Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, has insisted that the ban on open grazing in the southern part of Nigeria and the call for restructuring as announced by the governors are in the best interest of Nigeria.
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Governor Okowa said this at an empowerment programme sponsored by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, in Asaba, the Delta State capital, on Saturday.
The Delta State Governor said this in reaction to comments made by prominent politicians and influential persons from northern Nigeria who have kicked against the resolutions made by the southern governors at their meeting in Asaba on Tuesday.
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The southern governors had at their meeting on Tuesday announced the ban on open grazing across the region.
They also asked President Muhammadu Buhari to address the nation; and also demanded the restructuring of the country, saying there is an urgent need for the president to convene a national dialogue.
However, Professor Usman Yusuf, a former executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), criticised the move by the Governors to ban open grazing, saying they did not consult with Fulani leaders.
Senator Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President, had on Thursday knocked the governors’ call for restructuring, insisting they restructure their respective states first.
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Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State, had on Friday stated that his southern counterparts should be careful in how they approach the issue of restructuring, saying that they should instead implement financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislature in their states.
But Governor Okowa, who had hosted Tuesday’s meeting, said the Southern Governors were only re-echoing the voices of their people.
According to him, the southern governors should not be vilified for their resolutions, noting that their stance on the various issues is not new.
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He stated that the governors’ resolution on open grazing and restructuring will strengthen the nation’s unity.
He said: “We thank all our brothers in the south for coming together to speak for our people. The things that we’ve said are not new. It’s just the voice of our people that we have continued to echo.
“But unfortunately I read in the papers that somebody says we ought not to talk about certain things, being elected people. If the voice of your people has been heard madly and they’ve continued to talk and you are an elected person and you shy away from giving further voice to their voices, then you ought not be in the position that you occupy.
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“We reaffirmed that as a people, as elected Governors, we believe in the unity of our country. But we also went forth to advance the need for certain things to be done in order to give strength to that unity. That cannot be a reason for us to be vilified, obviously not.
“We talked about restructuring, which has been on the table for so long. Both the voices of the PDP and the APC itself have endorsed restructuring. And restructuring is all-inclusive and all-encompassing. We may have different views, different approaches to the restructuring, but when we sit on the table in dialogue, we will be able to agree best what is good for Nigeria and what is good for the component parts of Nigeria.
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“The conversations are obviously needed because if we do not talk and we allow the voices of our people to continue to speak, and the leadership shies away, then we are giving room for further crisis. So, I thought that it was time for other leaders across the country to thank the Southern governors for uniting to give a voice to the conversations because it is only when these conversations come at that level and driven in the interest of the majority of the people that we can have a truly united nation in which there is fairness and equity and trust amongst our people and the leadership.
“The time is ripe for leaders and stakeholders from all parts of the country to endorse the communique issued by the Southern Governors as a road map for rebuilding a new Nigeria where all interest groups will be treated equally.”