The Southern Leaders Forum on Wednesday in Lagos faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement that issues of national discourse should be taken to the National Assembly and the National Council of State.
Buhari made the statement among others in his Monday broadcast after 104-day medical trip to the United kingdom.
The forum, represented by Chiefs Edwin Clark, Albert Horsefall (South-South); Chief John Nwodo, Prof. Joe Irukwu (South-East); and Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo (South-West), spoke in Lagos at a press conference titled, ‘Only Restructuring will Ensure the Unity, Peace and Development of Nigeria.’
Others at the event included Prof. Banji Akintoye, Tony Uranta, National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Chief Gani Adams; Supo Shonibare, Guy Ikokwu, Tony Nyiam and Prof. Walter Ofonagoro.
The forum stated that while it did not dispute the legality of the National Assembly and NCS, the bodies were not the appropriate bodies to superintend the discourse on the social contract that could bind Nigeria together.
“While the composition of the National Assembly is clearly jigged and indeed one of the bodies to be restructured, the National Council of State is not open to Nigerians. If any discourse is to take place on constitutional changes within the democratic framework, Mr. President is the one who has the responsibility to initiate the process,” the SLF said.
The forum added that the attempt to treat hate speech as terrorism was a veiled threat to bare fangs and criminalising dissenting opinions in the national discourse.
The group accused the President of deploying the imagery of the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu in his broadcast to play down the demand for the renegotiation of the structure of Nigeria by saying they both agreed in Daura in 2003 that the country must remain one and united.
The SLF said, “The meeting between the two of them could not have been a Sovereign National Conference whose decisions cannot be reviewed. We agree with their conclusion that we should remain united, but that does not foreclose discussions of the terms and conditions of the union.