Concordant tones on restructuring: The North and The Rest of Us
By Obidimike Afiamini**
The agitation for restructuring now cut across ethnic and political zones’ boundaries. Elder statesmen, former military leaders and even religious leaders have also joined the clamour for the restructuring of the country — devolution of powers.
Among the pack who favour restructuring is former military President Ibrahim Babangida. Babangida in his recent comment, declared that the time has come for the country to be restructured, stressing that new ideas and initiatives can be generated through restructuring, which would make the Nigerian union worthwhile.
He notes that the country has in the past survived many crisis, stressing that the restructuring of the Nigerian state can no longer be wished away.
The former President canvassed the devolution of more powers from the federal level to the states even as he urged Nigerians to embrace the creation of state police.
He said the fear of state governors abusing state police was not as strong as the greater benefit that creating state police would do for the country. He decries the recent campaign of hate, warning “the drums of war are easy to beat, but their rhythms are difficult to dance”.
“Who does not know that the Civil War was preceded and started by intolerance and a series of hate pronouncements, hate speeches, hate conducts and actions that were inflicted upon one another by the citizens?”
Babangida says the plethora of agitations are “outcome of vengeful appetites within the multiple contexts of our democratic governance and the profound inequalities that have distorted our social relations’’.
According to him, the clamour for restructuring means that Nigerians have agreed to our quest for unity in diversity; but that we should strengthen our structures to make the union more functional based on our comparative advantages.
Southern leaders at a recent meeting in Lagos affirmed their support for restructuring.
Leaders of the three geopolitical zones in the region – the South-West, South-East and South-South, in a communiqué after a recent meeting, said they were forging a common front to pursue the interest of the region.
They said rather than reduce the issue of quit notice issued to the Igbos by Arewa youths to the North and the South-East, it is an issue of the entire Southern and Northern Nigeria.
The communiqué was signed by Afenifere chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo, on behalf of the South-West; founding Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Chief Albert Horsefall for the South-South; and former Chief of General Staff, retired Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, for the South-East.
The communiqué read inter alia: “We the people of Southern Nigeria, comprising the South-East, South-West and South-South of Nigeria, decided to come together to forge a common and formidable front for sustenance of sound principles of national development, equity, fairness, social justice and political emancipation.
“The meeting held against the backdrop of the ultimatum given by the Arewa youths to the people of the South-East and by extension to all Southerners to vacate the North by October 1, 2017, and the refusal of the Nigerian State to activate the law against any of them, giving us the impression that these youths are not acting on their own, but on the back of their establishment.
“We consider the need to avert the impending danger arising from the ultimatum given by the Arewa youths. We agreed that there is a growing demand by our people and other Nigerians to form a stronger federation in which the principles and practice of true federalism are upheld.
“We have observed that the cry for self-determination will continue unabated and become much more stringent unless the Federal Government sincerely addresses the issue of Nigeria’s restructuring.
“We, therefore, resolved that we reject the attempt to reduce the current crisis in Nigeria, flowing from the unresolved nationality question, to an Igbo and North affair.
“Now, we also resolved on the need for the restructuring of Nigeria and to uphold the principles of true federalism as agreed by the founding fathers of Nigeria and practised effectively in the years before the first military coup in Nigeria.
“We reaffirm our stand on true federalism as the system of government founded on democratic principles and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between the national and the federating units.
“Such units have control over their own affairs and are bequeathed equal status with their Constitution, which is consistent with the federal Constitution.
“We affirm and are resolved on the implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference, aimed at complete transformation and restructuring of our country and to build and confederate Nigeria’s unity through peaceful and harmonious unity, progress and genuine development.’’
In same vein, leaders of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) said they were in support of calls for the restructuring of the Nigerian State.
Prof. Jerry Gana, National President of the forum, and former Information Minister, said members of the forum converged to deliberate and find durable solutions to the challenges facing the nation in general and the region in particular.
“We are resolutely of the view that the current federal structure is unbalanced, unfair, over-centralised and therefore unstable.”
Accordingly, we firmly support the demand to restructure the federation, together with appropriate devolution of powers to the federating units, and a commensurate revenue allocation formula.
The forum urged the Federal Government to look into the recommendations contained in the 2014 Conference Report to tame growing agitations for secession by some ethnic nationalities.
They said that the conference report if implemented, could douse tensions currently rising in the land. “Since these fundamental matters were considered and resolved at the 2014 National Conference, we urge the Federal Government to take appropriate and urgent steps to ensure full implementation”.
Leaders from, including governors of the South East and South South zones, re-echoed the zones support for restructuring at a recent meeting in Enugu.
They pledged their support for a restructured but united Nigeria, where there would be justice, equity and fairness.
Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who spoke said Ndigbo would thrive better in a restructured Nigeria.
“The Igbo must continue to emphasise restructuring, which is currently enjoying acceptance in South-South, South-West, North-Central, and well-meaning people from other parts of the North.’’
Pastor Tunde Bakare, former running mate to President Buhari, also tasked the APC led Federal Government to demonstrate the audacity and courage required to restructure Nigeria.
Bakare who spoke recently in Lagos said that the absence of a national vision was responsible for the preponderance of sectional agitations. “Why must we restructure? We must restructure to correct the flaws in our federal system. A federated state is defined as ‘a territorial and constitutional community forming part of a federal union.
“Our founding fathers agreed that Nigeria would be a truly federal state with limited and specific powers allocated to the federal government and residual powers inherent in the regional governments. This agreement was the social contract upon which the Nigerian state was formed.’’
The call for restructuring is like a national consensus, but the clog is now the Far North. Hear Anthony Sani, the Secretary General, Arewa Consultative Forum.
“The Northern group cannot throw its weight behind the call for restructuring as it does not understand the vision behind it and what it stands to achieve.
“Some people talk of true federalism, some talk of fiscal federalism, others talk of resource control and still others talk about resource ownership. ACF is not for restructuring; ACF cannot be for a restructuring whose definition is not clear.
“ACF has not given restructuring any serious thought, not for lack of ideas but because we do not believe the problems of this country are due to structure or form of government.’’
Similarly, Dr Junaid Mohammed, a Second Republic member of House of Representatives, says he is against restructuring, as the promoters failed to give a clear cut definition of what they meant.
“Until somebody can tell me what this restructuring is all about, I won’t be convinced about the call. These agitators of restructuring like Clark, Nwodo and others have not actually told us what will be restructured and how it will be done.
“That was how we were told that without Sovereign National Conference, Nigeria will break up.’’
Former Finance Minister Adamu Ciroma, also opposed restructuring and warned that any part of the country that wants to secede can go as long as they are prepared to face the consequences.
He did not explain what he meant by “freedom to go’’, as many parts of the country indeed want to go, in accordance with International Law.
As expected, he was attacked for this reckless statement. A former President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr Dozie Ikedife, said: “we know him and their mindset, but they must know that nobody is a slave to the other in this country and that it takes two to tango.
“If two people agree to cooperate, they will, but if they do not agree to cooperate, nobody has the right to force cooperation on the other, nobody.
“The Nigerian structure of today was not made by God, after all, the amalgamation was crafted in the United Kingdom in December 1913, and came into effect in January 1914.
“I am satisfied by my investigation that nobody from any part of this country was consulted.’’
As Babangida said, those clamouring for restructuring, love Nigeria, and want it remain as a united nation.
Nigerians know, when and where the rains started beating them, the earlier the issues are resolved the better.
There is ethnic nationalism in Nigeria, which should be recognised through structuring, which will boost development in an amorphous nation like Nigeria.
The Far North’s obstinacy on the issue of restructuring will do them no good, Nigeria must definitely restructure, if not today, it will be tomorrow.
Is better we restructure when it will have a human face. ##
**Obidimike Afiamini, is a journalist and commentator on national issues.