Leadership of Afenifere yesterday presented five demands to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The group led by Chief Ayo Fasanmi told the president that the five demands would assist in addressing the challenges facing the country.
Those who attended the meeting were Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Segun Osoba, Abiola Ajimobi, Sen. Adedayo Adeyeye, Chief Kemi Nelson, Laoye Tomori, Solomon Akindele,Elder Yemi Alade, Mutiu Are, among others.
The socio-cultural group in a prepared speech read by Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, requested the president to consider recruitment, training, equipment and deployment of Nigerian Police on the basis of 774 local government areas.
“Please permit us, Mr. President, to submit our humble request of the following 5 major issues of paramount importance to South-West Nigeria in particular and the unity, progress and happiness of the entire country in general.
“Security: The huge cost not-withstanding, it may be considered worthwhile to take a bold step in combating crime and improving on security by improving on the apparent shortage of the manpower in the Nigeria Police Force and by extending control of the Police from the State to Local Government level.
“By this, we humbly suggest that Mr. President should reflect deeply and consider recruitment, training, equipment and deployment of Nigerian Police on the basis of 774 Local Governments listed in the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” they said.
Another request of the group was the provision of free and compulsory education in the country.
“Education: “Free Universal and Compulsory Education“ had been practiced with remarkable success in some parts of Nigeria in the past.
“Mr. President may consider re-introducing the programme and make it compulsory at all levels and all over the country as a lasting gift to Nigeria in his final term in office. Such a bold step though very expensive will revolutionize and catapult the entire nation to the next higher level,” they said.
They also requested for the massive youth empowerment program in the country.
“Youth Employment: One of the obvious advantages that will accrue from Education Programme which will include Basic, Technical, Skill Acquisition, Digitalization and ICT Programmes will be to Open wide gates to Youth Employment in Nigeria and in the Diaspora,” they said.
The fourth demand of the group was true federalism, saying “We seriously recommend clinging to the spirit and letters of our Federal Constitution.
“This is one sure way of achieving the desired goal of unity even in diversity, mutual respect, tolerance and giving true meaning to the opening phrase of our Constitution that is, “WE THE PEOPLE”.
“We will be a greater nation if we sincerely practice true Federalism and THINK and ACT as NIGERIANS rather than as champions of the smaller units we were born into. Our big size is an asset worthy of preservation. Good examples of big size, hard work and prudent spending are the USA, China and India.
“It is not with violence or hate speeches but with mutual trust, self-respect and tolerance that we will speedily achieve the lofty destiny of this great country, Nigeria.”
The Afenifere leaders also requested the president to give more attention to the issue of power supply and agriculture.
“We have already commended your Administration on its remarkable achievements in the field of agriculture. But the country asks for more, especially in the Field of afforestation, irrigation and revival of those agricultural products like Cocoa, Groundnut, Cotton, Palm Products and processing them for domestic consumption and export as Malaysia which borrowed seedlings from us has now gone far ahead of us,” they said.
Responding, President Buhari said the requests would be looked into in line with his 2019 campaign pledges.
“On your request, you know what we (when I say we this time around I mean our party), what we campaigned on in 2015 and this year is security, economy and fighting corruption. These things are basic because we cannot secure our country or an institution unless we secure it.
“What was happening in the north east and is still happening to some degree in the north central or the south west, is true that we have made some progress but there are still some problems and those problems we are trying to solve them within our physical and material resources,” he said.
On fighting corruption, he said, “ Now what I do is when a person cannot justify what he has or fails to declare as the constitution specifies, some of them dear to Almighty God that their property doesn’t belong to them until we show them their bank accounts and their companies then we have some peace.
“So we are recovering as much as we can under the system and this time around I said the properties will be sold and the money put in the treasury.
“But anybody who cannot account for what he has and for refusing to declare, we will have to do something about it.
“I will tell you as Afenirere, that was why I had to deal though reluctantly with the former Chief Justice. Because there were millions of dollars, euros not to talk of naira which were not declared. I wonder what sort of conscience some of us have, how can you seat and preside and lock people up for years and even sentence some to death and yet you are not doing what the constitution said you should do by occupying that vital institution.
“So institution like yours when you have secured your constituency constitutionally and materially you can help this country. And really this country needs you and you need this country with the future generation because of the population explosion we are going through and the limited resources and the deficits of infrastructure.”