Despite opposition by the leadership of the executive and legislative arms of the federal government to calls by concerned Nigerians for a sovereign national conference (SNC) for Nigerians to discuss a new constitution and political structure for the country, a coalition of prominent political leaders and professionals from the North rose from a crucial meeting Thursday with a resolve to support the move.
President Goodluck Jonathan and the Senate President, David Mark, as well as supporters of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) have voiced their opposition to the SNC idea, describing such calls as unnecessary distraction since members of the National Assembly are in a better position to carry out that responsibility as representatives of the people.
But, the calls have continued to grow in recent times, mainly from the opposition parties and civil society groups, who insist certain developments in the polity in recent times, have strengthened the ground for the call by its proponents.
The coalition, comprising top politicians, professionals, academics, bureaucrats and technocrats as well as businessmen, said in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting made available to Premium Times in Abuja that were in support of the agitation for a “thorough restructuring of the Nigerian Federation in order to correct the lopsidedness in the structure of the nation’s politics and economy.”
Prominent among those who attended the meeting convened by Junaidu Mohammed, included the Niger state governor, Babangida Aliyu, and his Jigawa state counterpart, Sule Lamido; the former senate president, Iyorchai Ayu, one-time deputy senate president, John Wash Pam, erstwile secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Yayale Ahmed, as well as former ministers Shettima Mustapha, Adamu Maina Waziri and Lawal Batagarawa.
Also in attendance were the former chairman of the presidential advisory council, Nuru Alkali, and former presidential legal advisers, Ibrahim Ismail and Auwalu Yadudu, while the publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Nda Isaiah, former Managing Director, New Nigerian Newspapers, Haruna Mohammed, as well as the first female editor of the New Nigerian, Bilkisu Bintube and Editor, Media Trust Limited, Aisha Kabiru Yusuf represented the media constituency at the parley.
In the communiqué, the group noted the continued deteriorating security situation in the region, particularly with regards to the activities of the extremist Boko Haram insurgents as well as other similar ethnic and religious militias in the country, pointing out that any act that threatens those elements that bind all northerners together, irrespective of ethnicity or religious affiliations, should be condemned.
The group expressed sadness over shocking details received about several excesses of the Joint Task Force, which it considered gross human rights abuses, pointing out that despite the threat posed by the Boko Haram sect in the region, the situation could still be handled without recourse to attacking individual human rights and businesses.
“We therefore resolve to call on the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) to liaise with other stakeholders in the North, such as the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Union (NU), Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), women and youth groups, student bodies and other organizations, to join hands to tackle the identified threats confronting the region,” the group said.