LEADERS of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) have fiercely criticised the recent meeting of northern governors and opinion makers in Kaduna that condemned the recent #EndsSARS movement and described it as subversive.
Over the last month, Nigerian youths held non-stop nationwide demonstrations calling for the scrapping of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) and an end to police brutality. After being forced to scrap Sars, the government decided to end the protests forcefully, sending soldiers to shoot innocent protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, leading to international condemnation and sparking nationwide riots.
While the rest of the country and international community condemned the heavy-handedness of the Nigerian authorities, a meeting of the Northern Nigerian Governors Forum (NNGF) attended by traditional rulers, federal government officials and the senate president, condemned what it described as the subversive actions of the #EndSARS protest. Among those who attended the meeting were the senate president Senator Ahmad Lawan and the chief of staff to the president, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.
Distancing itself from the stance of the NGGF, the SMBLF issued a communique, after an emergency meeting held in Abuja signed by south-south leaders Chief Edwin Clark, Air Vice Marshal Idongesit Nkanga, Chief Broderick Bozimo, Solomon Asemota, Senator Bassey Henshaw, Professor GG Darah and Chief T K O Okorotie. Afenifere leaders who signed it include Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Yinka Odumakin, Senator Kofoworola Akerele-Buknor, Oba Oladipo Olaitan, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, Chief Supo Sonibare, Chief Demola Folarin and Dr Akin Fapohunda.
Igbo leaders who signed the communiqe include Chief John Nwodo, Chief Guy Ikokwu, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chuks Muomah, Mike Ahamba, Madu Bright Allwell, Chuks Achi-Okpaga and Chief Alex Ogbonnia. Middle Belt leaders who signed the document include Dr Pogu Bitrus, Air Commoder Dan Suleiman, Dr S D Gani, Elder Stephen Bangoji, Hon Jonathan Asake, Chris Aba, Mark Jacob and Festus Nyiwo.
SMBLF leaders noted that the Kaduna meeting came as an aftermath of the #EndSARS protest when Nigerians should be putting heads together nationally to seek solutions to their problems. In addition, the forum wondered about the quality of humanity of any group meeting at this period of mourning not to have a word of compassion for those that were recklessly murdered by state forces and hired thugs during the protests.
Its communique read: “Where would this country be heading to if we also decide to call our own meeting with our governors and top officials in the federal government? We do not see any responsibility displayed by those who have been serially accused of sectionalising our national government to allow such insensibility, insensitivity and total subversion of the unity of the country that only exists on the lips of those behind the meeting.
“We reject the indecent approach to paste the peaceful protesters in dark colours. They made their demands clear and were orderly before the violent Nigerian state deployed armed soldiers and thugs in 911 lorries against them.
“It is wickedness to place our power above every other national interest by playing the regime change label on the peaceful protesters who were not armed like Boko Haram that the regime is chasing about with negotiations in the same spirit it has been cuddling and pampering killer herdsmen. We foresaw all that is happening now, which is why we have been calling for restructuring as a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria can only be run along federal lines.”
In addition the SMBLF said its does not see the thoughtfulness in the celebration of northern youth not participating in the #EndSARS protests as if they did not also loot like their deprived young people in other areas of the country. It added that this shows they are suffering the same thing, pointing out that instead of treating leprosy its counterparts are dealing with eczema.
SMBLF leaders added: “We were not oblivious of the damage the military did to this country by using fiat to create local government areas with headquarters in the villages of top shots mostly from the north. Kano state today has 44 local government areas and Bayelsa has eight, so when you want to recruit 10 policemen per local government area, Bayelsa will have 80 and Kano 440.
“That affects where the materials to be drawn into Sars and others are drawn and the inequalities multiply everywhere. This is why we insist on restructuring of the country now before we go for any national election.”
They also made it abundantly clear to their colleagues from the core north that never again shall the country be run the same old way. SMBLF delegates added that no section of the country can play any supremacist role again.
They added: “It is either we live together as equals under the same rules of engagement or we explore other options as dignified human beings. We deeply mourn with all families who lost dear ones in the crisis we just went through and pray to God to comfort them and may those who wantonly destroyed lives pay grievously for their deeds.”