Notable leaders from the Southern part of Nigeria Tuesday met in Enugu to fashion out ways to help the country scale through its present challenges which in their consideration are currently threatening the unity of the country.
The leaders, who pledged to work together for the growth and development of the country, also called for national dialogue to discuss the challenges confronting the country.
They also expressed worry over the problem of insecurity at various parts of the country, insisting that if nothing is done immediately, the country might drift into uncertainty.
At the well attended general meeting of the leaders of the South-west, South-south and South-east zones held under the chairmanship of the Second Republic Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, were the leader of the South-south Peoples Assembly (SSPA), Chief Edwin Clark, leader of the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF), Rev. Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) leader, Gani Adams, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, , Senator Adolphus Wabara, Prof. Walter Ofonagoro, Chief Olu Falae, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), Chief Felix Ibru, Ambassador Frank Ogbuewu, Chief Mike Okiro, Senator James Sekibo, Ohanaeze President-General, Chief Gary Igariwey.
Also present were former Governors Sam Egwu, Gbenga Daniel, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Commodore Anthony Ogugua, Prof. Anya O.Anya, Chief Simeon Okeke, Maxi Okwu, Slyvanus Ngene, Ihechukwu Madubuike, Offia Nwali, Prof. Adenike Grange, Chief Silas Ilo among others.
Gbonigi, on behalf of Yoruba Peoples Forum (YPF), expressed concern over the challenges plaguing the country, stressing that corruption, insecurity, inequitable and problematic constitution have compounded the problems.
The cleric added that such ugly trend had continued to play negative impact on the progress of the country.
He said the security situation of the country had continued to deteriorate; stressing that kidnapping for ransom had become rapidly blooming business as army of youths and unemployed swarm across villages and cities
"People are no longer shocked when dozens of their citizens are gunned down and bombed by the Boko Haram. The massacres have become routine. It is not clear what government's policy is towards Boko Haram. Is it dialogue or is it the use of force? It has become unconvincingly to call the terrorists faceless because recent developments show that they are known by our rulers," he said.
Expressing disgust with the call on the president to dialogue with the Boko Haram as well as monetary compensation to their leaders and families, Gbonigi said it was akin to setting wrong standards and raising fundamental question as to whether every group needed to resort to violent acts against other citizens before they can attract government's attention.
"There are groups in Nigeria today who believe that the mode of national revenue sharing is unfair to them, or that their part of the country is grossly marginalised, or that the constitution we operate is oppressive and disadvantageously constructed against them, or that it stifles their self realisation and development.
Must the government wait till all these groups mount their own insurgencies before it listens to them, and will it then proceed to have separate dialogues with each, accompanied by monetary compensation?
If it is acceptable to dialogue with the Boko Haram, why can't we have a dialogue that embraces all Nigerians once and for all, for all grievances to be expressed and mutual accommodation reached? Such a national dialogue is clearly what the nation needs, and is long overdue," Gbonigi said.
The chairman of the South-east Governors' Forum and Anambra Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, appealed to leaders of the three geo-political zones to make a conscious effort in building a strong and united nation, adding that the situation in the country deserved concerted effort by all and sundry.
He said the country was in dire need of assistance by way of sincere advice and support by her leaders, stressing that with rising domestic debts without investment in industry and agriculture was a dangerous dimension.
"We cannot have a country of our dream if we continue like this. We cannot have a country where we celebrate the least and worst in us. It is time for you to speak out as a group because Nigerians will listen to you if you say so. The abuse we are suffering today will take their revenge on our children. Help us to build a better society by being firm in your action and not sitting on the fence", he said, adding that President Jonathan was a president with listening ear and has continued to do his best to salvage the country.
Chief Clark said that the coming together was part of effort to rescue the country as well as take it to the path of growth and development.
He lamented the various efforts by other groups to put a wedge on the works of the group, stressing that the southern Nigeria as an integral part of the country must be allowed to play her role to move the country forward.
He called on the leaders of the zone to stick together and present a common front on issues confronting the country.
Also, coordinating chairman of the forum, Dr Ekwueme, said that he decided to bring the forum together as part of effort to salvage the country and make her people work collectively.
He said that it would continue to impact negatively on the country should the various zones adopt destructive tendencies, lamenting that the sacrifices made by the three regions for the good of the country had not been appreciated.