President Muhammadu Buhari, former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo are among dignitaries expected to participate at a special pan-Nigerian conference designed to move the national conversation on political restructuring forward in the run-up to the 2019 elections.
A key purpose of the summit is to extract a formal pledge of commitment to restructuring, a priority of the southern and middle belt zones, from the major parties and presidential candidates.
The conference which is the brain child of a top Igbo think tank group, Nzuko Umunna in association with a group of pan-Nigerian leaders, The Core Federalists, is scheduled to take place on Monday, November 19, 2018 at the Shell Hall, MUSON Centre, Lagos, with the theme: “Nigeria Beyond Oil”
According to Mr. Ngozi Odumuko, Coordinator of Nzuko Umunna, Handshake Across Nigeria is an expansion of the January 11, 2018 Handshake Across the Niger summit organized to end the suspicion and unhealthy rivalry between the Igbo and their Yoruba counterparts. Mr Odumuko further states that the key priorities of the event are:
1. To bring together the various thought leaders of the component regions to articulate progressive ideas that could foster national integration and development especially as we approach the 2019 elections
2. To avail an opportunity for thought leaders and socio-cultural organisations to constructively interrogate the presidential candidates of selected political parties on their plans, programmes and policies before the elections.
Prof Wole Soyinka is billed to deliver the keynote address while President Buhari, Atiku Abubakar and Chief Nnia Nwodo will speak on various aspects of the theme.
Two former ministers of external affairs, Major-General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd) and Professor Ibrahim Gambari will chair the occasion.
Other dignitaries expected at the event are Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Leader of foremost Yoruba group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Leader of the Niger Delta, Chief Edwin Clark