Southern Leaders Disagree With Buhari, Insist Nigeria Is Negotiable

Members of the Southern Leaders Forum (SLF), a political group led by Afenifere Chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo, a former head of Nigeria’s Secret Service, Albert Horsfall, and former Chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Joe Irukwu, have strongly disagreed with President Muhammadu Buhari’s assertion that the unity of Nigeria has been settled.

The Forum members expressed their disagreement at a media briefing in Lagos, criticizing President Buhari’s speech, and insisting that Nigerian unity ought to be open to discussion and reformation.

Reacting to Mr. Buhari’s national broadcast on his return from a prolonged medical leave in Britain, the SLF described Nigeria as an unsettled country, which explained why numerous groups were agitating for independence. SLF also stated that the division existing in the country was also one of the reasons the country has been unable to develop.

“The claim that Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable is untenable. Every country is a daily dialogue, and there is nothing finally settled in its life. If we were a settled nation, we would not be dealing with the many crises of nation building that are afflicting us today, which have made it extremely difficult to squarely and urgently face issues of growth and development,” the SLF said.

The Forum urged President Buhari to address the ultimatum issued by the Arewa youth demanding that Igbo residents in northern Nigeria vacate by October 1, 2017. According to the Forum, a more decisive action by the president would show that Mr. Buhari is serious about promoting national unity.

The SLF also condemned the Nigerian police for not being able to arrest any member of the Arewa group that threatened Igbos in northern Nigeria, even though the group members’ faces are known.

“The one sentence by the president that every Nigerian can live anywhere without let or hindrance, if meant to address the quit notice by Arewa youths against Igbos, was rather too short to address the clear and present danger that the unwarranted threat represents.

“We are distressed by the refusal of the police to comply with the arrest orders given by the Kaduna State governor and the vice president while the president was away. Instead of ensuring that these orders are carried out, the president has now come to just make a bland comment on the explosive issue,” the SLF said.

The group added that they condemned Mr. Buhari’s speech in its entirety, adding that Nigeria was in a bad state. The SLF affirmed that this was the best time to restructure the country.

“We are of the view that leadership requires more than this at this crucial moment. We call on the president to realize that the country is in a very bad shape at the moment. This is the time to renegotiate Nigeria along federal lines negotiated by our founding fathers to stem the tide of separatist feelings and agitations,” the Forum concluded.

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