PRESIDENT of Ohanaeze Ndigbo of the 19 Northern states, Augustine Amaechi has said an Igbo presidency in 2023 will end various agitations in the South East.
Amaechi also alleged high level injustice, marginalisation and lack of fair play against the South East.
Speaking in Minna, Niger State, yesterday, after a one-day meeting of the group, Amaechi said the region has suffered marginalisation and neglect for too long.
“Nigerians should support Igbo presidency in 2023, as the only way to douse growing tension in the South East.”
He insisted that agitations by the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were borne out of injustice and continued marginalisation of the region.
“Virtually every Nigerian agrees that there is injustice in the country, especially against the South East, but what every Nigerian has not agreed is what to do to address the injustice.
“Some have called for restructuring, some for devolution of power, all these still boil down to restructuring and the reason for this is that one region has not been recognised as belonging to Nigeria,”
He pointed out that what they are seeking is equitable distribution of power and resources in Nigeria.
“We want every Nigerian to be happy, I want to say that injustice to a Nigerian is injustice to all irrespective of tribe or creed. It does not matter where the person comes from, once a Nigerian suffers injustice, it should be a concern to all,” he added.
Amaechi explained that the leadership of Ndigbo from the 19 Northern states was in Minna, not only to address issues that concern Igbo, but to also get feedback from all the northern states on the recent quit notice issued to Igbo, although the tension has died down.
In addition to this, “the meeting will enhance a better relationship among the Igbo and their host communities.
“This meeting will help us advise one another on a better understanding of the host community culture and give due respect to the community that has accommodated us. Igbo in the North are wealthy. As a result of the conducive environment we enjoy, we have prospered and we are bound to appreciate some of their cultures.”
“We are here to deliberate on issues as it concerns Ndigbo particularly and to point out areas where we feel the state has not treated us well.
“I want to tell you here that our national head quarters has spoken in favour of restructuring and we are bound to follow the fact that this country should be restructured,” he said.
Amaechi said politics would not be ruled out of the meeting in Minna “because when leaders are taking political and economic decisions, it is necessary to weigh the effects of such decisions.
He said Igbo would do everything to secure the unity of the country as they aspire to produce an Igbo president in 2023.
“We want to produce the president of Federal Republic of Nigeria and not Biafra and this reminds everybody that we are not talking of Biafra this time,” he said.
Amaechi said with such ambition, the Igbo has to build bridges of friendship between Igbo and their various communities.
“At the end of this meeting, I can assure you of the Igbo presidency in 2023,” he said.
The new Aare Ona Kakanfo-designateof Yoruba land, Otunba Gani Adams has said that achieving true federalism is the urgent objective before the leaders and people of Southwest Nigeria. He stated this in an interview with Saturday Sun during the grand finale of the annual Olokun festival held at the Suntan Beach, Badagry, Lagos.
“We are talking about restructuring––what politicians call true federalism––which in a proper arrangement, is called federal system of government, not the system we are running now that is completely a unitary system of government,” he said.
Adams, who observed that true federalism was the foundation of Nigeria’s independence in 1960 and the basis of the republic constitution in 1963, argued that it is the pragmatic system that affords each geographical zone the luxury to develop at their own pace. He said “without restructuring this country there is no way Nigeria can move forward.” He noted how the lack of it has been inimical to the development of the country. “We have been over-dependent on allocations coming from the centre and we have not been creative in our government levels, and at the same time, private initiatives have not thrived,” he said.
Adams, who is also the national coordinator, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and convener, Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), gave a hint on how his new position as Aare Ona Kakanfo, proclaimed by the Alaafin of Oyo on October 15, will impact on his leadership of the pro-Yoruba organisations he has been leading for many years.
“Being Aare Ona Kakanfo will energise me to foster unity in Yoruba land and to project the Yoruba culture more; it will assist me to defend the interests of Yoruba land better, and also to defend the interest of Nigeria in general on the basis of justice and equity,” he declared.
In the same breath, he dispelled the notion that he would be pursuing a narrow agenda of ethnic prerogatives. “My cause is not only about Yoruba; it is about justice in the whole world,” he avowed. “I do not support the Yoruba people doing wrong against other people, and vice versa. Every human being comes from God, therefore, anything I do will be on the basis of justice so I can enjoy the happiness and prosperity of God.” ( The Sun)
Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, has said the poverty rate in the North is alarming and added that it is just as alarming all over the country.
The monarch has also urged the political class not to clothe restructuring in religion and in ethnicity.
Emir Sanusi this at the 100th anniversary of Union Bank in Lagos, on Wednesday, where he also said there is a need to reduce the cost of governance.
He blamed the inability to pay salaries of workers on the amount spent on public servants.
Sanusi said restructuring, in the real sense, should be about but how to reduce the cost of governance.
“We are surprised that we are spending 80 to 90 percent of our revenue on public servants? That is the system we designed.
“We have a Constitution that says we must have a governor and a deputy governor, and a state House of Assembly in each of the 36 states.
“You have a president and a vice-president and a minister from every state; you have 109 senators, over 300 members of the House of Representatives.
“You have 774 local government chairmen and, in each local government, you have 10 chancellors and a speaker, a regime of special advisers and assistants and you are surprised that you cannot pay salaries?
“So, you want to have a discussion on restructuring? How do you reduce the cost of governance without amending this structure? Do we need 30, 40 legislators in every state? Do we need 100 legislators in Abuja? Must we have 36 ministers or more?
“This is a constitutional conversation. You don’t have education, public health. We have seen the numbers; infant mortality, maternal death by childbirth and yet, the states and local governments, which are supposed to provide education and healthcare do not have the naira share of government revenue.
“Let’s have that conversation.
“It can be an intelligent conversation. You don’t need to shout Biafra or Boko Haram. Let’s sit at a table and talk about what works for Nigeria. At the end of the day, devolution is not about ethnicity or devolution; devolution is all about bringing development to the grassroot.
“When we clothe this in gender, ethnicity or religion, we lose the opportunity to make progress and our constitutional rights.”
He recounted the story of a woman whose child died while waiting to see him, to ask for N3,000 for medicine. The monarch said the poverty rate in the North and the country, in general, is alarming.
“My one disclaimer to all politicians is that if I do not call you by name, I am not talking to you,” he said.
“A famous politician, who is unnamed, said a mark of the prosperity of this country was the number of private jets we had. It is the elite mindset.
“I came face to face for, maybe the first time in my life, what it means when we say X percent of Nigerians are living on less than one dollar; 75 percent of adolescent girls in the North West are married. In Lagos State, the poverty rate is 8.5 percent, in Zamfara, it is 91 percent, in Kano it is 77 percent, in Yobe, it is over 90 percent.
“Now, put human beings behind those numbers and ask yourself, how many of the 170 million Nigerians are living on less than one dollar per day? Where do they live and is there likely to be peace and stability in those areas in the nearest future?
“You ask if there can be prosperity without peace, I say to you; there is no peace without prosperity.
“Nigeria is a country with 170 to180 million people and the medium age is 19. In the next 20 years, you will have at least 85 million Nigerians within the ages of 20 and 40.
“That is the population of Germany; the third largest economy in the world.
“And, till we begin to think of economics, not in terms of inflation, Gross Domestic Product, reserves, but how many human beings are able to eat three square meals a day, how many young people have an education and how many people have a chance in life, we can never have peace.” (The Sun)
An All Progressives Congress, (APC) chieftain in Enugu State, Prince Mathew Agu, has expressed disappointment on the resolution of the Southern Governors Forum that met, in Lagos, on Monday.
Agu said rather than come out with solution to youths unemployment, increase in crime and other compelling national issues, the governors chose to talk about devolution of power which he described as least of our problems.
In a statement, in Enugu, on Thursday, Agu wondered if the governors lacked ideas or were ill-prepared for the offices they presently occupy.
He said that Nigeria was bedeviled with myriad of serious fundamental problems that the governors should have looked into and come out with answers to the problems but failed in the mission at Lagos.
His words: “I am disappointed with the high level selfishness among the governors because they talked about decolorisation of power without discussing the issues of local government autonomy. If you want to talk about devolution of power you do it holistically and just what you like and what is favourable to you.
“The level of corruption in governance of Nigeria has long attained the biblical merchandising with the people in the name governance, and I had expected that the governors of the southern regions should have been greatly disturbed by the scourge and aligned themselves with the efforts of the President and came up with resolutions aimed at strengthening the institutions of governance with a view to eradicating corruption in our polity to institutionalize a culture of leadership of selfless services to the people,” he said. (The Sun)
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Dr Paul Unongo, and the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum are not on the same page with Northern Elders Forum (NEF) chieftain, Professor Ango Abdullahi, on his position that Nigerians should “go our separate ways.”
The former vice chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, has also come under attack from the youth wing of Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which called his view “very, very unfortunate and unexpected from a man of his calibre.”
Abdullahi, speaking on Wednesday at a public debate in Kaduna had said the best option for the country was a return to 1914 or 1960 or what he called “let us go our separate ways.”
“If on the other hand we give credit to the British and our founding fathers (and they deserve credit), and we cannot contain restructuring based on what existed in 1914, we should go back to 1960 when the country operated regions. The north is not afraid of getting our north back,” he said at the forum “The North and the Future of Nigerian Federation”, organized by the Arewa Research and Development Project, in collaboration with Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation; the Northern Elders Forum; Arewa Consultative Forum; Code Group; Northern Delegates Forum; Arewa Reawakening; Jamiyar Matan Arewa and Forum for Northern Youths Organizations.
Asked yesterday to respond to Abdullahi’s view, the ACF Secretary-General Mr Anthony Sani said Abdullahi was on his own on.
He said: “Prof Ango Abdullahi has the right to air his view, but he is on his own on this matter of public importance.
“As far as we are concerned, the certain benefits of a big and united one Nigeria are more than the uncertain gains of a split.
“It is, therefore, defeatist to allow our temporary challenges to redefine our cherished common destiny and set our collective agenda.
“Nigerians must know that in the mechanism of community living, victory and defeat are never final. Our current challenges are not beyond redemption.”
Dr Unongo who heads the NEF of which Abdullahi is a prominent member said that the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria by Lord Frederick Lugard was not a mistake.
The Second Republic Minister of Steel Development said by phone that though he supports devolution of power to the states, he is totally against any move to break up Nigeria.
His words: “Professor Ango Abdullahi has spoken for himself and he has a right to do so. But, going our separate ways is not the best for this country.
“That we have challenges does not mean that we have not done well in so many other areas.
“Nigeria has done very well as a nation-state. The amalgamation of Nigeria by Lord Lugard is not a mistake because we have come this far as a united country. But, the agitation by the youths and other groups is that we ought to have done better, which the truth.
“Mind you, this situation is like the car we use.There are times we need to change worn-out nuts and others like that. So, the most sensible way of addressing this situation is to address our challenges as a nation.
“So, we should not split this country. Yes, I support devolution of certain power to the states. Let them be given power and resources to develop the states and same to the local governments.
“What I will not support is allowing state police. States should not be allowed to form their own army because states will go to war against each other.”
The national president of the AYCF, Comrade Shettimma Yerima, said the disintegration of the country would do no good to Nigerians and would amount to suicide.
He said: “We respect Professor Ango Abdullahi and he might have his reasons for saying this.
“That is his own opinion and that how he sees it.
“ He saw yesterday but for us who are for today, we really don’t want to reflect on the past because it’s nothing to write home about. We are looking for how we can build a nation, how we can work together to make Nigeria stronger.
“I don’t agree with him that Nigeria should disintegrate. We have more to lose now if the country disintegrates.
“I am of the view that whatever the grudges are, we must know that all hope is not lost. The present generation (of Northerners) strongly believe that we can work together with our brothers from other parts of the country to build a nation where there will be no suspicion, where there will be equity and fairness to all.
“That is what we are looking up to. We are working towards building a nation where all of us will begin to see ourselves as Nigerians.
“This is why the Arewa youths, the Ohanaeze youths and others across the country and working together to make sure peace reigns and that we have a virile nation. Disintegration will amount to total suicide.”
The youth wing of Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, also does not share Abdullahi’s view.
In a chat with our correspondent, the President of the OYC, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said the statement by Abdullahi was unfortunate.
He said:”As a youth group, we have been working with the Arewa youths and other youth groups in the country to promote peace and cordial relationship among our people.
“Why should Professor Abdullahi now be making such statement that is capable of heating up the polity again and causing needless confusion. We stand for a united Nigeria where equity, fairness and justice shall reign.”
Niger Delta leaders who were also contacted insisted on a fair, just and equitable country as opposed to the break-up canvassed by Prof Abdullahi.
The National Coordinator, Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress (PNDPC), Chief Mike Loyibo, said though the Southsouth was not afraid of a breakup, the people had unanimously agreed that Nigeria would be better as one entity.
He said the zone would continue to advocate a restructured Nigeria where states would be allowed to control their resources and pay a certain amount of taxes to the Federal Government.
He said they were tired of the current lopsided arrangement where the region which feeds the country, remained marginalized in key security and oil and gas positions.
He said: “Our problem is that of injustice. The constitution itself is defective and we have been long marginalized.
“What we are simply saying is give us true federalism where all the regions are allowed to develop at their own pace. Allow us to control and manage our resources and we pay certain taxes to the government.
“Nobody is afraid of a breakup, after all, Nigeria is a forced marriage.
“ Our position as Niger Delta leaders is that there should be restructuring. We want a structure that will address the injustice we have.
“ I don’t support breakup but I support one Nigeria where there will be justice, equity and every side will be allowed to develop at their own pace.
“ Ango Abdullahi is entitled to his opinion. The other day he said it was not resource control but resource management”
Also speaking, a former President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Mr Udens Eradiri, said Nigeria would be stronger as a united country.
He said the country urgently needed restructuring to ensure equity and justice adding that devolution of power will enable states to develop at their pace.
He said: “I think Nigeria is stronger as one nation where equity and justice will prevail. It is not difficult to get justice and equity. It is just that leadership is not serious.
“Somebody said something that the mineral resources offshore should belong to the Federal Government while the ones onshore should belong to the state. That could also be the starting point. But the important point is that equity and justice demand that the state must get what belongs to it.
“In any case, Nigeria is failing. States can no longer pay salaries. The federal government is taking 87 percent of the resources after giving 13 percent to states, but cannot sustain infrastructures. Roads are nothing to write home about even in APC states.
“It is not about supporting an administration, it is a system that has failed and that cannot be sustained. It is only common sense that when you are doing something for many years and it is not working, you ought to do it differently.
“ The most important part is that there is a failure of leadership. If we have had clear-headed leadership, we won’t be where we are today.
“Even when we will be restructuring and devolving power, the people must take control of the electoral process. That is the only way you can guarantee responsible leadership. As we are today, it is not working.” (The Nation)
Chief Olu Falae, the former minister of finance and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF) has cautioned that Nigeria must be restructured before the next general elections in 2019.The octogenarian who was also the joint presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, AD and the All Peoples Party, APP in the 1999 presidential election believes that for the country to move forward, she must go back to the 1963 constitution. He made the remarks and more in this interview with WILLY EYA.
Recently, Nigeria celebrated 57 years of independence amid discordant voices on the vexed issue of restructuring and you are one of the Yoruba leaders who recently converged on Ibadan to take a position on the issue. Do you think all these efforts would eventually lead to restructuring?
You know I am a leader in the South West and at the National convention, I was elected as the leader of the Yoruba delegation. So, I am central to the Yoruba position. The Yoruba position is my position and it is the same position I canvassed in my book, ‘The way forward for Nigeria’ which I launched since 2005 in Lagos. What we mean by restructuring is going back to the Independence Constitution which our leaders negotiated with the British between 1957 and 1959. It was on that basis that the three regions agreed to go to Independence as one united country. So, it was a negotiated constitution. This is because, if the three regions were not able to agree, there would not have been one united independent Nigeria. But because the three regions at that time negotiated and agreed to package a constitution, that is why they agreed to go to Independence together. When the military came in 1966 and threw away the constitution, they threw away the negotiated agreement among the three regions, which was the foundation of a united Nigeria.
So, the military did not only throw away the constitution but a political consensus negotiated and agreed by our leaders of the three regions in those days. When we say restructuring now, we are saying let us go back substantially to that constitution which gave considerable autonomy to the regions. For example, each region at that time collected its revenue and contributed the agreed proportion to the centre. But when the military came, they turned it around and took everything to the centre. That could not have been accepted by Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe or Obafemi Awolowo.
This constitution we are using was made by late Gen Sani Abacha and the military, and Abacha came from only one part of Nigeria, so he wrote a constitution that favoured his own part of Nigeria. That is why I am saying, let us restructure and go back to what all of us agreed before. That is the meaning of restructuring. The regions used to be federating units, but in today’s Nigeria, they would now be called federal regions because states have been created in the regions. So in the West, you now have a federation of Yoruba states which would belong to the Nigerian union at the centre. So, it is not like the region of old with all the powers. No. It is now going to be a coordinator of the states in the zone. That is what we mean by restructuring. And the regions would have a considerable autonomy as they used to have. For example, for the younger people, they may not know that every region then had its own constitution.
There were four constitutions at independence –the Federal constitution, Western constitution, Eastern constitution and Northern constitution. That was how independent they were and every region had an ambassador in London. The ambassadors for the regions were called Agent General so that you do not confuse them with that of Nigeria then called High Commissioner. So, Nigeria had four ambassadors in London. The ambassador for Nigeria then called a High Commissioner was M.T Mbu. The ambassador for Eastern Nigeria then was Mr Jonah Chinyere Achara, Western Nigeria was Mr Omolodun and for Northern Nigeria, it was Alhaji Abdulmalik. There were four of them. That was the kind of arrangement we agreed to, but the military threw it away and gave us this over-centralised unitary constitution. So, we said this is not acceptable any more; we must go back to the negotiated constitution which gave considerable autonomy to the regions, so that they can compete in a healthy manner. For example, Chief Obafemi Awolowo wanted to introduce free education in the West and other regions said they could not afford it, but he went ahead to introduce it in the Western region. He said he wanted to pay a minimum of five shillings a day, while others were paying two and three shillings. He went ahead and passed the law, making five shillings the minimum wage in Western Nigeria.
There was no problem with that. In Western Nigeria, the constitution provided for a House of Assembly and the House of Chiefs. In Eastern Nigeria, there was no House of Chiefs because they did not think they needed one. There was no problem with that and that is the kind of Nigeria we negotiated in London, but that is different from what we have today. So, we are saying let us go back to that arrangement which all of us agreed at independence and not what Abacha imposed on us, which is very partial, unfair and one-sided. That is the meaning of restructuring; it is to restructure unfairness and give semi-autonomy to the federating units.
Why does the North seem reluctant to shift ground on this vexed issue of restructuring? Based on the arguments from various quarters so far, it appears the whole South and even the Middle Belt have reached a consensus on the need to restructure Nigeria as against the position of the core North which still believes that the status quo should remain.
The North has not spoken. But when you say the North, what do you mean? I ask this question because the Middle Belt which constitutes about nine or 10 states are on the same page with the South on restructuring. We had a meeting in Abuja last week and I was there where we agreed on restructuring. And the states represented there by their leaders, were about nine. They include Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Kogi, Adamawa, Taraba, Kwara, the southern part of Bauchi, southern part of Borno and southern Kaduna. So, when you say the North, you must define what you mean because nine states out of the 19 in the North are in support of restructuring. It is the North West alone which is now in the minority and which has not announced its position. It is meeting and setting up committees and also our meeting in Abuja last week also set up a committee to engage the North West on this matter. The idea is to fully persuade them to go back to what all of us agreed at independence.
To some people, going back to the 1963 constitution may not work considering that so many things have changed in Nigeria. For instance, 36 states have been created unlike the period in question when we had only regions and not states. Don’t you think there is merit in their argument?
But I have told you that when we go back to the 1963 constitution, the regional government of today would be a federal regional government because of the creation of states. That is not an issue. For instance, in the East, it would be a federal regional government of the East. It would be the same thing in the South West and other regions. Why should we not go back to that arrangement? That is what we agreed before. How do you expect us to accept the unfairness in this constitution which gave Lagos State only 20 local governments and gave old Kano State 77 local governments? Is that not injustice? That is unfair and nobody would accept that. No reasonable man can argue that the unfair unitary constitution that we have today should continue. But at the same time, those of us do not want Nigeria to break up. What we want is that all of us should remain in Nigeria, but it would be a more balanced Nigeria, where the ethnic groups are free to pursue their priorities. The South West in those days believed in free education and we had it.
Those who did not want it did not have free education. Chief Awolowo decided to have the Muslim Western Board to take care of the Western people going to Mecca. The other people did not have it. Fine! We decided to have a House of Chiefs and the East did not want to have one and there was no problem. That is what we need. Nobody should be forced to behave like another person. Uniformity does not mean unity. This is because we are different people with different objectives, cultures and values.
A heterogeneous society cannot operate a unitary government. Look at Britain that is our former colonial power, they are of the same race, colour, religion, language and culture and yet today, you have four governments in Britain. They include the parliament in Scotland, the Assembly in Cardiff, the Parliament in Northern Ireland and the Westminster defacto federal government. So Britain itself has gone into a federation although they are homogeneous. Here we have about 600 different ethnic groups, not the same culture, not the same language and you want to treat us as a homogeneous country and a unitary government. It is not possible. It does not make sense.
The question by a school of thought in the North is: why is the call for restructuring more vehement now that President Muhammadu Buhari who is of the Northern extraction is superintending over Nigeria.? Their argument is, why did the South not champion the call for restructuring when former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, both of the Southern region were in office?
Before Obasanjo was in power, in 1991 and 1992, we launched the request for restructuring. I remember the Press Conference addressed by Chief Anthony Enahoro. Former President Obasanjo was not near power in 1991. My book, The way forward for Nigeria’ was launched in 2005 and a whole chapter is on restructuring. They are only trying to tell lies and confuse issues but ask them, is it not true that we have an independent constitution and that their leader agreed to it and signed it. Are they more Northerner than the Sauduana of Sokoto, or are they wiser than him? So, they should not ask that sort of question and in any case, ask them why do they think I, a Yoruba man should agree to old Kano’s 77 local governments and Lagos State only 20 states. It is because they share revenue every month and they share it equally to the local governments. Kano has 77 and Lagos has only 20, why do you think we should accept that cheating? Who would tell me that kind of nonsense? Why don’t they believe in equity and fairness?
The money is coming from here. In any case, it should be clear that if Britain cannot run a unitary government, Britain with the same culture, language, religion and everything, and they now have four governments and they are asking for independence now, if they are asking for independence in a homogeneous country like Britain, why do they think that they can sustain a quasi-unitary constitution imposed on us by a Northern military officer called Gen Sani Abacha? You have more questions to ask them than they have to ask you. I just want to conclude that restructuring is inevitable.
With the tension in the country now arising from all manner of agitations and particularly the crescendo for restructuring, what do you expect on the road to the next general election in 2019?
Look, who is talking of 2019? We are talking about restructuring now and you are talking of 2019. Most people are not interested in an election if it is going to take place within this un-restructured Nigeria. The election would produce the same injustice and uncertainty. We must restructure before 2019. (The Sun)
•Says Yoruba, Igbo have no reason to complain of marginalisation
Alhaji Lawal Kaita, former governor of Old Kaduna State whose tenure lasted just three months between October and December 1983 is one politician who does not sit on the fence on national issues. Having been around in politics for a long time, there is no gainsaying that he is one of the most respected voices in the Northern part of the country. Though a core believer in the unity of Nigeria, he does not pretend in defending the interest of the North. In 2011, for instance, when former President Goodluck Jonathan was warming up for the presidential election, the vocal politician who was then a prominent member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had cautioned that: “Anything short of a Northern President is tantamount to stealing our presidency. Jonathan has to go and he will go. Even if he uses his incumbency power to get his nomination on the platform of the PDP, he will be frustrated out…the North should not be blamed for the calamity that would befall Nigeria if Jonathan emerged as President.”
Currently, the elder statesman disagrees with the position of the Southern part of the country that Nigeria should be restructured. Among other issues in this interview with WILLY EYA, he was emphatic that Nigeria does not need any restructuring.
Nigeria recently clocked 57 years since her independence in 1960. As an elder statesman who has witnessed Nigeria literally grow from childhood to adulthood, if you sit down and reflect, what comes to your mind?
In the 57 years of her existence, Nigeria has progressed tremendously. We have improved and developed and we are among the leading nations in the world.
Accepted that Nigeria has recorded improvements in several areas, but are you not also worried about the level of challenges it has faced and it is still facing now?
The worst and troubling challenge that we have faced so far since independence was the Nigerian- Biafran civil war, which we fought with our blood and we crushed it. We are now 57 and we are facing a smaller challenge from the same people, the Igbo again. We have faced so many apparent changes of governments through coup d’états and we have survived all of them.
How do you feel that after 50 years of the civil war that agitations are still coming from the same people? Don’t you think that maybe the Nigerian state has not adequately addressed the problem which the Igbo have been agitating for?
I can say that a small minority within the Igbo feels marginalized in their own expectations of Nigeria. But we the majority of Nigerians do not think that the Igbo are marginalized. They are everywhere and are doing well in commerce, business and so on. They have no reason whatsoever to agitate; they are agitating for what?
What is dominating public discourse today is the issue of restructuring even though there is no consensus on whether the nation actually needs it at this point in time. There does not seem to be an agreement between the Southern part of the country and the North on this matter. What is your perspective of the argument?
My own position is that Nigeria does not need any restructuring. I do not think Nigeria needs any restructuring.
But having existed for 57 years, don’t you think it is high time the structure of the country is amended to suit the realities of the time considering that after all, the only thing permanent in life is change.
Tinkering with the constitution is not restructuring. It may be part of it, but you do not have to restructure Nigeria. And I ask you what is restructuring. If you say restructuring, what do you mean?
In Nigeria today, restructuring means different things to different people. To some, it is true federalism in terms of resource control. To others like the position of the South West, it is a return to full regionalism. The East is also calling for true federalism and so on. But the agreement in all of these perspectives is that something needs to be done to the present structure. Don’t you think so?
I was part of the constitutional conference where we advocated for the presidential system and we voted against the parliamentary system.
But don’t you think that Nigeria should be doing better than she is doing now?
That is another angle to the question and I am not prepared to discuss that.
Do you agree with those who insist that the North is reluctant to support the call for restructuring because they are benefitting from the existing structure?
No, how can I agree with that? What other benefits does the North get from the present structure that others are not getting? As far as I am concerned, the North is not benefitting anything. What is the North gaining?
A typical example is the skewed number of local governments in favour of the North where the old Kano State, which includes the present Kano and Jigawa has 77 local governments, whereas Lagos State with its population has only 20. Considering that the federal allocations are shared among the three tiers of government, don’t you agree that this structure unduly favours the North?
I was a governor of Kaduna State for three months and I created new local governments out of the existing 17 or so then. Why did the governor of Lagos not create more to the number he wants?
Even though Lagos created new local governments, they are not recognized by the constitution and so do not get any allocation from the Federal Government.
Why don’t they receive an allocation and why are they not recognized by the constitution? The highest revenue earner is the federal government, Lagos and those states that produce the oil. They are the highest revenue earner. The North does not get much in terms of revenue allocation.
Your tenure as the civilian governor of Kaduna State was short-lived and just for three months following the coup by the then military government under President Muhammadu Buhari. What do you think was the effect of that coup to our democracy today?
Without the truncation of that republic, Nigeria would have been much better. If democracy was allowed to flourish from that time till now, Nigeria would have been better than it is now. Nigeria would not have been where it is today. I was a governor, but they removed us for nothing.
There is this argument, which comes up once in a while that the era of one United North is over. The validity of the argument finds expression in the ongoing debate for restructuring where the Middle Belt is aligning more with the South than with the core North. Will the North ever regain its unity like it used to be in the past?
The North cannot be as united as it used to be but the division is not as much as people talk about it. We in the North still understand one another very well.
Do you agree with the perception that the power elite in the North is too selfish considering the level of poverty in the region despite having dominated the nation’s leadership since independence?
I cannot say that and I do not believe what you are saying.
How do you compare the calibre of politicians of old and the ones we have today in terms of commitment to the public interest?
When you talk of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, they are much superior to the class of politicians we have today. Honestly, they are much better than us. You cannot compare Ahmadu Bello who ruled the whole North with the politicians of today. He died without anything. He had no money. (The Sun)
ABUJA — Amid agitation by leaders of the South East for the creation of an additional state in the zone, Kaduna State governor and chairman of ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Committee on True Federalism, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, has declared that it would be a grave injustice to agitate for “equal by unequals”.
According to him, even in population and resources, the regions of the country are not uniformly endowed.
He, however, said though the representatives of the agitators were few in number, “the majority must always win.”
Speaking at a town hall meeting organised by his committee to get inputs from youths, the governor said when people talk about restructuring, most proponents think of their zones while no one thinks of the country.
He said: “The greatest injustice is trying to make equals unequal and unequal equal; things are not done like that. What do I mean by that? There are those who have said that Nigeria and United States are the same.
“It is just like saying everyone who is six feet, five can play basketball. As human beings, we are equal but you cannot come and stand here and say we should create nine states in each zone, Nigeria is not equal, likewise the population and resources, you can’t do that.
“The representatives of the agitators are few in number and so the majority must always win. The president of the country exists, the Senate exists and there are 36 states of the federation.
‘’We the old ones are still here, some of us are good, some are bad, like the youths but you must learn to live with us because we are still here.
“Now, some people say because we have oil, let us have resource control. We must think of what is in the overall interest of Nigeria.
‘’By that, I mean what works for everyone. Because what works for one part of the county will not necessarily work for the other and so as long as we are from one country, we must seek for what is of the common good, not the one that serves one interest group.
Former Special Adviser on Politics to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and convener of Arewa Research and Development Project, Dr Usman Bugaje, has said that the North would soon take a stand on restructuring based on research and consensus rather than on emotion and selfish interest.
Bugaje, in a statement issued, on Sunday, further noted that it was time for the North, as a bloc, to rise above the seeming confusion occasioned by the contentious nature the debate over restructuring had assumed in recent times, and present a “more rational position,” on the issue.
According to Bugaje, “In the last one year, or so, ‘Restructuring’ and ‘True Federalism’ have dominated political discourse in Nigeria. Unfortunately, when you listen to the speeches and read the articles on these issues, you will find out that there are as many comprehensions of these terms as there are people speaking or writing. Besides, most of the discussions seem to ignore the history of the evolution of our federalism and this failure has actually helped to rob the whole exercise of its propriety, accuracy and clarity.”
He further said though citizens were at liberty to canvass for restructuring, their use of vague terms and imprecise arguments had not only resulted in communication breakdown but have helped to spread confusion and generate unnecessary tension in the polity.
To this end, Bugaje said the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), would hold a two-day conference in Kaduna, this Wednesday, to help bring clarity, accuracy and coherence into the debate as well as provide a sound basis upon which the north would anchor its position on restructuring.
He said the planning committee of the conference drew heavily from Northern academic institutions and Northern organizations like the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation, Code Group, Northern Delegates Forum, Northern Re-awakening, JamiyyarMatanArewa and Arewa Initiative for Good Governance, among others.
“This conference seeks to blend academic presentations with realpolitik,” he said, adding that “while academics and experts will lead with papers, a panel of practitioners will discuss the issues extensively. The audience will also be given a chance to raise issues and make their inputs into the discussions.
“Some of the key papers will be on the historicity of the Nigerian federation; an examination of the constitutional developments in pre- and post-colonial Nigeria; and the dangers of war, the dynamics of peace. Others will look at the principles of fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; the land question and the development agenda of the North. In the afternoon of both two days a panel of experts will focus on these presentations and bring the practical dimensions to the fore while the audience gets a chance to make their inputs,” Bugaje said. (The Sun)
When the Union flag was lowered and the Nigerian flag raised 57 years ago there was a sense of euphoria. Many former colonies had to fight a war of independence in which many lives were lost but we were spared that trauma. So it would be fair to say that Nigeria got its independence on a platter of gold. But that gift was thrown away six years later. The war we didn’t have before independence we had it after the Biafran war.
That war which lasted for 30 months and cost one million lives still haunts us today like an inscrutable mystery. At the end of that war, General Yakubu Gowon had on Biafra’s surrender announced that there was “no victor and no vanquished.” He also established a three-pronged programme of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction, as a way of bringing the war-weary Easterners from the cold into the comfort of the Nigerian family again. The rebel leader, Emeka Odumgwu-Ojukwu, who had fled to the Ivory Coast remained in exile for 12 years. When President Shehu Shagari pardoned him he was allowed to return to the country without any pre-conditions. That gesture represented the final nail in the coffin of secession.
The Igbos who were the major victims of the war or of its cause in the first place have never felt convinced that they have been fully reabsorbed and their rights as full-fledged citizens of Nigeria fully restored. This argument has gone on for years and many Nigerians on the opposite side of the war are convinced that the Igbos having fought and lost a war could not expect to be treated as if they had won the war. War is a serious business that often comes with serious and dangerous consequences. In the political arena, the Igbos have produced a vice president, several Senate presidents, a Central Bank governor and a number of ministers that took charge of important portfolios. In the security sector, two Igbos had become the Inspector General of Police, while another Igbo man had occupied the strategic position of Chief of Army Staff. But many Igbos have argued that they have been denied the top trophy: the Presidency.
The Presidency is the top job in the land and many people from various parts of the country covet it. No one is likely to wrap it like a parcel with a ribbon around it and donate it to the Igbos. If they want it they must work for it by networking with other groups and doing the necessary horse-trading. However, I believe that their flirtation with secession through MASSOB and IPOB is clearly the wrong way to go. If the thesis is that an attempt, even a half-hearted attempt, at secession will induce the political decision-makers to donate the presidency to the Igbos it is a fraudulent thesis. In fact, on the contrary, the agitation for secession will rather damage almost irreparably the case for an Igbo presidency. My advice to the Igbos is for them to begin to mend fences now instead of allowing Nnamdi Kanu and his gang to put a fly in the Igbo ointment.
The two major parties, APC and PDP have allocated the presidency to the North. If the Igbos choose to contest for the presidency in the PDP they will have to wait until 2027. But if they want to run in the APC they have to pray that President Muhammadu Buhari runs again in 2019 and successfully brings his second term to an end in 2023. If someone else from the North runs in 2019 he will go for two fresh terms which will terminate in 2027. But the Igbos can choose any of the minor parties as a platform but the chances for success on such party platforms are extremely slim. The starting point is to rein in Nnamdi Kanu and his gang and begin to build trust as they network with other political and ethnic groups in the country.
At present, Nigeria is in a state of confusion arising from agitations from different groups in the country. Old questions about the Nigerian condition have arisen and these questions are begging for new answers. The reason for the search for new answers is that the old answers have not been adequate in laying to rest the ghosts of these questions. Ours is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. In such a heterogeneous polity with several nationalities each with their own set of values and expectations, there will always be differences of opinion. The problem is often how to find many points of convergence and reduce the many areas of divergence so that all groups can find comfortable accommodation within the polity. As of now, no group is certain that it has found its comfort zone. That is why we have several discordant tunes.
It is most unlikely that we can all agree all the time on all the issues that confront us and affect our lives. But we must understand where we all stand and where we all want to go. We must search for shared beliefs, shared expectations, shared goals and common grounds. We moved from centrifugalism instalmentally in the 60s into the extreme centripetalism that the military bestowed on us. This has brought a political gridlock that manifests itself in unpaid bills, new foreign and domestic debts, unsettled staff salaries and pension benefits, spiralling inflation, corruption, unemployment, a crisis of rising expectations and high crime and many other dysfunctionalities. These have combined to put pressure on the country’s unity and sense of oneness. This has also made the search for a new direction urgent, very, very urgent.
A lot of things are wrong with our country and these are problems that have been with us for many years. A time like this offers us an opportunity for introspection. The World Bank says that about 67 percent of Nigerians go to bed every day on an empty stomach. That is a dangerous situation because a hungry person can become an angry person. Besides, there is a long unemployment and underemployment queue whose estimate is more than 25 percent. That means that we all are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. The worst aspect of the problem is that the opportunities are shrinking further as factories close shop or trim their operations and show some of their staff the exit door. We have been told that the economy has made its exit out of recession but we need to stimulate it for optimal growth so that we can begin to experience some worthwhile improvements in no distant date.
Every year we go through the ritual of drawing up, presenting and defending the national budget. Most of the time these budgets are passed in the middle of the year. This means that there is often not much time for implementation before the year draws to a close. Then the ritual starts again without any information to the public on how much of the previous year’s budget was actually implemented. This year’s budget had experienced some hiccups which led to its late passage. Even when it was passed with all the padding that was done by the legislators no one was truly sure what was eventually approved by the executive. Isn’t there a way of reducing these uncertainties and the acrimony that reduce budgeting to the science of voodooism?
How can we make our governments work better so as to reduce the level of poverty, disease, ignorance, corruption, terrorism, cultism, infrastructural decay etc when the bulk of our budget, about 80 percent, goes into recurrent expenditure? With only 20 percent left for capital projects, how much can we achieve to turn around a country with decaying infrastructural facilities? Pretty little. So it is clear that as a nation we are living above our means; we are piling up debts, foreign and domestic again, we are mortgaging our future and the future of our children. Our governments and parliaments are engaged in conspicuous consumption not minding the dire state of the economy and the poor state of its people. No one expected that at 57 Nigeria’s economy would be in the bind in which it is now considering our massive mineral and manpower resources. But it appears the presence of such solid and liquid mineral resources has unbelievably become a harbinger of doom, a disincentive to hard work and creativity, a curse from which we have made very little effort to exit.
The little piece of good news is that there have been some encouraging happenings in the agricultural sector. If we do not take our eyes off the ball in that sector we may be self-sufficient in food production before 2019. That would be a good legacy for the Buhari administration and an indication that oil or no oil we can survive. And thrive.
Buhari is President at a momentous time in the annals of our country, a time during which the very existence of the country as a unit is being challenged once again. The nation expects him to be a great bridge-builder and unifier and one with a vision of a greater Nigeria. That vision demands that he rises above the din of ethnic and geographical irredentists and comes up with a life-changing transformation agenda for Nigeria. That demands courage and the right dose of political will. The next two years will reveal whether he has them or not.