There have been agitations for restructuring from several quarters in the country. With this in mind, the Chairman, Police Service Commission and former Inspector General of Police (IG), Dr. Mike Mbama Okiro came up with a book on the subject matter. Yemi Akinsuyi, who was at the launch writes
It was a gathering of the high and mighty in the society. The list of personalities was long. From the Acting President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was ably represented by Senator Babafemi Ojudu, to State Governors, Senators, and other government officials, past Inspectors General of Police, media guru, businessmen and women of repute, traditional leaders, the International Conference Hall Centre of launch of the book of Chairman, Police Service Commission, Dr. Mike Okiro was filled to its capacity. The book, titled: Nigeria, The Restructuring Controversy, could not have come at a better time.
The nine -page book, obviously captured the minds of several speakers at the occasion, who could not but agree with the author. Okiro, certainly is not among those calling for the break-up of the country, but would always stand for things that unite the country. He is an ardent believer in one Nigeria. He spoke at length on his belief in Nigeria as one entity.
In his words: “These days, each time I attempt to approach the Nigerian discourse, I sometimem have this particular feeling around my stomach. I can’t say for sure what that is. Back in the days, as a young man, such conversation always somehow filtered towards “That is why I’m proud to be a Nigerian we are the giant of Africa”. Fast forward some decades, I engage lines like “we are better together, we don’t need war”. You see the conversation has somehow op-sided to a defensive contour. One was now have to argue out and prove beyond doubts that we are truly better for it. And then, I ask myself what happened to the melodious sound of “This is Mohammed my brother. I first had tuwom Shikafa in his house”, whatever happened to the prideful echoes of “We are the giant of Africa”, what about the elating remarks of “Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa” that tickles the ear every time I heard it.
“The South and the North are today as it were, Islam and Christianity are still very much practised as they were. Oil is still more in the South and food is resident in the North, so what went wrong? You see, you cannot take away value from a people. Not from an idea, not from an innovation, not even from technology. This is because once value is accrued to anything, as humans we are bound to hold dear to it.
“Back then, there was so much pride in being a Nigerian, the substance from which I felt proud of being very relevant even up till today, therefore, I can only remain prouder. So, I ask myself, do we today jettison our pride and honour because challenges have cropped up today. Tell me, which mother throws away her child with the bathing water. Each time I say I believe in one Nigeria, I don’t utter it as just a mirage, I proclaim it because it become it and today, I am it – Nigerian!
“Yes, the South may not share the culture of the North, neither do the Christians necessarily share the beliefs of Islam. But are these the bases upon which we desire to claim that we are so different a people. What unites us is far greater than what divide us and strength they say will always lie in number, so why not rather put to use this rare gift of ours. I believe in one Nigeria, for me its a mantra of nationhood, and the face of any true patriots. I believe in one Nigeria is a national call. One that is anchored on the beauty and uniqueness of a people, who, though many are diverse and well knitted by nature both in land and people beyond divisive ethnic, religious or socio-political affiliation.
“The cheapest war, they say, is costlier than the most expensive peace; for this reason, every cry of marginalization can be duly addressed diplomatically, peacefully, in all fairness and equity. Not necessarily through chaos and disarray. Instead of a way out, shouldn’t it rather be about the way forward. Disintegration isn’t necessarily the way to go. It may sound easy to go by, but it is not so good a choice right now.
“After all, look at the cases in Central Africa. Look at Sudan. Look at Korea. I don’t think we need any of that now. Nigeria is nature’s very own masterpiece.”
Okiro said having all these on the dinning table for the people to gulp, the serious and immediate need for this book.
“On Tuesday, September 30th, 2008, when in my capacity then as Nigerian Inspector General of Police (IG), I was privilege to hold an interactive session with media practitioners at the Mike Okiro hall, Lagos State Police Command, Officers’ Mess, Ikeja, Lagos, I recalled that I presented a lead paper on the occasion with the title: “Patriotism, A National Call To Duty”. I did say that patriotism is commonly define love and or devotion to one’s country, and that a patriot is someone who loves support and is prepared to serve his or her country.
“Even when such notions as democracy, socialism, and communism donated political thought in 18the century, patriotism remained as love for one’s country. That is included the country’s customs and traditions, being proud of the country’s history and demonstrable devotion to the country’s welfare. Being patriotic on its part, involves rendering services to ones country in whatever capacity the call of duty demands. And because the strength of a country is measured more or less by the integrity of its national government, all patriotic citizens are naturally expected to actively support government policies and action. This implied the willingness to sacrifice for the country in order to move it forward.
“My position at the said interactive session with journalists in Lagos in 2008 still holds sway even today. Presently, our country Nigeria demands from all citizens a strong display of true patriotism in whatever we are doing or saying. For this same reason, I have managed to put together this book; Nigeria, The Restructuring Controversy. My sincere hope is that it will assist the national government, especially reigning the centrifugal forces that have for long being threatening the peaceful co-existence, development and progress of Nigeria as a united, strong, and viral nation.
“Nigeria is widely acclaims as a “unity in diversity”. However, bitter contest for power, mutually shared ethnic and religious intolerance and suspicion, claims of marginalization, and sundry injustices, as well as violent conflict, have hindered the country’s exploitation to maximum of its ethno-linguistic, cultural and religious diversity potentials. These draw backs led to an unfortunate civil war. Past government, both military and civilian, made several policy efforts to tackle the challenges, including the convening of national conferences. The 1999 Constitution (as amended) likewise makes provisions bordering on equity and fairness. But the impact of all such efforts appears feeble as cries of marginalization, huge appetite for secession and strident calls for restructuring persists and hold down the country like a docile giant in a deep slumber.
“As at the time I completed the compilation of this book in December 2016, what was resonating nationwide was the clamour for restructuring. But as I made preparation for the publication and presentation of the book, scheduled for today, the issues on national lips centered on the “quit notice” ultimatum given by northern youths to Ibo people living up north and counter-threat against northerners by some youth segments from the south. All these indicate a crack in the wall of the nation’s unity which ought to be neatly and strongly cemented and in good time in the interest of national peace and progress.
“Nigeria’s problems are not solely ethnic or religious. They are embedded on elite conspiracy and subterrean manoeuvres for sectoral supremacy. Our elite fan the embers of ethnic and religious disharmony to achieve their group or personal interest at the expense of our national ethos. His Royal Highness, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano, succincily put it this way “but it is also true that this nation has the misfortune of having an elite whose selfishness and greed knows no bound. Unless they are able to agree on how to accommodate each other, they are willing to tear this country apart and led us into a meaningless war”.
“This book captures the major views and feelings of the country’s federating units and prominent individuals on the Nigeria’s enterprise on both sides of the divide. “
Having highlighted the reason for the book, Okiro called for the unity and oneness of the country for it to move to the desired promise land.
The President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Socio Cultural Group, Dr. John Nwodo, described the wave of the call for restructuring as “tool for growth and development”, said without restructuring, the country will head towards destruction.”
According to him: “Restructuring is the key to Nigeria’s moving forward. Without it, the country will be plunged into chaos because the call for it is gradually taking tolls on all sections, groups and individuals in the country.. Therefore, for Nigeria to move forward, the country must first be restructured. Oil was used to divide us in Nigeria. Before the advent of crude oil, the country was united with each region developing its natural resources and using it for the benefit of their people, educationally, healthcare, and others.
“In the north, groundnut was the main resource and this product was used to build schools, hospitals, roads and other basic and necessary infrastructure. In the West, Cocoa, which was the major source of revenue of the Yorubas, was used to build the tallest building in Nigeria in Ibadan; Cocoa House, schools, hospitals, even the first university in Nigeria, which is University of Ibadan, was built with the proceed from cocoa. The Western regional government provided free and compulsory education to the populace from primary to secondary schools. Coming to the South East and South South, palm oil was used by the then Eastern government to develop the region. Unfortunately, oil boom boozed Nigeria out of wealth and regional independent and plunged the country into the deep of crude oil, where our leaders naturally became unbearably lazy and dependent solely on oil.
“We need to move out of this mess we have found ourselves and embrace dialogue capable of translating the present poor state of the nation to a wealthy country, where everybody will be proud to be associated with. Therefore restructuring is the key to achieve this goal. And this will be in the interest of all the people if we can achieve this feat as quickly as possible”, Nwodo said.
Acting President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on his part, promised that the Federal Government would soon come out with policies to address the clamour by Nigerians for the restructuring of the country.
Osinbajo, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojudu, said all the debates on the restructuring of the country by Nigerians were being noted by the Federal Government.
“We are looking at all contributions made by Nigerians across the country. Very soon we will come out with policies to address the call for restructuring of the country,” he said.
The acting president warned that the Federal Government would not tolerate any act, capable of causing disaffection among the various ethnic groups in the country but urged Nigerians to be committed and loyal to the cause of the country, stressing that separation was not the answer to the country’s challenges.
“It is in our interest as a nation to continue to dialogue for the unity and peace of the country. Equity, fairness and justice can only be achieved under a peaceful atmosphere. We must not do those things that will turn us against each other.”
Osinbajo said the government was working assiduously to ensure that all Nigerians, irrespective of their tribes lived better lives.
The Chairman of the occasion and former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, said that peaceful co-existence between the various ethnic groups had been bastardised.
Abubakar was represented by the President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, noted that the culture of hard work had been eroded for selfish interest.
Abubakar advised the Federal Government to adopt modern technology to move the nation forward as oil was no longer lucrative in the international market.
The reviewer of the book, Sam Omatseye, who is also the Chairman of the Editorial Board ofThe reviewer of the book, Sam Omatseye, who is also the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Nation Newspapers, said the book was about cry for justice and a denial of the cry for justice.