• UPU, Arewa okay pact on unity
HOW to rescue the country from the brink of disintegration, social malaise, under- development and drifting into uncertainty was the focus yesterday as leaders from the southern part of the country met in Enugu .
Meanwhile, the Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU) and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday met in Kaduna, pledging to work together for the unity and progress of the nation.
In his speech, the UPU President-General, Gen. Patrick Aziza, who led other prominent Urhobo indigenes to the meeting, said that “what we want to achieve is to locate our relationship in history, canvass the issues, situate the position of our people and seek convergence of ideas and a meeting of minds on critical national issues”.
At the Southern leaders meeting chaired by former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme were leader of the South-South Peoples Assembly, Chief Edwin Clark, leader of the Yoruba Unity Forum, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi, Chief Olu Falae, Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), Olorogun Felix Ibru, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Chief Ralph Obioha, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) leader, Gani Adams, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Prof. Walter Ofonagoro, Ambassador Frank Ogbuewu, Chief Mike Okiro, Senator James Sekibo.
Others were former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr. Sam Egwu, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Commodore Anthony Ogugua.
Others who attended the parley included; Prof. Anya O.Anya, Ohanaeze President, Gary Enwo Igariwey, Chief Simeon Okeke, Maxi Okwu, Slyvanus Ngene, Ihechukwu Madubuike, Offia Nwali, Prof. Adenike Grace, Chief Silas Ilo, among others.
Bishop Gbonigi who called for immediate national dialogue of various sections expressed serious concerns over the challenges plaguing the country on behalf of the Yoruba delegation, said that corruption, insecurity, inequitable and problematic constitution have compounded the problems, stressing that such ugly trend had continued to play negative impact on the progress of the country.
He said that the security situation of the country had continued to deteriorate; that kidnapping for ransom had become rapidly blooming business as army of youths and unemployed swarm across villages and cities
“People are no longer shocked when dozens of their citizens are gunned down and bombed by the Boko Haram. The massacres have become routine. It is not clear what government’s policy is towards Boko Haram. Is it dialogue or is it the use of force? It has become unconvincing to call the terrorists faceless because recent developments show that they are known by our rulers”, he said.
Expressing disgust with the call on the president to dialogue with the Boko Haram as well as monetary compensation to their leaders and families, Gbonigi said it was akin to setting wrong standards and raising fundamental question as to whether every group needed to resort to violent acts against other citizens before they can attract government’s attention.
“There are groups in Nigeria today who believe that the mode of national revenue sharing is unfair to them, or that their part of the country is grossly marginalized, or that the constitution we operate is oppressive and disadvantageously constructed against them, or that it stifles their self realization and development. Must the government wait till all these groups mount their own insurgencies before it listens to them, and will it then proceed to have separate dialogues with each, accompanied by monetary compensation? If it is acceptable to dialogue with the Boko Haram, why can’t we have a dialogue that embraces all Nigerians once and for all, for all grievances to be expressed and mutual accommodation reached? Such a national dialogue is clearly what the nation needs, and is long overdue”, Gbonigi said
In his address, Governor Obi said the country was in dire need of assistance by way of sincere advice and support by her leaders, stressing that rising domestic debts without investment in industry and agriculture was a dangerous dimension.
He stated that the greatest challenge of the government was the inability of her leaders to tell the truth, stressing that even while the economy was on a dangerous slide, corruption taken a leap and other social problems on the rise, “people are still singing your praises”.
“We cannot have a country of our dream if we continue like this. We cannot have a country where we celebrate the least and worst in us. It is time for you to speak out as a group because Nigerians will listen to you if you say so. The abuse we are suffering today will take their revenge on our children. Help us to build a better society by being firm in your action and not sitting on the fence”, he said, adding that President Jonathan is a president with listening ear and has continued to do his best to salvage the country.
Clark said that the coming together was part of effort to rescue the country as well as take it to the path of growth and development.
He lamented the various efforts by other groups to put a wedge in the works of the group, stressing that the southern Nigeria as an integral part of the country must be allowed to play her role to move the country forward.
He stated that drums of disintegration being beaten today were because a southerner was on the throne, adding however, that the zone should be allowed to rule the country as much as the north had done.
He called on the leaders of the zone to stick together and present a common front on issues confronting the country.
Also, Ekwueme said that he decided to bring the forum together as part of effort to salvage the country and make her people work collectively.
The former vice president said that the group would continue to impact negatively on the country should the various zones adopt destructive tendencies, lamenting that the sacrifices made by the three regions for the good of the country had not been appreciated
At the UPU-Arewa meeting, Aziza argued: “we are seeking for allies, to enable us network, build alliances and mainstream advocacies that can be solution to our collective national challenges based on mutual trust and respect. The Arewa and Urhobo are not strange bed-fellows. We share a long political history from the days of the struggle for political independence from the British to the days of the First Republic and post military politics”.
The Urhobo leaders further told the ACF chiefs that “we seek to reignite that long standing relationship, keep it warm and energise it in our national political journey”.
“ACF, in our minds, share many other similarities with UPU. Just like UPU, the ACF is a major platform of convergence of the Arewa people and veritable positive force for engagement of her people. It also provides an avenue for the ventilation of the views and ideas of the Arewa people on critical national issues. It is this similarity of purpose and mission statement, in our mind, that has convoked this August gathering”.
Before the meeting went into closed-door session, the ACF chairman, Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, urged the Urhobo leaders from Delta State that the North would continue to be allies with them and other like-minded groups across the country, for the benefit of uplifting the nation’s political, economic and social landscape.
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