FREEPRESS – The National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rose from a meeting yesterday in Abuja declaring support for the restructuring of the country.
The PDP faction condemned the quit notice to Igbo by Arewa youths, just as it decried secession threats by a section of youths from the South- East. Addressing a press conference after the meeting, the chairman of the caretaker committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who led other members to the briefing, condemned what he called unnecessary pressure allegedly being mounted on the Supreme Court to deliver judgement on the party’s leadership crisis.
The party encouraged citizens to freely express their feelings about the structure of the country .It said it was the reason it convened the 2005 and 2014 national conferences to address key issues agitating the minds of citizens about the structure of the country.
Justifying its support for agitations for restructuring , the PDP faction argued: “It is not in dispute that the incursion of the military into political governance from mid-1960’s all but eroded the very essence of federalism as was practised in pre- and immediate post-independence, to largely service the command structure of the institution. And along the line, even democratic administrations had to make do with the military-imposed structure due largely to the fact that such democratic dispensations, including ours, have had to govern by the dictates of constitutions promulgated by the military institution which is basically unitary by nature.
“Now that democracy has got a foothold in the country by, for the first time, surviving all the elements for close to two decades, a critical look at areas that need improvement is imperative. It is therefore not out of place for any or all segment(s) to come up with ideas that they believe will strengthen the structures of our federalism with a view to restructuring it in such a way that it serves all of us and not just some of us.”
According to the party, “such exercise should take a very good and critical look at all the structures and institutions, as well as how they operate with a view to giving them a new sense of direction in tune with current best practices, though, as with all societies, taking due consideration to our peculiarities as a people. Whatever comes out of such exercise, so long as it is the aggregate agreement of our people, we should get to work to ensure that it works.”
Condemning the October 1, 2017 quit notice issued to Igbo, Makarfi lamented that “the recent altercation between some of our people which degenerated into the issuance of ultimatum and counter-ultimatum for some of us to leave certain areas is an ill wind that blows no good, more so that we have a sad history of not so dissimilar circumstances that we had better not allow a repeat. Hate speeches either coming from the North, South, East or West should be avoided and be condemned by all of us.”
He averred that “this country belongs to all of us, and every one of us must be allowed to enjoy the constitutional guarantee of freedom to live and move about this vast God-blessed land without let or hindrance to pursue his or her legitimate endeavour.”
Makarfi noted that mutual respect is a very necessary ingredient. “We have had that before; we still have that and must not allow it to elude us.” In its own view, the Ali Modu Sheriff-led National Working Committee of the PDP which said the series of problems confronting the economy should be addressed before a proper restructuring could take place, stated that restructuring was not provided for in the PDP manifesto.
Speaking through his spokesman, Bernard Mikko, Sheriff said: “The economy must be put right, we must get out of recession, create jobs; when we have addressed all these, we can look at the fundamental reform.
“We don’t know what Makarfi is looking for. What is he restructuring? The detail must be put on the table. This nation must be put in the right perspective.”
Meanwhile, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday, met with governors of the 36 states over the raging threat to national unity precipitated by the quit notice.
At the meeting attended by the National Security Adviser, Babagana Mungono; Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, among others in the Presidential Villa, Osinbajo reiterated the need for all the leaders in the country to speak forcefully to counter divisive speeches or any kind of war-mongering in the land.
“We believe that if leaders do not speak up forcefully enough, if for any reason matters are allowed to degenerate, not only do leadership lose their legitimacy, they run the risk of things going completely out of control.”
The acting president, who informed the governors that political and traditional leaders in their meetings agreed to stand for one Nigeria, stressed that Nigeria’s unity should never be taken for granted.
Besides, the United Kingdom High Commission has called for calm over the quit notice issued to Igbo people residing in the north, and subsequent hate speeches. In a statement yesterday by its Media Officer, Mr. Joe Abuku, the commission commended Osinbajo for the proactive measure taken so far to address the agitations.
The UK stated that it was not particular about Arewa youths but that various ethnic groups issuing similar directives should sheathe their swords and embrace dialogue towards peaceful reconciliation.
“All Nigerians are entitled to live wherever they want in Nigeria, and we support that unequivocally.” Also, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) warned that the quit order, if not speedily addressed by the Federal Government might trigger national disintegration.
MOSOP President Legborsi Saro Pyagbara said the ultimatum was a gross violation of the constitution, and therefore, must be punishable under the law. Pyagbara said it could be argued that the ultimatum is the handiwork of a fanatical minority and not the vast majority of peace-loving northerners. However, he said, Nigerians must be reminded that momentous and often calamitous historical changes have often been masterminded by a determined fanatical fringe which eventually seizes control of state and society thereby legitimizing itself as it imposes its disastrous ideology on the complacent majority.
“The threat must not be taken lightly by the authorities. MOSOP therefore supports the call by the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, that the authors of the ultimatum should be speedily arrested and prosecuted” he said.
Similarly, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan said to address the ongoing agitations across the country, the Federal Government must change the rules of governance in addition to yielding to call by Nigerians to restructure the country.
According to him, the anger and dissatisfaction expressed by people would continue in the country when federal character principle leads to injustice and marginalisation.
Speaking at a press conference on the centenary of the late Eminence, Ignatius Cardinal Ekandem, the first Episcopal Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Metropolitan, in Abuja, Onaiyekan urged government to critically look at and address those issues that bring about sense of dissatisfaction, exclusion and injustice.