The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) has called on President Bola Tinubu’s administration to initiate the process of restructuring Nigeria, reverting to regionalism and implementing ‘true federalism’ as enshrined in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions.
The leaders have also demanded the immediate release of Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), emphasizing the importance of respecting court orders in the country.
This call was made in a communique issued after a significant meeting of leaders and elders representing the South East, South West, South-South, and Middle Belt Regions. These regions were represented by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and the Middle Belt Forum.
The leaders expressed their concern that without restructuring, the future of Nigeria and its democracy would remain uncertain, and they stressed the need for immediate action to address this.
The communique was jointly signed by prominent figures, including Chief Edwin K. Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, General Zamani Lekwot (rtd.), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, and Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, FNSE.
The forum also raised concerns about the marginalization of certain regions in terms of political representation, both at the state and federal levels, and urged for equitable representation, especially for the South East.
In relation to the 2023 presidential election, the SMBLF commended the political class for resorting to constitutional means to address their grievances but reserved judgment on the Supreme Court decision that concluded the 2023 general election.
The forum called on the federal government to take immediate steps to address the deteriorating living standards of Nigerians, particularly by stabilizing the value of the Naira, which has been steadily depreciating.
In summary, the SMBLF urged the government to release Nnamdi Kanu in compliance with a court order, emphasized the need for regional restructuring and ‘true federalism,’ and highlighted the importance of equitable political representation. They also mentioned their readiness to engage with the government, the National Assembly, and other stakeholders on these issues, emphasizing their commitment to finding solutions to the challenges facing Nigeria.