s current political structure dominated discourse as elder statesmen, political, religious and regional leaders met in Enugu yesterday at a summit tagged “Handshake Across the Niger.”
It also came with a condemnation for the rampaging activities of Fulani herdsmen, with all the speakers insisting that the group must as a matter of urgency be branded terrorists.
Those from the South-West included Chief Olu Falae, Ayo Adebanjo, former Governor Olusegun Mimiko, former aviation minister, Femi-Fani Kayode, among others. The Middle Belt Delegation was led by ex-Plateau Governor, Jonah Jang.
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On the side of the South-East were the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, former Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Deputy Governor of Imo State, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who represented the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, representatives of both the Enugu and Anambra Governors, among several others.
Various speakers at the event took time to warn that if the country was not restructured immediately, it would be heading for doom.
Shortly after Nwodo began his speech, which bordered on restructuring, an array of pro-Biafra apologists, who had stormed the summit in their numbers, disrupted his speech with a shout of “No, No, we want Biafra not restructuring; IPOB are not terrorists, herdsmen are terrorists; Nnamdi Kanu we know, who are you?”
The women among the pro-Biafra agitators to the shock of guests, pulled off their top wears, leaving only brazier, as a way of driving home their point.
It took several minutes for the organizers to calm them down, with an assurance that they would be allowed to present their case formally to the summit.
The Ohanaeze President said the essence of the ‘Handshake Across the Nigeria’, was to correct age-long misconception and suspicion among the Igbos and the Yorubas.
He said there had existed mutual trust and brotherhood among the two regions, which he said was demonstrated by Late Colonel Fajuyi, who laid down his life late military head of State, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi.
“Buhari cannot claim to be more Northerner than the Southerners. Buhari is the problem of Nigeria by opposing restructuring. He is doing this because his people are the beneficiaries of the lopsidedness of Nigeria”, he said.
On herdsmen, Adebanjo said he had no trust on the ability of the police to quell the activities of the group as the police hierarchy had already described the killings as communal clashes.
He further lambasted President Buhari over his handling of the killings, stressing that “even when someone in the caliber of Falae was kidnapped, he didn’t utter a word. He has also refused to identify Fulani herdsmen as terrorists.
The outspoken Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chieftain, whose speech generated intermittent applause from participants at the event, lambasted the Federal Government for quickly labeling IPOB members as terrorists, but failing to do so against herdsmen who had brought sorrow to the door step of many Nigerians.
In his remarks, Jang described the meeting as most timely and appropriate, calling on the organizers “to extend the handshake across the River Benue and all the minorities.”
He added that “the question of restructuring is not debatable and not in the hand of any individual not minding his position.”