EMINENT leaders and elder statesmen from across the country have tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to heed the warning by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the country is now more divided and nearing a failed state status, calling for urgent move to pull the country back from the precipice.
The leaders spoke against the backdrop of the alarm sounded by Obasanjo at a two-day consultative dialogue held in Abuja by eminent leaders of thought across the country and facilitated by the ex-president.
This is just as the leaders of thought and members of socio-cultural organisations, including Afenifere, Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Middle Belt Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), have resolved to work together to save the country from imminent disintegration.
No honest Nigerian would dispute Obasanjo’s statement — Adebanjo
Elder statesman, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, has said no honest Nigerian will dispute Obasanjo’s statement that the country is more divided under Buhari and fast becoming a failed state.
Adebanjo, who made this known while speaking to Sunday Tribune, recommended the restructuring of the country and returning it to the path of federalism as the panacea for the many problems confronting it.
The elder statesman, who has been a leading voice in the call for a return to regional government, said the restricting must be done prior to election in the country.
“No honest Nigerian would dispute Obasanjo’s statement that the country is more divided under Buhari.
“The way forward now is to restructure the country back to federalism without further delay before any election is held in the country,” he said.
Also, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, has backed Obasanjo on his warning noting that the country has become more divided under Buhari.
Afenifere said this was because the is being ruled by “a leader who is not unifying” it.
Spokesperson of the group, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said this in a short statement made available to Sunday Tribune, calling on Nigerians to rally together and rescue the country from the crop of leaders causing the division and put
in power “a leader who sees the whole country as his constituency” to succeed Buhari in 2023.
This was just as he urged the citizens to make sure they vote wisely in the next general election in the country.
“We have to rescue Nigeria from such group and put in power a leader who sees the whole country as his constituency after him. We clearly asking Nigerians to vote wisely,” he said.
On the ongoing constitutional amendment exercise being undertaken by the National Assembly, Odumakin assured that Afenifere would make its position known notwithstanding past experiences which he said made the group sceptical about its success.
Let’s decide and go peacefully — Akintoye
A foremost historian and President-General of Yoruba World Congress (YWC), Professor Banji Akintoye, on Saturday, threw his weight behind Obasanjo, saying the assertion is a statement of fact.
Akintoye said this while speaking to Sunday Tribune, noting that the division in the country was something that had been coming slowly, but had now reached the highest level under Buhari.
The elder statesman noted that the situation under Buhari was no longer a question of division, but one in which a section is trying to conquer other sections of the country.
“Yes, that’s true, Obasanjo is right. It’s something that has been coming slowly and slowly but commutatively, the division has been growing steadily, unrelentingly and has now reached the highest level under Buhari.
Speaking on the way forward, Akintoye, who affirmed his love for the country, however, said: “if the pot has broken, the pot has broken and nothing anybody could do.”
He expressed the view that the citizens should be “courageous enough to accept the truth that we have lost this one and that we should find a peaceful way to sit together and decide to let go.
“I love my country and I have always fought for my country. I have always spoken up for my country, but if the pot has broken, the pot has broken. There is nothing anybody can do.
“As my friend, Ango Abdulahi, said in an interview three years ago or so, if the answer is smaller countries, why not if that is the reasonable thing, why not? So, why should we be fighting over what we can- not really save,” he said.
The foremost historian, however, cautioned strongly against war or bloodshed, warning that embarking on such would only leave the separate nations thereafter hostile neighbours in the future.
“If that happens, it is a pity that our children will be fighting against one another forever just like the Palestinians are fighting the Israelis forever.
“It is manly and courageous and strong for people to say this one is no longer good, let us try another thing. When human beings reach the end of road, what do see? We turn back and go and find another road, we should be men enough to do that. That’s all,” he said.
Buhari does not want any change — Kokori
Following warning by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that Nigeria is attaining the status of a failed and divided state, former Minister for Police Affairs, Chief Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to heed the warning.
But former secretary-general of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Ovie Kokori, when asked what President Buhari should do regarding the warning, simply said Buhari is not amenable to any change.
“It’s not today. He’s there over five years now. Buhari does not want any change. You know a Hausa/Fulani person doesn’t want any change. They like the way Nigeria is going,” Kokori said.
Chief Bozimo, who was appointed Minister of Police Affairs by Obasanjo in 2003, while speaking to Sunday Tribune in Warri, on Saturday, said some notable elder statesmen across the country had been consulting to halt the drift into precipice.
“From the cultural organisations, we believe that a lot needs to be done by all of us in this country. There’s so much, should I say ignorance. Everything is going funny. What Obasanjo said is absolutely correct.
“We elders are already doing what we can do. There’s a meeting we all attended not too long ago in Abuja where we tried to put heads together to find solutions to a lot of the things that are going wrong.
“Meetings and consultations are going on. We are hoping that very soon we will be able to come up with ideas as Nigerians will meet and examine quite seriously the situation that could halt the drifting,” the Ijaw elder stated.
Bozimo, when asked what President Buhari could do, advised him to take Obasanjo’s warning seriously and act fast.
“The truth is that Buhari knows as to the risk we run in this country. He’s the leader, the chief security officer and any security report and situation is at his disposal.
“He should take Obasanjo seriously and listen to him. He must not allow all the commitments and sacrifices of eminent Nigerians slip by.
“He should bring everybody together. We’re drifting. God forbid with all the sacrifices people had made, the founding fathers had made for this beautiful country should drift the way we are drifting now. We will deliberately plunge
into a situation like Somalia. He should lead us away from this precipice,” he said.
Speaking frankly, 76-year-old Ovu-born Kokori said Obasanjo’s submission wasn’t new and not different from the “undying call” for the country’s restructuring by Afenifere, PANDEF and other regional socio-cultural groups.
“What Obasanjo has said is the same old story of restructuring. That’s what he meant. And that’s what all Nigerians have been clamouring for restructuring and the decentralising of the Federal Government that’s too powerful and has too much in its hands.
“The central government has taken all the whole power of the states such that the states have no power again. It’s only the far North Hausa/Fulani people that do want it that way. What he’s saying is virtually correct,” he noted.
Kokori, however, observed that besides the northern oligarchy that frowns at restructuring, the National Assembly members are a stumbling block to having a restructured Nigeria as they fear for their positions.
“Since people like us left the labour movement, the labour movement is not doing what it’s supposed to be doing. They’re supposed to monitor the country the way we were doing in those days.
“Now everybody is waiting for who will take the lead to challenge the government. In fact, I learnt Nigerians are even calling on old people like Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana and me to lead the protest.
“Government is big business. You’ll suffer if you do not belong. Even all of them in the National Assembly are not serious. They want to maintain their position; they don’t want you to call for a national conference. That’s the situation.”
“What Obasanjo is saying is correct. The country is in the hands of a cabal. So, it’s difficult to move forward. All the whole retrogression we’re having is because the country is in the hands of a small cabal that’s controlling the country.
“Aguyi Ironsi started it by centralising Nigeria after the first coup. The Igbo thought it was good for them. But when power slipped off Ironsi’s hands, the northern oligarchy took over power from them and that’s what we’ve been suffering till today.
“The regions are dead. The states have no power but the governors are wealthy so they like it. The whole budget of a state in their pockets,” he lamented.
Nothing is working now — Kaze
A former member of House of Representatives, Honourable Bitrus Kaze has said the assertion that the country is becoming a failed state under President Buhari is an understatement.
Kaze, in an interview with Sunday Tribune, said currently “nothing seems to be working while the common man is going through excruciating pain as a result of some of the policies of government.”
“Some Nigerians especially those in government might not like the fundamental truth or might not like the messenger but the message conveys the reality on the ground in the country today.
“The country currently is divided along religious, tribal lines; insecurity is everywhere. Though we are not fighting a war, what is going on in some parts of the country especially in the northern part, is a semblance of a war situation. People are no longer safe. With all these, do we say Nigeria is not a failed state?”
Also, a former Speaker, Plateau State House of Assembly, Istifanus Mwansat, has said almost everything about the country is currently nosediving on a daily basis.
Northern, southern leaders agree to save Nigeria from collapse
The socio-cultural organisations, whose leaders have resolved to save the country, made their intention known in a communiqué issued on Saturday by Ambassador Ahmed Magaji, after its consultative dialogue on the state
of the nation and critical challenges facing Nigeria, held on 9th and 10th September in Abuja.
According to the communiqué, the consultative dialogue was convened and facilitated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, after some extensive consultations with and encouragement from elder statesmen, traditional, religious, political and business leaders across the country.
In the communiqué, the leaders resolved to support and involve themselves in all activities that will improve the 1999 Constitution to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry.
“The meeting noted the grave dangers Nigeria is facing, especially in the areas of deterioration of governance, the economy, security, political intolerance, worsening social and inter-communal cohesion, the poor performance of democratic and electoral structures, declining faith in leadership and those charged with leadership at all levels which have combined to push our beloved country to the brink.
“The meeting identified the primacy of pulling Nigeria back from the brink and resolved to deploy their individual and collective efforts to achieve that objective,” the communiqué said in part.
The southern and northern leaders, according to the communiqué, would work with other organisations, groups and governmental organs at all levels to improve the quality of governance, democratic and electoral processes as well as on all matters that can positively impact and improve the economic wellbeing of the Nigerian citizen.
OBJ playing politics —ACF
However, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) under the chairmanship of Audu Ogbeh has dismissed the claim made by a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo that the country is moving towards a failed state and is badly divided.
Reacting to his public statement through its spokesman, Mr Emmanuel Yawe on Saturday, the ACF countered that the country is not drifting towards failure, neither is it badly divided as Obasanjo wants Nigerians to believe.
Instead, the ACF advised that leaders like Obasanjo should be at the forefront of salvaging the country and not creating division.
According to the ACF, Obasanjo is trying to be mischievous as usual, saying, “there was division in the country even when he held sway as head of state and president”.
“How does he feel marketing Nigeria this way as a former head of state and president? Somebody who was lucky to be military head of state and president for that matter. He is now saying that the country is moving to- wards a failed state.
“To us in the ACF, we see his view as nothing but he doesn’t mean well for the country. I think he just wants this country to collapse.
“Agreed there are many problems confronting the country and these problems are like any other country’s, but it is an irresponsible statement coming out from a leader who has once ruled the country.
“Look at the problems the United States is passing through with Donald Trump but Obama will never come out to say America is a failed state or this or that.”
The ACF also dispelled the claim that the country is badly divided, saying, there is division in the land but the division has always been there even when Obasanjo ruled as head of state and president.
“It is not new. Nigeria is a very big country and diverse to manage. What did he do during his time? Leaders like him should be looking for ways of sorting out the multitude of problems bedevilling the country and not aggravating it by making public statements that seem to divide the country the more.”
The ACF therefore called on the Federal Government to continue to work on the unity of the country.