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Published On: Tue, May 21st, 2013

Southern Leaders Insist on National Conference, as Clark Campaign against Power Shift

Southern leaders coming out of the meeting yesterday

WORRIED by the myriad of problems confronting the country, the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA) has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently convene a national conference to address the issues.
The SNPA made the call at its third general conference hosted by the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) in Lagos on Monday, agreeing that Nigeria needed to convene a national conference.
Meanwhile, the Ijaw National leader Chief Edwin Clark has described the machinations towards power shift from the south in 2015 as improper at this time in the history of the country.
The three co-chairmen of the event, Rev. Bolanle Gbonigi, Clark and former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme all emphasised the need for a national dialogue.

They equally identified lack of unity among southerners as a weapon through which the north has always been using as an edge against the region.
Gbonigi who led the South West delegate in his address on national insecurity commended President Jonathan for recently taking a bold and decisive action in confronting the menace of insurgents, as we have repeatedly advocated.
According to him, “The president now seems to grasp the full import of the insurgency in the north which is to challenge the sovereignty of the nation state and establish a separatist Islamic fundamentalist state. It is their commitment to this agenda that has made them to spurn all the government’s appeasement initiatives like dialogue and amnesty. These moves only serve to embolden them and portray the government as weak. The only way to subdue terrorists, as the experience of other nations has shown, is to confront them head on with a combination of intelligence and military force.”
He added that now that the government has chosen to assert its sovereignty over the whole nation, we call on the very powerful and influential northern traditional institutions to prevail on their subjects to lay down their arms and respect the sovereignty of Nigeria.
Pointing out the fact that mere emphasis on the ending of the insurgency in the north will not by itself alone bring sustainable peace to the country, Gbonigi said there are many other centres of simmering discontent across the nation “many of which have the potential to burst out as open rebellious if the causes of grievances are not addressed. This is why an all embracing national dialogue, or a conference, has become an imperative.”
Other issues, he highlighted in his speech, included the need to assist Mr. President in fighting corruption.
He also emphasized on the prevailing harsh economic climate, which he described as equally threatening the peace and stability of the country.
He noted that the level of graduate unemployment has reached alarming and unprecedented level in the history of the country while the various arms of government seem helpless.
Suggesting way out, he said governments must begin to create jobs that are sustainable and not tied to the apron springs of government budget.
Insisting that the SNPA has come to stay, Gbonigi recommended that each of the three zones making up the assembly should stop henceforth holding separate meetings with the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the organisation should indeed strive to promote harmony within various groups and individuals in our territorial extent who engaged in one form of conflict or the other that can threaten the aims and objectives of our existence.
In his address, Clark, who led the South South delegates said Jonathan should organise a national conference on or before January 2014.
He added that if political leaders and forbears in the South had invested some of their energies, exceptional brilliance and wits in fostering a united southern Nigeria in the pre and post independence Nigeria, the challenges of fragmentation and distrust which have been very clearly exploited by the north to supplant us virtually all aspects of our political lives would have been avoided.
He said our lack of common understanding and ability to speak with one voice is manifest in all aspects of our life; unlike the north “our division is apparent in our conduct at the National Assembly; litigation in the judiciary and the speed with which we condemn and cast aspersion at fellow southerners. Today there is Northern Governors Forum, there is Northern Senators Forum and indeed the ACF which remains a clearing house for all northerners regardless of party leanings and affiliation.”
Clark said it must be admitted that we from the South South cannot exculpate ourselves totally from sharing considerable part of the blame.
He, however, said that a re-commitment to this tripartite union would correct some of the past mistakes and give the South the edge.
In a similar vein, Ekwueme, who differed on the proposed national conference, however, emphasised on dialogue, lamenting that the military, which was dominated by the north always took advantage of the division within the ranks and file of the southern politicians, “a situation that continues even into the democratic era. But the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly would be a vehicle of transformation through which every Nigerian will have a sense of belonging.”
Former Governor of Delta State, Olorogun Felix Ibru believes SNPA could reshape the face of the nation if the parties involved are sincere.
He said Nigeria needed a radical approach to development and the efforts SNPA was to bring all and sundry in the south together to speak with one voice.
He lamented that the country is retrogressing instead of progressing “in the 1960s when the country gained independence we were far ahead of Israel but unfortunately the story is not the same today.”
Dignitaries at the event included former Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae, Oni of Ife, Okunade Sijuwade, former Chief of Defence Staff, Oladipo Diya, former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, National Coordinator Oodua Peoples Congress, Gani Adams, Alabo Graham Douglas, former Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Prof. Anya O. Anya, among others .
Speaking Monday while fielding questions from reporters at the 3rd Conference of the SNPA in Lagos, Clark noted that the constitution was clear on the number of terms that every President can contest, saying that South-South believes that the return of President Jonathan in 2015 would be to the interest and unity of Nigeria.
Source: Guardian

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