BY FEMI OYEWESO, Abeokuta
Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki on Tuesday, called on the Federal Government to convene a national stakeholders’ meeting in order to enable the country to overcome the mirage of security challenges currently confronting Nigeria.
Saraki made the call while addressing journalists shortly after leading members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Reconciliation and Strategic Committee in a closed-door meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital.
Saraki, who arrived Obasanjo’s Penthouse residence, located at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta at about 12:12pm, went straight into the meeting with Obasanjo along with other members of the committee which included former governors of Katsina state, Ibrahim Shehu Shema; that of Gombe, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwanbo, Liyel Imoke (Cross Rivers), former Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Alhaja Mulikat Akande Adeola as well as former governor of Ogun state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola who had visited Obasanjo earlier in the day.
While expressing worry over the situation, Saraki said the stakeholders’ meeting on security was long overdue in view of the increasing spate of kidnapping, armed robbery as well as other security challenges which has portrayed the country in bad light globally.
He said the need for the stakeholders’ meeting on the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria becomes inevitable because the issue at hand is more than what could be left in the hands of the ruling party alone.
He explained that convening a stakeholders’ meeting on security would give every Nigerians, irrespective of political party’s affiliation, a sense of belonging in the Nigerian project.
“I think what is important for us now as I keep on repeating is that these issues are issues that should involve everybody. When we talk about kidnapping, when we talk about a sense of belonging, these are issues that cross party lines and what is required now is for the government to provide leadership in bringing all stakeholders together. Let us discuss and see how we can address some of these issues”.
“We are very hopeful for the future of this country, we are very hopeful that everybody will have a sense of belonging. I think it is important that we all must be able to be on the table and discuss.
“We can tap into a lot of resources, even on the issue of security, there are lot of people with a lot of experience that we can make use of.
“My advice to the government this time is that this problem is a huge problem that cannot be left to just the government and the ruling party.
“I think this is the time the opposition, the ruling party, our international friends, the private and all of us must come together on the round table because the challenges before us are enormous and we need to address them.
“As we talk about lots of politicians, we talk about 2023, we still have two years before that and it is our responsibility that all of us to see that during those two years we all work to address that, but the initiative must come from the government.
“I think once the government does that, then my own advice is that everybody that has something to contribute should be able to come together and see how people will have a sense of belonging. Part of that sense of belonging is to be on the table to be able to discuss the way forward for this country.”
Commenting on the purpose of his visit with the former president, Saraki said his committee was in Abeokuta to intimate Obasanjo about the progress made so far notwithstanding that the former president no longer played partisan politics.
“We told him what we are trying to do, to reposition the party, we told him how important that is in the project Nigeria and he told us his commitment to Nigeria, that he will never shirk away from that responsibility to have a better Nigeria.
“Of course, like we all know that he is not partisan at the moment, his focus is on Nigeria, not on party and that, he repeated to us.
“What is happening in the party is that we want to start very early to address what we think are issues that will make us stronger and that is what we are doing.
“We have been meeting with different leaders. We have been meeting with different states where we think we have problems here and there, particularly the zones where we think we have issues. We are discussing that.
“I think that we are making some progress, there are people who are not ready to sit on the same table to discuss, we have been able to achieve that. We have given more time for ourselves in trying to do that and we are hopeful that in this month of March, we will begin to see a lot of progress that will unite the party. With that unity, we will also be able to bring in more membership to our party.
“Ogun state like some of the other states that we have had issues for many years, I don’t want to speak too early, we have already started discussion and we are hopeful that we will finally find amicable solution where all stakeholders in Ogun will be able to work together, I’m very hopeful about that.”