The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, on Sunday, laid out his plan to tackle the agitations by separatists including the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) if elected in the 2023 elections.
Atiku, who spoke at The People’s Townhall in Abuja, a live event organised by Channels Television and its partners, said the demands of pro-Biafra agitators were not beyond negotiation.
“The IPOB issue in the South-East is basically, as far as my understanding is concerned, about the realisation of Biafra. Is it possible for Biafra to be realised today? How? By negotiations or by going through another civil war, which we can’t afford to?
“I believe we should be able to negotiate with the agitators from the South-East, as far as the issue of Biafra is concerned. We believe what they need is more autonomy as far as their sub-region is concerned.
“That is why we proposed restructuring of the country, by which we mean devolution of more powers and resources. After all, there was Eastern Nigeria in the First Republic and they developed at their own pace and with their own resources,” he said.
Speaking on what he described as middle-of-the-road solutions, the former Vice President said he saw no reason restructuring and devolution of more powers and resources could not quell the various agitations of the separatist groups.
“The agitations are in different perspectives, to my understanding,” he said. “One of them is political and political has the sense of ‘how does the South-East participate in power sharing in the country?’ And we are in a democratic society.
“There is no one single geopolitical zone in this country that on its own can achieve political power without crossing the Niger or being in alliance with other geopolitical zones.
“I think this is what they should begin to think: How do they partner with other parts of the country to secure political power for their own interests or to protect their own interests. I think these are the ways to go as far as agitations by IPOB are concerned.”
In his remarks, Atiku’s running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa noted that strategic engagement was crucial, adding that the principle of inclusive governance could not be ruled out.
“I know that the South-East has continued to also agitate as a result of the fact that they don’t feel included. If you watch the security architecture of the current government, they don’t appear to play any major roles. So, they see themselves as ‘excluded’ as if they are not part of this nation.
“That is not the type of government that Atiku Abubakar wants to run. He’s going to run an all-inclusive government in which every segment of this country will have a feeling of being part of the government and the nation.
“I think that obviously will, to a very large extent, add on to the other steps that our presidential candidate will take by the time he assumes office on May 29, 2023,” he said.