■ We can’t restructure Nigeria without tackling tribalism, nepotism — Jonathan
■ 1999 Constitution, fraudulent — Ayo Adebanjo
■ How Nigeria can be restructured — Nnia Nwodo
■ Nigeria has worst model of federalism globally — Jega
By Henry Umoru & Luminous Jannamike
Former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday differed with immediate past President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, John Nwodo, Afenifere chieftain Ayo Adebanjo and former chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, over the restructuring of the country.
While Jonathan said Nigeria can’t be restructured without first tackling challenges that polarise the country, such as tribalism and nepotism, Nwodo, Adebanjo, Jega insisted it remained the only way out of the country’s myriad social, economic and political problems.
Jonathan, in his opening remarks as chairman of Daily Trust 18th Dialogue in Abuja yesterday, said the restructuring of Nigeria into 12 states by Yakubu Gowon at the outset of the civil war was to protect it from disintegration.
He said Nigerians have intensified the calls for restructuring because the federal system of governance handed to the country by the British could no longer accommodate the complexities of the nation.
The former president said he believes that the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria was not the problem but the divisive politics that had greatly affected the nation’s unity.
Jonathan, who asked Nigerians to first restructure their minds, noted that restructuring alone might not address all the challenges in the system.
He said: “Within these six decades, our political space has assumed many colourations. We have gone from 12 regions to 36 states and 774 local government councils and moved away from when the different regions had different arrangements to manage the local government level to a unified local government system across the country.
“Yet, all that do not seem to have provided the answer to the questions of the administrative structure of our country and how best it should be governed. As president, I had the privilege of celebrating our nation’s golden jubilee in 2010 and the centenary of our amalgamation in 2014.
“When we were to celebrate these milestones, some Nigerians saw our intention, arguing that the amalgamation was faulty. They insisted there were no reasons to celebrate because they believe the amalgamation has not helped the growth of our country.
“My belief is that all nations have their unique history; the amalgamation is not the problem in my belief, rather, there was too much emphasis on divisive politics and this has greatly affected our nation’s unity.
“As a country, we have our peculiar challenges and should devise means of solving them but we should not continue to tilt our spleen on the amalgamation. My conviction is that discussion on restructuring will not help except we restructure our minds because some of the challenging issues at the national level still exist at the state and local levels.
“How do we restructure to make sure that those things don’t happen again? This shows restructuring alone may not solve all the anomalies in our system. I believe that restructuring for a better nation is good but there are other fundamental issues we should also address.
“We cannot restructure in isolation without tackling the challenges that polarise our nation. These include nepotism, ethnic and religious differences as well as lack of patriotism. The issues of tribe and religion have continued to limit our unity and progress as a nation.”
1999 Constitution, fraudulent — Adebanjo
Disagreeing with the former president at the Dialouge, with the theme, ‘’Restructuring: Why? When? How?’’, Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said restructuring was the only way the country could get out of its present quagmire.
He said the 1999 constitution was fraudulent and did not articulate the collective will of the people, having been imposed on the nation by the military, stressing that the country must return to the 1960 Independence Constitution when the regions had autonomy.
He said: “My view is that 1960 and 1963 constitutions gave us more freedom and autonomy which we are all agitating for. Why we are emphasizing restructuring now? Because the 1999 constitution is fraudulent; it does not represent the choice of the people.
“Interestingly, when we talk of restructuring, some of our friends from the North will say ‘they want to break the country’. But, anyone opposed to true federalism which is restructuring is the one who wants to break the country.
“The question of insecurity the country is facing now is because the governors do not have control over the security agencies in their states. That is what we need to address now.
“Where should the Presidency go in 2023? That is not the question now. The key question is to first keep the country together. Then, let us make the question of presidency constitutional, not gentleman’s agreement.
“Anybody talking about the election without changing this constitution does not love this country. It is the 1999 constitution that has made Northern Nigerians believe if they don’t support anybody, he or she cannot be president.
“All the agitation about Biafran separation is because they (Igbos) feel excluded under the constitution. I only hope the progressive elements in the North will persuade President Buhari to restructure the country now before everything burns to blazes.
“The Constitution we have now is a fraudulent constitution, it is not our constitution. Most importantly, it has failed, and everybody testified to this fact. It is simply not working.
“To save us from this situation, we must impress upon President Buhari to change the constitution to one that everybody agrees to.”
How Nigeria can be restructured — Nwodo
Aligning with Adebanjo, immediate past President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, made a strong case for restructuring, adding that the 1999 Constitution overthrew the sovereignty of the regions over their natural resources and domestic security and brought about a fall of education standards, economic well being, and a rise in insecurity nationwide.
He said: “We should restructure because the constitutional history of Nigeria shows that the only constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made by all the ethnic groups in Nigeria, were the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions.
“The 1999 Constitution overthrew the sovereignty of the regions over their natural resources and domestic security unleashing in the process an unprecedented fall of education standards, domestic security, and economic well being.
“We must do all we can to restructure before the next election in 2023 because the level of dissatisfaction in the country as evidenced by the last ENDSARS protest gives one the impression that any delay may lead to a mass boycott or disruption of the next elections to the point that we may have a more serious constitutional crisis of a nation without a government.
“To restructure Nigeria, we need a constitutional conference of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria. To use the current National Assembly as the forum for constitutional amendment grants a tacit recognition of the overthrow of our democratic norms by the enthronement of a military constitution by which they are composed.
“The outcome of the constitutional conference must be subjected to a public plebiscite in which all adult Nigerians should have the right to vote. This process should be open, it should be supervised by international agencies to validate its transparency and thereafter usher new elections based on its provisions and structure.
“This process, in my view will ultimately refocus our country breed a democratic culture that emphasizes more on selfless service rather than individual enrichment, promote genuine unity instead of ethnic bigotry and challenge our capacity to exploit our abundant potentialities to make life more abundant for our people.
“In a restructured Nigeria, northern Nigeria will earn more from food production than other regions. So, must do all we can to restructure before the next civilian election in 2023.”
Nigeria has worst model of federalism globally — Jega
In his remarks, former chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega, also made case for restructuring, noting, however, that restructuring without a corresponding improvement in good governance would not work.
He said: “Across the world, about 25 countries, which represents 40 percent of the global population practice the federal system of government. What is clear is that when you look at the Nigerian context, not only has there been a long military rule but in the 20 years of civilian rule, we have not made significant progress.
“Nigeria is one of the worst models of political accommodation of diversities, power as well as resource sharing. What account for the difference between Nigeria and other countries with more effective management of their diversity are elite consensus and good governance.
“Bad governance and over concentration of power at the centre is a recipe for disaster. For its stability, progress, and development as a modern nation-state, Nigeria’s current federal structure needs refinement and improvement or some form of what can be called restructuring.
Earlier in his address, Alhaji Kabiru Yusuf, Chairman of Media Trust Ltd, organizers of the event, recalled that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, while campaigning in 2015, pledged widespread constitutional reforms in the form of true federalism.
Noting that the party even set up a committee, headed by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna Stateto look into the matter, Yusuf said the el-Rufai Committee accepted the idea of restructuring, such as state police, revision of revenue sharing formula and abolition of the third tier of government.
He said the recommendations of the Elrufai-committee were accepted by all the organs of the APC but expressed regret that not much had been heard about the issue since the party won a second term two years ago. (Vanguard News)