The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), comprising Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, rose from an extraordinary meeting, yesterday calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency and priority work towards the restructuring of the country and enthrone true federalism as was originally entrenched in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions of the country.
They reiterated their earlier position that “without restructuring, the future of Nigeria and democracy remain bleak and must, therefore, be carried out immediately.
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders in a communique issued after the meeting, expressed concern and total rejection of the trend “where certain sections of the country are continually marginalized in the number of states, local governments, and even appointments into the Federal Executive Council.”
They particularly requested that the South-East be appropriately represented on the Federal Executive Council, similar to other Geo-Political Zones, insisting that Nigeria must always remain a country where all citizens and sections enjoy a full sense of belonging and equality.
Leaders and Elders of the South East, South West, South-South, and Middle Belt Regions were represented at the meeting by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and the Middle Belt Forum, respectively.
The meeting that discussed exhaustively current developments in the country, was chaired by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark and had in attendance leaders of the component organizations: Afenifere for the South West, Ohanaeze Ndigbo for the South East, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) for the South-South and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) for the Middle Belt.
Advising the Federal Government to take urgent steps to release Nnamdi Kanu “since a court of competent jurisdiction had ordered so”, they expressed the belief that Kanu’s release from detention would promote peace and security in the South East.
Full text of the communique:
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF A MEETING OF THE SOUTHERN AND MIDDLE BELT LEADERS’ FORUM (SMBLF) HELD IN ABUJA, ON THURSDAY, 26TH OCTOBER, 2023
Leaders and Elders of the South East, South West, South-South, and Middle Belt Regions represented by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and the Middle Belt Forum, respectively, held a crucial meeting in Abuja on Thursday, 26th October 2023.
2. The meeting was chaired by the Leader, Chief Dr. E. K. Clark, OFR, CON, and had in attendance several national leaders including Chief Ayo Adebanjo – Leader, Afenifere, Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, MFR, OFR, CFR, President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Dr. Pogu Bitrus – President, Middle Belt Forum, Chief Sen. Cornelius Adebayo – former Governor of Kwara State, Obong Victor Attah, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, and Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien – National Chairman, PANDEF. Others are General Zamani Lekwot rtd., former Military Governor of Rivers State, General Lawrence Onoja rtd., Ph.D., mni – former Military Governor of Katsina State, Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ishaya Bamaiyi, CFR, former Chief of Army Staff, Chief Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, CON – former Governor of Anambra State, Chief S.N. Okeke – former Chairman, Police Service Commission, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, CON – former Chairman of NDDC, Chief (Barr.) Sola Ebiseni – National Secretary, Afenifere, Amb. (Dr.) Godknows Igali, Amb. Okey Emuchay MFR – Secretary General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange, Senator Musa Adede, Prof. G. G. Darah, Solomon Asemota SAN, D.I.G. Potter L. Dabup (rtd.), Engr. Marcus Gundiri, Akin Oshuntokun, Dr. Akin Fapohunda, Prof Charles Nwakeaku, Dele Farotimi, Prof. Echefuna Onyebeadi, Jonathan Tsaku, Mr. Mac Emakpore, Hon. Dr. Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia, Prince Maikpobi Okareme, Jonathan Asake, Mrs. Elizabeth Jibrin, Chief Hon. Olivia Agbajoh Esq, Dr. Ken Robinson, among others.
3. The meeting discussed exhaustively current developments in the country, and arrived at the following conclusions:
i. That the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, and priority, work towards the Restructuring of the country and enthrone True Federalism as was originally entrenched in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions;
ii. That, without restructuring, the future of Nigeria and democracy remain bleak and must, therefore, be carried out immediately;
iii. Expresses great concern and total rejection of the trend where certain sections of the country, are continually marginalized in the number of states, local governments, and even appointments into the Federal Executive Council.
iv. Particularly requests that the South-East be appropriately represented on the Federal Executive Council, similar to other Geo-Political Zones.
v. Insists that Nigeria must always remain a country where all citizens and sections enjoy a full sense of belonging and equality;
4. *The 2023 Presidential Election:*
i. The Meeting extensively discussed the outcome of the 2023 General Elections;
ii. Commends the political class, especially the leading Presidential candidates in the 2023 Presidential Election for their recourse to constitutional means in redressing their grievances;
iii. Notes the Supreme Court judgment on the 2023 Presidential Election delivered today, Thursday, 26th October 2023, which effectively brings to an end the legal processes on the conduct and outcome of the Presidential Election, held on 25th February 2023. We will in the coming days, make a substantial pronouncement on the judgment;
5. National CONCERNS:
i. SMBLF urges that efforts be redoubled to assuage the daily depreciating living standard of Nigerians;
ii. Calls on the Federal Government to urgently salvage the Naira, which continues to depreciate daily;
iii. Advices that the Federal Government should take urgent steps to release Nnamdi Kanu since a court of competent jurisdiction has ordered so. We believe that doing so will promote peace and security in the South East;
iv. That the Federal Capital Territory remains the national patrimony of all Nigerians; thus, condemns the present efforts by some to arrogate exclusiveness. This must be rejected and the promoters of such views should be called to order;
v. Insists that President Tinubu takes an urgent look at the 2014 National Conference Report, concluded by 494 of the Country’s leaders, as well as the All Progressives Congress (APC) Report on True Federalism
vi. The Meeting resolved to set up a Strategic Committee on Restructuring and expressed readiness to interface with the Federal Government, the National Assembly, and all other stakeholders, on the enunciated issues.
6. The Meeting congratulated Chief E. K. Clark on his 96th Birthday, which was on 25th May 2023, and on the successful launch of his autobiography “Brutally Frank”, held on 17th August 2023.
7. The meeting was held in an atmosphere of cordiality and general unanimity.
Chief (Dr.) E.K. Clark – Leader
Chief Ayo Adebanjo – Leader, Afenifere
Chief Dr Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, MFR, OFR, CFR – President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide
General Zamani Lekwot rtd. – Chairman, Middle Belt Elders Council, and Former Military Governor, Rivers State
Dr. Pogu Bitrus – President, Middle Belt Forum
Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, FNSE – National Chairman, PANDEF
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