Senators of southern extraction have added their voices to the call for the restructuring of Nigeria.
The call was contained in a communiqué released at the end of a three- day retreat organized by Southern Senators Forum in Calabar, capital of Cross Rivers State.
The lawmakers also called on President Muhammed Buahri to convey a conference of stakeholders in the country with a view to consider the report of the 2014 National Conference.
The communiqué, which was read by the chairman of the forum, senator Hope Uzodinma, also charged lawmakers in the National Assembly to initiate a full scale debate on the 2014 National Conference report.
The forum noted that the stakeholders meeting would help to look at the recommendations of the committee and offer direction to the federal government on the way forward for the country.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki had during his remark at the opening of the retreat said that if Nigeria must allow peace and unity thrives, she must achieve the expected development, stability and greatness.
According to him, “we must always put Nigeria first” in the ongoing debate about restructuring of the country and other similar agitations.
“As a nation, unity is a prerequisite for development, stability and greatness. Unity is the first focus. Without unity, we can achieve nothing. And yet we know that, since the end of the Nigerian Civil War, our unity has never been more challenged than at the present time.
“There are agitations across the length and breadth of this country that threaten our unity. And this time around, the threats are multi-faceted, and the vegaries of modern times have made the issues even more challenging than in the early post-independence era.”
“In seeking to carry out any reform or restructuring, it is worth bearing in mind that the founders of our country, in their wisdom, had laid down some guidelines, making clear that it cannot be done by a simple majority, but rather by a two-thirds majority.
“To this end, we must all be on the same page. We cannot bully or browbeat others into accepting our point of view or positioning. Whatever we do must be by consensus, with the buy-in of all critical stakeholders in the debate.”
In a keynote address, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu said that there was an urgent need for restructuring, stressing that if the call for restructuring of Nigeria must be achieved in all its ramifications, there must be patience, more enlightenment and dialogue, just as he blamed misconception and ethno-sectional suspicions for the opposition to the idea.
Ekweremadu called on proponents of restructuring to leverage on the influence of prominent northerners, such as former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd); former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubabar; and President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, who believe in restructuring, to win more converts in the north.
The Deputy Senate President who suggested a piecemeal approach to restructuring, said that people would gradually drop their fear and crave for more restructuring as they begin to reap the gains of each successful restructuring effort.
While the Bishop of Sokoto insisted that efforts must be made to restore our value system, make every Nigerian subordinate to the constitution, Senator Nwachukwu said that “ events have shown that those things that hitherto keep us together can no longer work based on the present realities .
According to him “military did what they did to keep Nigeria together , but that has taken a long time now . The 2014 National conference produced a fantastic report and government for whatever reasons refused to implement it and it will be unjust if the report is jettisoned”
Both speakers also asked the president to consider a review of the report of the 2014 National conference which according to them attempted to answer most of the National questions today.
On his part, Bishop Kukah said it was wrong for any body or group of persons to see the call for restructuring as an attempt to dismember Nigeria, just as he stressed that there must be openness and fairness in such debate to dispel such fears in some regions. In his contribution, the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere insisted on a radical shift to productive economy , where revenue sharing formula will be based on unit contributions to the National economy.