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Nigeria: South-East’s Most Important Demand is Reintegration, Agitations Will End with Igbo Presidency, Says Ex-Senate President Anyim

Former Senate President and presidential hopeful on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, has said the ongoing agitations in some parts of the South

Former Senate President and presidential hopeful on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, has said the ongoing agitations in some parts of the South East of Nigeria, was a reflection of the level of frustration by people of the zone, whose most important single demand was nothing but reintegration into the country.

Speaking exclusively to THISDAY in the third of a presidential interview series, Anyim, who responded to a question on how to reconcile his presidential bid with the heightened and violent agitation for Biafra by some people from the South-east, however, said with an Igbo presidency, the agitations would die naturally.

“Those agitating are frustrated, young, South-easterners, and I tell you, maybe I will put it this way, somebody asked me once, what is the single most important demands of the south east? And I replied, the most important single demand of the south-east from Nigeria is reintegration.

“Once they feel that they have been fully reintegrated into Nigeria, all agitation will naturally be extinguished. So, my position is that if you give them a sense of belonging, and maybe expand opportunities for everybody, and they feel equal as citizens of Nigeria, those agitations will simply be extinguished.”

Pushed further if his aspiration would not make the South East quest for secession a lot easier, Anyim, who was Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), explained that the agitations were not new, but has only been given life, because the issues have not been addressed at all.

“The agitation for Biafra is neither isolated nor new. I remember during the June 12 crisis, there were such huge agitations in the South-west, that it is either they are part of this country, or they are not. And eventually, when one of them became the president of the country, that agitation died out.

“I also know that the militancy in the Niger Delta was so bad that if not for the way President Olusegun Obasanjo managed it, it would have led to agitations like this, and it was at a time everybody was so scared that if you allow somebody from South-south become president of Nigeria, they will graduate that agitation to secession.

“Immediately, President Goodluck Jonathan became president of Nigeria, that agitation died. In fact, not when he became president, immediately he became vice president of Nigeria, that agitation died out. IPOB agitation is not the only one in the country today.

“There are a number of them across the country like the Boko Haram insurgency, like Sunday Igboho’s agitation in the South-west. I believe that if a South-easterner becomes the president of Nigeria, that agitation will die,” he said.

Asked what his take on restructuring was and the recent suggestion by a legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola, that government should try out an interim government that would allow for a period of time to come up with a more viable constitution, Anyim said restructuring meant different things to different people.

His words: “I avoid getting into the controversy of the definition of restructuring, but one thing I know is that the structure the country assumed at independence was extensively negotiated, extensively canvassed and extensively agreed on.

“There were negotiations, there were constitutional conferences, and even at the last lap, the minorities raised issues or fears and the colonial masters set up the Willink’s Commission to look into their fears. They didn’t just decree a structure for the nation. No, they did not at all.

“So, if we for any reason think that the present structure we have is not working, we have to sit down discuss it and build a consensus going forward, not anybody waking up to say, this is my definition of restructuring. If you throw in anything by your own definition, it will not work, because other components of the polity will not accept it.

“But I agree that we could present a platform for dialogue, for negotiations, for discussions and build a consensus. Based on that consensus, if we need to make an adjustment, we’ll make an adjustment as agreed by all and such adjustment everybody will commit to it in building the nation.

“So, I don’t want to go into the meaning of anybody’s definition of restructuring. But I want to believe that if all of us feel that the structure we have today is not what we want, we will all sit over and agree on the structure that works for all of us and now carry on from there.”

To Babalola, the Ebonyi-born politician said, “I am surprised that Afe Babalola made that suggestion, because one, he is a seasoned lawyer and two, more particularly, because that is unconstitutional. And certainly there can’t be a vacuum. So, what provision of our constitution will authorise interim government?

“So, you can’t preach the rule of law and step outside the law to set up a structure that cannot work. So, because it’s unconstitutional, it has no space in our system. That cannot work.

“But I also know that under any government, that the country can still have discussions. The country can still have negotiations and dialogue, and arrive at a consensus, that will be acceptable to everybody and we’ll build our nation on that. So, certainly, that has no space in our system.”

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