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The nation and 2021 Asaba Declaration

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IT WAS indeed a moment of great excitement and high expectations when the governors of the 17 Southern States held their historic meeting in Asaba, the Delta State Capital on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The meeting, which was held against the background of the current general insecurity challenges and political uncertainty in the country was attended by 13 states governors while two states Imo and Akwa Ibom where represented by their deputy governors.

  Two states, Osun and Cross River were conspicuously absent at the meeting and no explanation was given for their absence as at the time of this report. The announcement of the meeting which was earlier made public by the organisers was received with great enthusiasm and high expectations by the people of the region even as the meeting was the first of its kind in recent times since the infamous amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates by the erstwhile British Colonial Governor, Lord Lugard, in 1914, over 100 years ago.

The former British overlords in their perfidious colonial policy had placed the Northern Protectorate at a great and undue advantage over its Southern counterpart by deliberately making the North to remain as one single block or region while splitting the Southern protectorate into two regions, the Eastern and Western regions following Sir John Macpherson’s 1951 Constitution that ushered in regional system of government or regionalism. This constitution effectively institutionalised the political domination of the Northern region in the affairs of the nation up till date.

  At independence in 1960, the Northern region with the obvious advantage of the manipulated census figures had already captured the entire state structures or apparatus of governance at the federal level and they were indeed calling the shots in virtually all the government institutions using the highly inflated or bogus census figures as political weapon. Government institutions such as the military, police, etc as well as the national parliament were effectively dominated by the North to the disadvantage of the South with “lesser population”.

  This rather undeserved advantage enjoyed by the Northern region had made it possible for any Northern based political party to control the national parliament and subsequently control the government of the day as clearly exemplified by the defunct Northern People’s Congress (NPC) when it won a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives during the 1959 pre-independence election without campaigning or even winning any single seat in the Southern region (East and West).

The leader of the NPC in the House of Representatives, the late Alhaji Tafawa Belewa subsequently became the first Prime Minister of Nigeria at Independence in 1960, after forming an alliance with the defunct NCNC led by the great Zik of Africa, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as a junior partner in the alliance.

  Suffice it to say however, that both the defunct Eastern and Western regions were terribly weakened by Nigeria’s structural defects contrived by the erstwhile British colonial masters in their policy of divide and rule which had greatly militated against the unity, cohesion and orderly development of Nigeria since her independence in 1960, and which had remained the greatest impediment or obstacle to nationhood.

  It was indeed a cheering news and welcome development therefore that the Southern States Governors, irrespective of their political affiliations or persuasions had woken up from their deep slumber and rose to the occasion to protect and defend their people against the current seemingly orchestrated and rather well co-ordinated unprovoked attacks by the so-called Fulani bandits and terrorists against their peace loving and law abiding citizens.

  It is no gain saying the fact that thousands of innocent lives had already been lost through the incessant attacks by this misguided and blood sucking criminal elements who had long occupied the forests in the Southern parts of the country and thereby instilling terrible fears and apprehension among the people of Southern region.

  This historic and timely meeting by the Southern States Governors could not have come at a better time even as they came up in their final communiqué with deliberate policy statements aimed at confronting the menace or madness by the rampaging Fulani bandits and terrorists and had therefore, sent a powerful message to the Buhari Federal Government that the country called Nigeria is under precipice and as such, urgent and decisive actions must be taken to rescue the nation from further sliding into anarchy and possible disintegration.

Some of the highpoints in their resolutions as contained in their communiqué were (a) Urgent and bold steps to restructure Nigeria. (b) Full enforcement of the ban on open grazing. (c) President Buhari should address the Nation on the lingering general insecurity in the country. (d) Review of the lopsided appointments into government departments/security agencies to reflect the diversity of the nation. (e) United Nigeria must be based on equity, justice and fairness, among other recommendations.

  In the light of the foregoing therefore, it has become imperative that a national conference of all ethnic nationalities must be summoned as a matter of utmost urgency to deliberate on the future of this British contraption called Nigeria with a view to ascertaining the true wishes of the people and whether to remain in one political entity with a brand new constitution which will guarantee social justice, equity and fairness among the diverse ethnic nationalities or in the alternative, to allow the various ethnic nationalities go their separate ways in peace “to your tents oh Israel”.

This looming catastrophe must be averted by all means.  This outdated and forced union or British contraption called Nigeria must be made voluntary as is obtainable in civilised climes and as such, Nigeria’s case should not be an exception.

One could cite many cases in modern times whereby people had exercised their inalienable rights to self determination and opted out of an unworkable and unwieldy union as was the recent case with United Kingdom (UK), who after a referendum decided to leave the 50 years old European Union (EU) which she had made enormous contributions to build.

Furthermore, the Scottish people who joined the United Kingdom in 1707, are currently pushing for a second referendum for her possible independence from the UK after more than 300 years in the union.

Similarly, the former Super Power, the Soviet Union or USSR made up of 15 republics voluntary dissolved the union and went their separate ways just as the former Yugoslavia also broke up into several countries as well as the former Czechoslovakia that equally broke into two countries Czech and Slovakia Republics.

Again, the Indian subcontinent was split into two nations at independence in 1947, from Britain (India and Pakistan) and later Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan. And coming home in Africa, Eritrea recently broke away from Ethiopia while South Sudan broke away from Sudan, etc. 

  The meeting of the Southern Governors should therefore be highly commended for their uncommon courage and patriotism in confronting head-on the myriad of challenges currently facing the nation and it is the hope and wish of the people of the Southern region that such meetings should be on regular basis so as to keep abreast with the current fast political developments in the country just as their Northern counterparts often hold regular meetings to protect and defend their regional interests and their people.

It is equally recommended that the next meeting of the Southern Governors should be expanded to include notable opinion leaders such as eminent personalities, political gladiators, religious leaders, traditional rulers, captains of industries among others from the region with a view to tapping or harnessing their wealth of experience, knowledge and wisdom for the benefit of the region and its people. The Southern Governors forum should as a matter of deliberate policy, also consider the possibility of inviting their counterparts from the Middle Belt Region to join them in the current debate about Nigeria’s future.

  It is instructive to observe however, that the leaders of the Middle Belt region seem to have recently distanced themselves from the core North consequent upon the current insecurity challenges occasioned by the Fulani bandits terrorising the entire region and therefore, decided to take their destiny into their own hands.

This is obviously the right time to join forces with their leaders to deliver our people from the shackles of naked oppression, servitude, conscienceless and criminal marginalisation and crass domination which the Middle Belt and Southern regions had the misfortune to endure with equanimity in the hands of the Hausa/Fulani hegemony since Nigeria’s Independence in 1960.

 It is no gain saying the fact therefore, that as soon as the Southern and Middle Belt regions could find a common ground and join forces together, then a clear signal would have been sent to the arrogant oppressors that the game was up for their perpetual domination of the political entity called Nigeria.

The Fulani oligarchy would then be forced to come to terms with the current realities on the ground and quickly descend from their olympian heights and entrenched privileged positions to negotiate with the two regions on the future of the country.

  It is a matter of deep regret however, that some powerful retrogressive elements from the North had already greeted the outcome of the progressive Southern Governors meeting with negative, divisive and highly acrimonious and jaundiced stance as exemplified by the uncharitable utterances and verbal attack on the Southern Governors by no lesser personality than the distinguished Senate President Ahmed Lawan, who was expected to play the role of a statesman and bridge builder by virtue of his highly exalted office. Unfortunately, the Senate President was the first person to fire the first salvo against the Southern Governors whom he accused of working against the country’s national interest.

He was also followed by the loquacious Kogi State Governor, Yaya Bello with vaulting ambition and delusion of becoming the next Nigeria’s President by 2023. Some Northern self serving political elites had also in their hasty and misguided reactions, condemned the Southern Governors for their patriotic resolutions on how to move Nigeria forward.

  It is pertinent to mention that there was absolutely nothing new in the resolutions contained in the communiqué issued by the governors. They merely re-echoed and reinforced the popular clamour or demands by the Nigeria people to the effect that certain fundamental defects in the socio-political structures of the country must be urgently addressed to enable the nation achieve her goals and full potentials as a great nation and worthy member of the comity of advanced nations of the world.

Anyone in his or her right senses could not be talking about the Nigerian unity while at the same time, fanning the embers of hate, division and promoting sectional interests in the country. There is no doubt whatsoever that certain sectional forums or associations tend to militate against the unity and oneness of the country even as such associations serve purely primordial or selfish interests and to the detriment of Nigerian unity.

Some of these political associations or forums such as (a) Northern Governors Forum (b) South-West Governors Forum (c) South-East Governors Forum (d) South-South Governors Forum (e) APC Governors Forum (f) PDP Governor’s Forum (g) Arewa Consultative Forum among other interest groups in the country are obviously counterproductive as they seem to seriously weaken the fabrics of national unity or cohesion.

  It is high time therefore, told themselves the truth and call a spade a spade. It is either we agree to have a strong and united country where equity, justice and fairness will always prevail in all ramifications in our national life or we decide to go our separate ways in peace and mutual respect.                  

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