As Nigerians Debate Nation’s Future
Against the backdrop of the growing agitation for restructuring of Nigeria, our Correspondents: BASSEY ANTHONY (Uyo), SANI ALIYU (Zaria), Jude Damngwam (Jos) and MATTHEW ONAH (Yola) in this analysis, capture the issues, fears, expectations and Controversies
Almost 50 years after Nigeria adopted the federal system of government, the nation is suddenly becoming agog with high decibel sounds of agitation for restructuring. From the South-West to South-East and even among sections of the core North, the clamour to tinker with Nigeria’s present structure, is fast gaining ground.
The regional structure, which the country operated from independence in 1960, was abolished with the creation of 12 states by the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon in 1967. The 12-state structure immediately ushered in “Federalism,” which has continued to be practised till date.
Although it was all started by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the agitation for restructuring Nigeria would however, appear to have recently thickened and buoyed with former military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, pitching tent with those in support of the agitation.
Findings by DAILY ASSET have shown that Babangida’s support for restructuring is being viewed as a major game changer amongst proponents of redefining Nigeria’s political composition with a view to accommodating divergent positions on how best to run the country.
Other prominent Nigerian leaders, including Ayo Fayose, the controversial governor of Ekiti State, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Dr Christopher Kolade, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (retd), amongst others, have lent their voices for a peaceful and united Nigeria.
Indeed, as far back as February 2012, Northern leaders, under the aegis of Coalition of Concerned Northerners, had declared support for the restructuring of Nigeria. A meeting held in Asokoro, Abuja by prominent northern politicians, academics, professionals and politicians resolved to support the calls for restructuring.
The meeting had in attendance the then governors of Niger and Jigawa States, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu and Alhaji Sule Lamido as well as other northerner leader, like Dr. Junaidu Muhammad, convener of the meeting; former Senate President, Dr. Iyochia Ayu; Dr. John Wash-Pam, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, Dr. Shettima Mustapha, Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri, Mallam Lawal Batagarawa and Professor Nur Alkali. Also in attendance were publishers, journalists, council chairmen and businessmen from the North
The growing agitation for restructuring has thrown up a lot of issues, questions and controversies. These include the desired benefits of the proposed exercise and how beneficial restructuring would be to the various peoples and nationalities that make up Nigeria. They also include the fears and expectations of many sections of the country, as well as the fate of the entity called Nigeria.
For instance, although General Babangida’s endorsement of restructuring excited pundits, some say the ex-military ruler’s position came a little bit too late.
According to stakeholders in Akwa Ibom state who also joined the whirlwind of calls for the restructuring of Nigeria last week, doing so is the only solution to cries and complaints of injustice by some sections of the country.
The stakeholders, including prominent politicians, traditional and youth leaders who spoke to DAILY ASSET, insisted that the continued existence of the country depended on a total overhaul of the political cum economic structures of Nigeria.
Indeed, one of the stakeholders and former military administrator of the state, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, believed that restructuring was the answer to the myriad of institutional problems and injustices plaguing Nigeria, most of which have led to agitations and dissensions by groups in the country.
Speaking in the same vein, Pastor Godwin Williams, President-General of Afigh Iwaad Ekid, a foremost socio-cultural organization in Eket Federal constituency of the state, said there was no better time to re-organize Nigeria than now.
Nkanga, noted that that there was need for the devolution of powers, and strict adherence to the principle of fiscal federalism, adding that Nigeria is practicing unitary system of government which robs the regions of substantial benefits from their God-given resources.
“Nigeria should be restructured in such a way that allows the regions in the country to enjoy a least 50 percent of their God-given resources; that is the true meaning and spirit of fiscal federalism,” he said.
The foremost leader of the South-South Peoples Assembly (SSPA) also reiterated the call for the full implementation of the 2014 National Confab Report, saying therein are the solutions to cries of marginalization and injustices by some sections of the country.
“The 2014 National Confab Report represents the voice of Nigerians because the report is the product of over 400 people from different parts of the country who represented diverse interests and groups. The report has 607 recommendations capable of addressing the challenges faced today in the country,” Nkanga said.
Last week, the Senate unanimously resolved to call on the executive arm of government to forward the report of the last National Conference held in 2014 to the National Assembly for deliberation and consideration of some of the recommendations generally believed to be capable of taking Nigeria out of her present socio-political and economic tanterhooks.
On his part, Obongiwaad Williams opined that he is in support of restructuring, but maintained that nothing should done to tamper with the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria. This is just as the National President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and former Information Minister, Professor Jerry Gana is of the view that there’s the urgent need to ensure peaceful co-existence of the diverse groups in the country.
According to Prof. Gana, “we can only find lasting solutions to guide our people in the ways of peace, if we thoroughly understand the dynamics of the forces at play in our society. To succeed in transforming any system, the elements within that system must be properly identified, analyzed and their dynamic relationships fully understood.”
The former minister who spoke at a press conference organised by the MBF noted that, taking a cursory look at the existing federal system, the Forum called for restructuring that would ultimately culminate in the devolution of more powers to the federating units to enthrone a sense of balance and stability.
Therefore, he said ‘‘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.”
Besides, the MBF National President wants the federal government to look into the recommendations contained in the 2014 conference report to tame growing agitations for secession by some ethnic nationalities, arguing that the confab report if implemented, would douse tensions currently prevailing in the land.
“We believe that a faithful and effective implementation of those recommendations will promote peace, harmony and greater security, thereby giving Nigeria a new lease of life,” he emphasised.
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman in Adamawa State, Alhaji Abdulrahman Bobboi, such agitation underlines the problem of leadership failure, saying the ordinary Nigerian simply wants strong leadership that can provide good infrastructure for the people.
A Union leader, in Plateau State, Comrade Paul Dakogol in his opinion said that restructuring is very important in the cause of Nigeria’s development, but must be in a democratic way that would give room for Nigerians to decide whether to restructure or not.
“It should not be a situation where some group of people will just seat and decide how Nigeria should be restructured to suit their personal interest, but it is a welcome development,” he stated.
A politician in Zaria Local Government Area of Kaduna State , Habib AbdulAzeez is of the view that for Nigeria to be restructured certain measures must be taken, which include avoiding sentiments like tribalism, religious and regionalism.
He told DAILY ASSET that much as these remained in the minds of Nigerians, there was no way restructuring the country can be achieved.
AbdulAzeez further said religious and political leaders must change their tactics of gaining cheap popularity through divide and rule.
In his view, Sa’idu Mohammed, a school teacher, said for Nigeria to be restructured, “politician must unite themselves and avoid using sentiment and other means of dividing people for their political gain.”
According to him, “it is only when political and religious leaders accept to move Nigeria forward that Nigeria can be restructured.”