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President Goodluck Jonathan pressed to hold talks on country's future

30 December 2013, 17:04

Lagos - President Goodluck Jonathan was on Monday urged to hold talks on the future of Nigeria, as the country prepared to mark the centenary of the unification of north and south.

The Movement for New Nigeria (MNN), a civil society group made up of a number of different ethnic groups, said a national dialogue was the only way of resolving contentious issues gripping the country.

Jonathan is facing a political crisis after the defection of a number of high-profile state governors from his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the loss of his parliamentary majority.

The PDP is riven with infighting amid claims that Jonathan has disregarded an unwritten rule to rotate the presidency between a candidate from the majority Muslim north and mainly Christian south.

Jonathan is a southern Christian. The next elections take place in 2015.

MNN leader Timi Ogoriba told a news conference in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos that it would be a "monumental disaster" if the president walked away from the promised talks.

Nigeria is facing a range of problems from endemic corruption to the sharing of its vast oil wealth and a bloody Islamist insurgency, as well as long-standing ethnic, sectarian and religious differences.

Jonathan set up a committee in October to look at how to take representations and promised that the process of hearing grievances would begin early in the New Year.

The move comes on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria by the country's British former colonial masters.

The primarily commercial move, which led to full independence in 1960, remains contentious because of historical divisions in Africa's most populous country.

Ogoriba said a national dialogue, dismissed by critics of the president as a pointless distraction, was vital for Jonathan to "reset the compromised foundations of the fallen house of Nigeria".

He laid the blame for the country's woes on the original 1914 agreement and that of the military regime before the return to civilian rule in 1999.




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