Elder statesmen from the southern part of the country have backed calls for the restructuring of the country and called on Nigerians to unite and find new ways to overcome the challenges bedevilling the nation.
The elders, who are not new to the challenges of keeping Nigeria together, having witnessed critical stages of Nigeria’s development including the civil war, made the call on Tuesday when they met in Lagos to discuss recent political developments in the country.
Despite the recent tensions in the country as a result of agitations by some ethnic groups which are threatening the unity of the country, the elders insisted that the country must remain united and every citizen must feel free to live anywhere within Nigeria.
The elders include a former United Kingdom High Commissioner, Christopher Kolade; former governor of Old Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife; and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Major General Ike Nwachukwu (retd).
“Staying together, working together, building this nation together is the only viable way to go,” Dr Kolade said.
“Now, when you have elders in any society, who have seen many things, who have experienced many things, one of the benefits that the nation has is that these elders can take the years and experiences they have and say ‘If we want to continue to have a peaceful, productive country, then these are the things we should do, these are the things we should avoid.”
At the meeting, the elders, however, backed calls for the restructuring of the nation, saying the time has come for Nigeria to explore new ways of building a new country where justice and fairness are prioritised.
Professor Anya Oko Anya
They also expressed the belief that the recent calls for restructuring by former military Head of State General Ibrahim Babangida (retd) and former Vice President Mr Atiku Abubakar, who are both from the North, is an assurance that the same issue which elders from the South South, South West and South East also support can now be deliberated upon and a final decision taken.
“I want to publicly thank my younger brothers – Atiku Abubakar, former vice president of this country, and General Ibrahim Babangida, former military president of this country – for lending their voices and their great stature in Nigeria affairs to the demand of the Nigerian people for a restructured country,” Professor Anya Oko Anya.
“And because such heavy northern and Nigerian voices have added to it, we can be sure that half the battle is fought and that, sooner or later, the dreams of our people, particularly of our young people, will be met.”
After the meeting, some of the elders spoke about the indivisibility of Nigeria.
“God created Nigeria for a purpose. That purpose is for Nigeria to become the rallying point and big brother for all black people,” Ezeife said.
On his part, Ayo Adebanjo stressed that the keeping the country united was not a day’s job, stressing that there are bound to be misunderstandings along the way.
He said, “The process of bringing this country together is a long process; many will understand, many will misunderstand. Like the statement (about Nigeria’s unity) we are attributing to Chief (Obafemi) Awolowo; a lot of people misunderstood Chief Awolowo, a lot of people understood him. It is our duty to educate those who don’t understand him to understand that we are one.”
For Major General Nwachukwu, those causing regional tensions and violence in the country were misguided.
“Our country has been built by all Nigerians living wherever they felt happy to live in and work from. And anyone beginning to suggest that we should go back to 1966 must be totally out of their minds,” he said.
In the last two years, youths of different origins have advocated for a country where justice and equal rights prevail for all citizens irrespective of region, a country where everyone one has the opportunity to rise to any level in the practice of their chosen profession without ethnic barriers.
This is exactly what the elder statesmen hope to achieve.