The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum(SMBLF), on Sunday, insisted that the country needs a new constitution and not an amendment to the current one.
SMBLF, which comprises the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); the pan-Yoruba socio-political orgnisation, Afenifere; Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Middle Belt Forum stated this at the end of their meeting held at Ladi Kwali Hall of Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja.
The Forum described the current attempt to amend the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly as fraudulent.
The leaders also warned that failure to restructure the country might lead to Nigeria’s disintegration.
Notable leaders present at the meeting were Chief Edwin Clark, (Leader); Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere leader); Professor George Obiozor (Ohanaeze Ndigbo leader) and Dr. Bitrus Pogu (Middle Belt Forum leader).
Others are Senator Emmanuel Essien; Ambassador Godknows Igali; Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd); Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw; Professor ABC Nwosu; Chief Cornelius Adebayo; Ambassador Dubem Onyia; Chief Guy Ikokwu and Senator Kofo Bucknor-Akerele, among others.
Speaking, Clark stressed the urgent need to restructure the country, saying without restructuring, the country cannot go anywhere.
He also insisted that only a completely new constitution framed by the people will save Nigeria.
“We are Nigerians before we are either Yoruba or Igbo. The purpose of this meeting is very clear. Where are we going to? There is a need for us to state again clearly our position.
“Mr. President is not an emperor, he is not a king, he is not a monarch, and he is a politician. This country belongs to all of us. The North alone cannot rule this country; the South alone cannot rule this country.
“We are running a Constitution where the Nigerian President is the most powerful in the world.
“What the National Assembly is doing is fraudulent. They spend N1 billion every time; nothing will come out of it. We want a brand new Constitution based on the 1963 Constitution. I have no confidence in the Constitution; we have no confidence in the Constitution. What are you amending? Nigeria should be restructured to a federal system of government. One of our major objectives is that we must restructure Nigeria. If we do not restructure, Nigeria will die. So, the answer is not secession, it is not break up, it is not separatism. Who understands it more than me?
“Restructuring should be the order of the day. We must restructure. We must not close our eyes to what is happening in this country. We don’t want to be manipulated. We are ready to have the next president. We want to restructure; we want zoning to continue. It is conventional.
“Even though zoning is not part of our Constitution, it is conventional. Let them zone it to the South.
“The South should be ready to have the next president. Without that, there is no Nigeria.
“So, the purpose of this meeting is: we want restructuring of Nigeria if Nigeria must continue. We want zoning to continue, it is conventional. When the Constitution did not provide a succession when Yar’Adua was ill, a convention was adopted.
“Even though zoning is not part of our national Constitution or party Constitution, it has been an accepted convention that will keep this country together.
“So if you do not zone this country, we are going nowhere. I invite you to the intention of this group to intensify the restructuring of this country to see that the presidency goes to the south,” Clark said.
In a communiqué read at the end of the meeting, the group called on President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to genuine and reasonable calls for a transparent national dialogue.
The communiqué, signed by Clark, Adebanjo, Obiozor, Bitrus and Essien, read in part: “The meeting exhaustively discussed various issues about the state of affairs in the country, particularly, bordering on security, national dialogue, restructuring, and the preparations for the 2023 general elections
“The meeting urges the Federal Government to heed the genuine and reasonable nationwide calls for a transparent National Dialogue, and take urgent steps towards restructuring and birthing a new constitution; to bring back equitable harmony to the country. We insist that it is imperative to immediately restructure the country, considering the precarious prevailing atmosphere before any further elections.
“The meeting reminds all leading political parties, especially the All Progressives Congress(APC), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and other political parties, that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, rests in fair and even sharing of power.
“It also notes that the Northern part of the country would have fully enjoyed the Presidency for the full statutory period of eight years by 2023, hence, should yield to the South
“Therefore, the meeting unequivocally and in full resolve, calls on the APC and PDP and other political parties to zone the Presidency, in 2023 to the South; at the next election.
“We enjoin political stakeholders from the South not to be lured into the unpatriotic step of seeking such other positions as National Chairmen and Vice President of the main political parties, but join forces to demand and ensure that the Presidency moves to the South in 2023.
“We call on the Federal Government to declare a national emergency on security and urgently come up with proactive strategies to restore peace and security to all parts of the country;
“The meeting emphasized that if the security situation is not dealt with and banditry stopped or reduced to the barest minimum, it would not be feasible to have proper elections in 2023
“We condemn the cavalier attitude of the Federal Government towards the resolutions of the Governors of Southern States at their Meeting, held in Asaba, Delta State on 11th May 2021; as it pertains to ban on open grazing and restructuring.
“We insist that cattle rearing is a general, private business enterprise, as such, the Federal Government should avoid committing state resources to promote any particular business, beyond providing the enabling environment, in the performance of its regulatory roles;
“Extends condolences to the families of the late Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Ibrahim Attahiru, and 10 other military personnel, who died in the unfortunate military plane crash on May 21, 2021, and calls on the military authorities to carry out a thorough investigation to ascertain the actual cause of the crash.
“The meeting reaffirms its commitment to the unity of Nigeria, but must only be sustained on the principles of equity, fairness and justice.”