COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF AN EXTRAORDINARY MEETING OF SOUTHERN AND MIDDLE BELT LEADERS FORUM, HELD IN ABUJA, ON THURSDAY, 2ND FEBRUARY, 2023
An extraordinary meeting of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) was held on Thursday, 2nd February 2023 in Abuja. The meeting which was chaired by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, OFR, CON, had in attendance leaders of the component organizations: Afenifere for the South West, Ohanaeze Ndigbo for the South East, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) for the South-South and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) for the Middle Belt.
- Delegations of the constituent organizations were respectively led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Leader of Afenifere (South West); Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President, Middle Belt Forum (Middle Belt); Ambassador Okey Emuchay, Secretary-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide (South East) as well as Dame Betty Igbeyi, mni, National Woman Leader, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF (South-South).
- Delegates to the meeting comprised former Governors, Ministers, Federal and State legislators, Community leaders, top politicians, and professionals as well as Women and Youth Leaders from the Southern and Middle Belt regions, including His Excellency, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, His Excellency, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, His Excellency, Chief C. O. Adebayo, HRH Oba Oladipo Olaitan – Deputy Leader Afenifere, Her Excellency, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, OFR, CFR; Chief John Nnia Nwodo, former Minister of Information & former PG Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Professor Ihechukwu Madubuike, former Minister of Education and Health, Chief Barr. Sola Ebiseni, Secretary-General, Afenifere, Professor A. B. C. Nwosu, Chief Dr. Simon Okeke, OFR, former Chairman of Police Service Commission, Mazi Dickson Iroegbu, Professor Charles Nwekeaku, Amb. Eddy Onuoha, HRH Eze Nwosu Ibeh, Hon. Mrs. Sarah Dokotri, Chief Edozie Ezeugwa, High Chief Denzil Kentebe, Dr. Stella Dorgu, Amb. Ozo Nwobu, Charles Emeka Oputa, Amb Orjiako Umuuna, Dr. Akin Fapohunda, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, CP Iorbes Ihagh (Rtd)- PG MUT, Engr. S. L. S Salifu, Engr Ben Akaakar, Mrs. Beatrice Eze, National Treasurer Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Mrs. Daba Obioha, Mrs. Elizabeth A. Jibrin, Chief Douyi Douglas-Naingba, Engr. Ben Akaakar, Dele Farotimi, Prince Maikpobi Okareme, Hon. Bassey Ekefre, Sir (Dr.) Eric Iku, Ibrahim Welye, Hon. Jonathan Tsaku, Orusoso Don Pedro, and Hon. Ken Robinson, among others.
- The Meeting deliberated extensively on the State of the Nation and the 2023 General Elections as well as other worrisome issues, particularly, the current hardship Nigerians are facing due to the unavailability of the new currency notes, the fuel situation, the problems with PVC collection.
5. Arising therefrom, SMBLF:
i. Reaffirms commitment to the unity of Nigeria BUT MUST ONLY BE SUSTAINED on the principles of Equity, Fairness, and Justice;
ii. Expresses grave concern over the debilitating state of insecurity across the country and calls on the federal government and security agencies to redouble efforts to address the situation especially now that the 2023 general elections are around the corner;
iii. Applauds President Muhammadu Buhari for his reiterated commitment to non-interference in the electoral process to guarantee free, fair, and credible elections.
Iv. Commends the efforts of the president and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the redesign of the naira notes to mitigate illicit financial transactions.
v. However, notes that the current hardship Nigerians are facing due to the non-availability of the new notes is intolerable, and calls on the CBN and Commercial banks to take urgent steps to improve the management of the process, to alleviate the sufferings of citizens. Warns that the current situation portends danger to national peace and security.
- On the 2023 General Elections:
i. Meeting reviewed previous resolutions of the Forum as well as pronouncements by its leaders and other eminent Nigerians on the 2023 Presidential election
ii. Reminds all Nigerians that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, is fair and even sharing of power;
iii. Maintains that the northern part of the country, as represented by President Muhammadu Buhari, would have fully enjoyed the Office of the President of the country for the full statutory period of 8 years by May 29, 2023, hence, should yield the presidency to South;
iv. Observes that the Presidential
Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), His Excellency, Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra state, stands out amongst the presidential candidates in terms of credibility, integrity, competence, and national outlook.
v. Believes that Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) represents the Nigerian conscience, moral probity, generational hope, and redemption epiphany, among others.
vi. Notes that Nigeria is at an unprecedented threshold, ensnared by a myriad of problems and that Peter Obi, and his running mate, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed, IS THE ANSWER!
vii. Therefore, without equivocation, calls on all Nigerians, who believe in the unity, peace, stability, and sustainable development of the country to embrace the candidacy of Peter Obi in the 2023 presidential election, because therein lies the unity and progress of Nigeria.
viii. Further urges Nigerians to go out en masse, in all the 176846 polling units across the country, on election day, 25th Feb 2023, to exercise their franchise and give to the Nation a President who will bring about the “change” we truly desire and deserve.
- Further cautions political stakeholders, particularly the candidates and their supporters, at all levels, to shun all acts of violence, before, during, and after the elections. Let us give peace a chance; Nigeria is our country, and we do not have any other.
- Warns that any attempt to scuttle the 2023 general elections and impose an “interim government” will be vehemently resisted.
- The meeting paid glowing tributes to leaders of the members who passed on recently; Professor Amb. George Obiozor, President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide; His Excellency, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (Rtd.), former military Governor of Plateau State and Leader of the Middle Belt Former, as well as Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff, who was until his demise the Chairman of PANDEF, Bayelsa State Chapter.
- Meeting further observed moments of silence in honor of the deceased and offered prayers for the repose of their souls.
- Extends condolences to the federal government, the government and people of Adamawa, Imo, and Bayelsa States, as well as the bereaved families.
- The meeting was held in an atmosphere of peace and collective commitment to the decisions.
- DONE IN ABUJA, THIS 2ND DAY OF FEBRUARY, 2023.
Chief (Dr.) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, OFR, CON – Leader
Chief Ayo Adebanjo – Leader, Afenifere
Dr. Pogu Bitrus – National President, Middle Belt Forum
Dame Betty Igbeyi, mni – National Woman Leader, PANDEF
Her Excellency, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele
Amb. Okey Emuchay, MFR – Secretary-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide