The Northern Elders’ Forum, NEF, has stated that it is open to dialogue with other regions on the issue of restructuring the country.
Chairman of NEF, Paul Unongo, said this while speaking with Punch on Sunday.
He said the forum would respect any view that would strengthen the unity of the country with equal rights and opportunities for all citizens.
Unogo spoke in reaction to a statement by a former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Tinubu had at a lecture organised by the King’s College Old Boys’ Association in Lagos, stated that Nigeria needed restructuring for correct balance.
NEF however maintained that the region, because of its political and geographical advantages, would not be stampeded into taking decisions that would be inimical to its development.
He said, “The North is very open to dialogue. I am the chairman of the northern elders and nobody can say we will not encourage dialogue. We love Nigeria but we will not be stampeded into carrying out someone’s agenda.
“The uneducated North of pre-independence times was not the same North of today. Today, we have Ph.D holders in every discipline.
“We told Awolowo to reject independence until Nigeria was divided into more equal parts. Awo said we shouldn’t worry and that once we gained independence, this would be done. I said I knew this would not be done. Today, Awo is dead and we are independent.
“We spoke in 1957 and today is 2017, that is about 60 years ago. Because I was a small boy carrying Tarka’s bag, they didn’t listen to me. Today, we understand the advantage of being a big region.
“So, if today, you don’t offer them anything and you say give us your advantage so that we can have a restructured Nigeria; and with the way the Igbos are doing their own agitation, I don’t think you will get many responses from the North.
“I think we need a dialogue. I will be prepared to do that and I will remind them of what I said in 1957 and how my prediction came true.
“It will not be easy for the North to say take away our advantages and give us nothing. They (southern elements) were the ones that allowed the British to do this.
“I told Awolowo that no one would allow you to create more regions after independence.”