Former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar; President, Christian Association of Nigeria, Olasupo Ayokunle; Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams; a founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai; and an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, called on the Federal Government to immediately convene a national reconciliation conference to douse tension in the country.
The leaders were joined by regional groups such as the Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Middle Belt Forum, Afenifere, the Arewa Consultative Forum and others.
The stakeholders also called on the government to act sincerely as an unbiased arbiter to address insecurity in the country headlong.
The stakeholders made their position known in a joint communiqué titled, ‘Inclusive security dialogue, a meeting of select stakeholders to unbundle barriers’, which was made available to journalists in Abuja on Wednesday.
According to the communiqué, the dialogue was convened as a strategy to understand conflict dynamics in Nigeria.
It was stated that expectations from the meeting were to have an increased understanding of the root causes of conflict and violence, and increased positive relationship between the government and various agitating groups.
The communiqué stated in part, “As a result of this dialogue meeting, the individual discussants have contributed to this communiqué highlighting the following thematic focal points: High prevalence of insecurity in Nigeria is driven largely by social injustice and a failed economy, hence fuelling continued agitation by the country’s young alienated generation.
“Hunger and starvation in the land will get worse as continued violence and insecurity makes our farms unsafe for families, whose basic sustenance is dependent on their yields from the farms.
“Neglect of oil exploration communities and minorities will only deepen the threat to our security and unity. Underdevelopment and isolation cannot remain the strategy else they will be uncomfortable to remain with the concept of Nigeria.
“A national reconciliation conference that allows the principles of fairness, equity and justice, with an immediate consideration of legitimate agitations, and a collective effort to de-escalate the conflict and violence across the nation can no longer be ignored.
“The 1999 Constitution is oligo-military in nature and does not represent our collective interests; it needs to be re-negotiated. A constitutional review process enabling peace and social cohesion is necessary. Government shall, therefore, provide an environment where a new constitution from the representatives of the people by the people and for the people will emerge.”
The stakeholders also called on the government to “act sincerely as an unbiased arbiter to address insecurity headlong as the high prevalence of violent crises, kidnapping and fatal attacks in Nigeria are driven largely by social injustice and a failed economy.”
The communiqué added, “The church, the mosque and traditional worshippers must as a matter of morality step up to the responsibility of contributing to the collective reengineering and moral rearmament urgently needed to salvage our nation, in fulfilling their roles as religious leaders and pulpit managers.
“Government, as a matter of urgency, must convene a national reconciliatory conference, where we can all address the underlying issues of our challenges and hateful statements/agenda that successive governments have ignored to address; this conference should be organised in order to quell the mistrust-fuelled agitations and crises before the entity called Nigeria collapses.
“The 1999 Constitution does not embody the principles of justice, fairness and equality on which every democracy is founded. Thus, it does not fully protect the rights and interests of Nigeria’s diverse constituencies. We call on the government to begin a process of constitutional review, amend and rework the Constitution by drawing on our previous constitutions, among other things, to synchronise/harmonise the laudable principles they embody. This will ensure, not one-off solutions, but lasting change.”
“Governments at all levels must revisit and show sincere effort at understanding the core issues of dissidence and self-determination in Nigeria rather than incarceration, bullets and counter-attacks as government response to agitations and unrest.”