Southern groups, including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo; the pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, and the Ijaw Youth Council, on Sunday said restructuring must be central to the plan by the North to form an alliance with zones in the South for the presidency in 2019.
The Afenifere and the IYC said they had interest in any group that truly believed in restructuring, but the Ohanaeze Ndigbo also said the proposal by the northern leaders was because of 2019 elections only. On its part, the Middle Belt Youth Council said the main agenda of the North was to dominate the South and the North-Central (Middle Belt).
Northern elders and stakeholders had, at a meeting in Abuja on Saturday, said they were exploring ways to form an alliance with the South. According to the communiqué of the meeting, the objectives of “the conversation” included reviewing general security situation in the North and proffering solution to it.
The meeting was also convened to “appraise the current state of politics in the North in relation to the unfolding national political dynamics with a view to creating a common northern position for an alliance with our fellow citizens in the southern zone.”
Afenifere insists on restructuring
Afenifere stated that it was willing to work with any association that was focused on moving Nigeria forward through the restructuring of the polity.
Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, welcomed the decision of the Northern elders to work with other compatriots from other sections of the country, noting that the apex Yoruba group was not opposed to forming a coalition with them. He said:
“We want any alliance that is for progress; that would move the country forward; that would put Nigeria on a productive path to build an inclusive country where all sections of the country would have a sense of belonging, and where they would realise their happiness and ambitions without hindrance.
“We are ready to work with all our compatriots across Nigeria who are ready for a new deal for Nigeria.”
Odumakin insisted that Nigeria must move forward, noting that the only condition for working with other groups was for them to be committed to the restructuring of the country, including resource control.
He added that the nation could not continue to condone impunity and lawlessness, stressing that Afenifere would work with any group that was interested in the advancement of the nation. He added:
“The alliance should believe that this country must move forward; we cannot continue like this. It must believe that we must restructure this country in a way to make it productive to allow every section of the country to be productive and utilise what is under and above their land to develop their area and contribute to national development. Any group that signed to such progressive ideals for this country, we are ready to work with such a group.”
Restructuring, condition for alliance –IYC
The Ijaw Youth Council said it would agree to form a political alliance with the North if northerners would be ready to present a candidate that would support restructuring.
IYC factional President, Mr. Eric Omare, told one of our correspondents that the person that would be presented must know that the Federal Government would only be in control of national security, currencies and other few areas, while other powers would be devolved to the states.
“The condition must be on the basis that whoever the alliance will support must be somebody that will be willing to address the common interest of Nigeria. For today, the key issue is that of restructuring of the country.
“The person must be ready to devolve power to the regions so that the regions and our local government areas will be developed. The Federal Government will only handle issues of core national interest such as currencies, defence and national security.
“Other issues should be left for the states to handle. We will have an alliance with only those that will support the development of Nigeria with these conditions,” Omare added.
It is suspicious –Ohanaeze
However, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex socio-political body of the Igbo, said the nature and motives of the alliance by the Northern leaders was suspect.
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Enugu, said the alliance could be because of the 2019 general elections only. Achi-Okpaga, who stressed that Ohanaeze was not a political party, added that it would not enter into “any political alliance.”
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s spokesman said the Northern elders and leaders should first advise President Muhammadu Buhari, their kinsman, to treat all Nigerians, particularly the South, as equals before proposing an alliance with the southerners. He said:
“Ohanaeze is not a political party and will not engage in any partisan political alliance. We have a mandate of protecting the interest of the lgbo, but that does mean we should dabble into partisan political alliance.
“In my opinion, any alliance without equality of the various regions will only breed misgivings and discontent.
“The present government has sharply divided the country, making it a replica of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where some animals became more equal than others.
“I wish they (Northern leaders) would, first of all, advise the present government to see Nigerians as equal citizens before seeking political alliance.
“What kind of alliance would you seek from regions when the lives of cattle are valued over the precious lives of citizens?
“For now, the air of inequality and divisiveness strongly radiates Nigeria and the idea of alliance would be seen as a hoax bearing in mind that the 2019 elections is the target.”
Achi-Okpaga wondered whether the North would abide by the terms and conditions of the proposed alliance, since, according to him, the Buhari administration had continued to renege on promises made to Nigerians. He said:
“The present government made promises to some regions that were reneged on. The government jettisoned restructuring and claimed not to understand it. It promised to sell fuel at N40 per litre. Today, it sells for N200 and above.
What is the guarantee that the alliance and the attendant conditions will stand after the 2019 elections?”
‘North’s interest is to dominate’
The President of Middle Belt Youth Council, Emma Zopmal, in an interview with The PUNCH, said northern elders had the right to aspire for an alliance with the South. He said:
“The core interest of the North has always been to dominate the Middle Belt and the South politically and in other aspects of national life. The North has ridden on the back of the Middle Belt to outplay the South in politics, but this trend will not continue for life.
“Middle Belt has come of age to bargain its share of the national responsibility independently
“No doubt, the meeting was attended by some people from the Middle Belt, but taking a close look at their political clouts in their respective constituencies, one will discover that they lack the capacity to drive home the Northern agenda in the areas they claim.”
He described the outcome of the meeting as an effort in futility, saying:
“Middle Belt has gone far ahead of them (northern elders) in solidarity with the South. The friendship between Middle Belt and South is unquantifiable.”
According to him, politics of 2019 is about core value and interest that will unite Nigeria and give equal opportunity to all. He stated:
“If the North, under President Buhari, demonstrates an open injustice against Nigerians in the Middle Belt and the South, how then can they take the message of alliance to the South?
“Middle Belt is ready for the game. We work in the interest of the people, not selected individuals. Middle Belt and South pursue national interest not bias regional interest like that of Northern elite called Northern elders.”