The chairman of the Yoruba socio-cultural group Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has said that the north cannot dictate to the rest of the country who becomes president.
Adebanjo spoke Monday during a public lecture on “Nationalism and Nation Building in Nigerian History” at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs on Victoria Island, Lagos.
He said, “It has been said that the Southeast must negotiate with the North because politics is a game of numbers. I believe – and I said this yesterday – that the East does not have to beg for a favor; that is its right. But every time I hear that they should turn back because the North has the population, what fraudulent population? You can not sell that to me.
“They tell us to work together, but unfortunately, because they have a president in charge now, they say, ‘No one can be president unless you come to the North, and unfortunately, some southerners have been brainwashed that they can not do anything except that they bow to the north. I do not believe it.
“What right does the North have to dictate who should be our president? We were not brought together by peace, not by agreement, they forced us together and we agreed, so continuing to live together in peace must be on mutually agreeable terms. The East has the right, not because it is Igbo, but because it is in Nigeria. The principle of Lafreniere is based on an ideological basis and the principle of righteousness, inclusiveness and not on any sentiments.”
The President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. George Obiozor, in his opening remarks, said no generation of Nigerian leaders since independence has been able to create an atmosphere of credibility to ensure Nigeria’s claim to a political future as one nation.
He said, “Recently, some Nigerian politicians have said Nigerian unity is non-negotiable. This is ironic because these leaders seem to have forgotten Nigerian history or have not learned the lessons of history in general.
Nigerian unity is negotiable and must be re-negotiated for it to stand or survive the test of time. The truth over the years remains that despite the reasonable efforts of all our leaders past or present, Nigerian unity is not assured.
“It is simply, at best, an aspiration and not yet an achievement. Following, the statement that Nigerian unity is ‘non-negotiable’ is simply a historical fallacy.”
The National Director of Publicity of the Northern Elders Forum, Dr. Hakeem Ahmed, said, “Some Nigerian political leaders have said Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable. I don’t know who these people are, but I can tell you they are not of the North and they are not related to the NEF.
“Nigeria’s unity is negotiable. You either negotiate it because nations are very fragile and very delicate and you have to nurture them and pay attention to their need or they break and we are at that breaking point.”
The guest lecturer, Prof. Jide Osuntokun, lamented that since 1966, Nigeria had struggled to find a method to balance the regional desire for autonomy under a national structure.