Some prominent Nigerians on Wednesday called for restraint and dialogue in tackling the ongoing secessionist agitation for a breakaway Biafra republic from Nigeria.
The elders said dialogue, rather than violence, remained the best way to solving regional and sub-regional problems.
The elders made the call at a session held at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Abuja.
The meeting had in attendance prominent personalities from the north-central, north-east, south-east and south-south regions.
The session, chaired by a first republic minister, Maitama Sule, had a former governor of Akwa Ibom state and Senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio as guest speaker.
Mr. Sule, who also served as Nigeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations, in his opening remarks, underscored the need for unity among all communities in Nigeria.
He said all agitations should be handled properly to avoid a breakdown of law and order.
“If we don’t bring ourselves together, how would people outside take us serious?” he said.
Mr. Sule prayed God not to allow Nigeria experience another civil war, saying the country needed uninterrupted peace to develop.
The former minister harped on the need for justice even as he identified the absence of good leaders and economic frustration as part of the real causes of problems in the country.
“The question is not about who is wrong, but what is wrong,” he said.
In his presentation, Mr. Akpabio also said the country could not afford another civil war.
He said a resort to violence could never be a solution to problems.
“We should never fail to dialogue and collectively find solution to our national problems in the spirit of brotherhood.
“I believe that we sacrificed over a million of our dear citizens in the civil war because we failed to dialogue.
“Today we meet at a crossroad, a point of decision. Shall we dialogue? Can we bury the ghost of Biafra for once and address its wounds or should we pretend that there is nothing amiss and risk the numbers growing and the prospect of more disruptions of our social and economic life?” he said
Another speaker, a co-chairman of the forum, Dozie Ikedife, also stated that now is the best time to right the wrongs of the past by ensuring justice and fairness across the board.
“If there is injustice, it is painful, if there is exclusion, it is painful, if there is impunity, it is painful, when there is looting and justice delayed, it is painful,” he said.
The former Ohanaeze leader said the time had come for Nigeria to ensure that “nothing is hidden under the carpet anymore”.
Another co-chair from the South South, a former military administrator of Akwa Ibom state, Idongesit Nkanga, also said justice was too important to be ignored by anybody.
Mr. Nkanga said something must have happened to a people to take up arms like in the north-east or seek cessation, like in the South east.
He however said he believed the approach taken so far would only make the situation worse.
“I disagree with Biafra agitations, anyone that wishes Nigeria well would not restart Biafra; no country survives two civil wars,” he said.
Mr. Nkanga said it had become necessary to to find out what people’s problems were in order to find solution to them.
“The South-East, and South-South are complaining of lopsidedness in appointments, there is the need to revisit the issue and see.
“One may feel that the 97% of the people who voted for him deserve 97% of appointments, forgetting that 97% of the resources in the country may not come from the 97% of those who gave their vote,” he said.
Mr. Nkanga recommended that apart from correcting the lopsided appointments immediately, the government should in the medium term consider creating one additional state in the South-East.
He also suggested that the nation must vigorously pursue true fiscal federalism.
He said meetings such as the one held Wednesday was good, but, he added that, the national conference held in 2014 had made about 600 recommendations to the Nigerian government.
He said most of the solutions to the present problems could be found in the recommendations of the conference.
Mr. Nkanga called on government not to throw away the report of the conference.
Another speaker, who represented the north-east, Bello Kirfi, in his remarks, said the north had never used its population to dominate other regions.
Tracing the history of the PDP and how a concession was made to ensure that presidents were elected from the north and south on turn-by-turn basis, Mr. Kirfi said “the north is tolerant and reasonably honest and sincere to others.
He called on leaders from the south-east to “ go back and let the people know that their approach is wrong”.