TWO weeks ago, a former Head of State of Nigeria, Abdusalam Abubakar, convened a pan-Nigerian peace summit in Minna, Niger State. Core goal of the forum was to find a solution to the protracted security challenges facing the country among other matters.
UNFORTUNATELY, the meeting failed to attract some of the major stakeholders in the Nigeria project which it was intended for. The South East, represented by the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Afenifere representing the South West, the Ijaw People Congress, carrying the banner of the South South and the Middle Belt Movement boycotted the peace meeting.
Leaders of the groups, under the auspices of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) said they were compelled to reject participation in the peace talks in a last minute decision when they discovered that Miyeltti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) was among those invited for the meeting.
In a joint press conference, they informed that they had already bought air tickets and concluded arrangements to travel to Minna when they discovered that the cattle breeders were invited as ethnic leaders and cultural body.
They expressed displeasure at the inclusion of MACBAN which they considered a trade association for cattle breeders and whose members have allegedly been involved in cases of violation of human rights, rights to life, across the country.
In a statement signed by the leaders of SMBLF, Chief Edward Clark of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Ayo Adebayo of Afenifere, Chief Nnia Nwodo of Ohaneze Ndigbo and Dr. Pogu Bitrus of Middle Belt Forum,
they deemed sitting with the cattle breeders as an insult to their peoples hence being in a round table with the group would mean acquiescence to the narrative that put them in the same bracket with those wielding illegal arms all over the country and allegedly inflicting terror on fellow citizens.
They however made promise to honour future invitiations to the peace summit if Miyetti Allah is removed from the list.
ALTHOUGH the peace summit went on as planned, the aim was however not achieved. Two former chiefs of Defence staff, General Alani Akirinade and Martin Agwai were among some eminent Nigerians that participated in the peace talk.
Others were Generals Ishola Williams, I.B.M Haruna, Haliru Akilu, former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. BolajiAkinyemi, former Nigeria’s Permanent representative to United Nations Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Prof Ango Abdullahi, Prof Anwalu Yadudu, former military governor of Rivers State who is also the Amayanabo of Town Brass in Bayelsa State, Alfred Diette- Spiff, among others.
IN HIS opening speech, convener of the summit, General Abubakar said that the summit was the contribution of the Abdulsalam Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development to the knotty search for solutions to issues relating to to the co-existence and security in the country.
HE SAID that the country was going through a period of trial amidst growing tension and resentment all over the country. “There is anger in the land and the voices of reason are drowning very rapidly. We are here as Nigerians who share responsibilities for the state of our nation.
Therefore, if any forum can help in accurate identification of the solution for a united and peaceful Nigeria, let us be counted as veritable one”.
PROF. Gambari, in his contribution stated that there was a compelling need for the review of the approach in the fight against insecurity, pointing out that there could hardly be a military solution to the security crises in the magnitude Nigeria is currently experiencing.
GENERAL Agwai, who spoke in the same vein with Gambari said, “From my experience in peace keeping operations in Sierra Leone and Darfur, Sudan, the environment for peace must be created for dialogue to take place. What we did in Sierra Leone was to bring the people to the round table before disarmament could take place.
BUT, a chieftain of the ruling APC, Mr Fouad Oki expressed support for SMBLF for refusing to attend the meeting. He argued that whatever was to be discussed in the meeting could not influence anything in the country since “it was to only be passed to the Federal Government in the form of suggestion or advice and nothing more”
WE IN National Light want to commend General Abubakar for his effort in quest for a lasting solution to the lingering insecurity challenges in the country. We also believe that the security and other challenges the country is facing presently could only be solved by Nigerians through sincere dialogue. To achieve this aim, equity and patriotism must be the watchword.
WE URGE the Nigeria state to ensure that distribution of national resources, appointments, among others are treated with equity and fairness and national character.
A situation where a particular people or section of the country is being treated as masters and others as servants in a country collectively owned must be jettisoned for any meaningful peace summit to hold.
THE FEDERAL Government and other levels of government must go into soul searching by seeking answer to the important questions, ‘who supplies these lethal weapons like the AK-47, bombs and other sophisticated weapons to the herdsmen and other militant groups in the country?
Why are culprits, especially the herdsmen with cases of murder allowed to move around unperturbed? For the elusive peace to be found, the federal government must look at the report of the last constitutional conference and implement the recommendations to the last letter without delay.
THE document contains most of the problems of the country and their solutions. Any thing to the contrary will amount to begging the issue. An elder does not ask a bird from where do you eat while looking at its mouth. A stitch in time saves nine.
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