By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi and Romanus Ugwu, Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The United States of America has cheery news for Nigeria: the country is better together, amid calls by some secessionist groups.
The bearer of the unity message was United States of America Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, who said Nigerians who preach unity will overcome those calling for secession.
Symington said this at an event to celebrate America’s 241st anniversary, in Abuja, yesterday.
The US envoy said his country and Nigeria share many similarities and, most notably, diversity.
Symington recounted how the first American President, George Washington, warned that those who seek to weaken a country would always seek to start by causing disunity.
He said, just like America, Nigeria will remain a united country because of its determined people and leaders.
“Every time we have been challenged, we overcame danger because we had visionary leaders committed to union and citizens committed to ensuring justice for all.
“Today, Nigeria is fortunate to have such leaders and citizens. Together, they are dedicated to keeping Nigeria united and just ensuring that every Nigerian is heard and taken into account and treated fairly.
“Together, those Nigerians will overpower any call to divide this nation. Thanks to them, thanks to you, the lamp of unity and justice burns brightly both in our nations tonight. And the sight of a united Nigeria’s light lifts Africa and with it, the world.”
The US envoy said Nigeria’s diversity is an inspiration to many countries. He said that, just like the US, Nigeria’s plurality is a source of strength.
“Wherever I meet a Nigerian, I ask ‘What do you like the most about your country?’ I like our diversity, our resilience, our energy, our warmth, our spirit, our food’ is the response.
“Just like the United States, Nigeria is a wonderfully diverse nation whose differences and diversity are sources of strength and reason for pride.”
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, have rejected calls for the restructuring of the country.
National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, stated that the priority of the Federal Government is not restructuring, but “to fix the economy, restore hope to Nigerians and create jobs for the teaming youths”, while El-Rufai described those calling for restructuring as “opportunists and irresponsible.”
El-Rufai, who spoke on a television programme monitored in Lagos, yesterday, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has done far more in practical terms than past administrations. He said many of those calling for restructuring see it as opportunism.
The governor said some of the practical steps taken towards restructuring is the inclusion of state governors in economic policy-making at the national level.
He said things that had been hidden from state governments are now much more open as they are now more involved in investigations of finances of the Excess Crude Account, among other things.
“We meet every month under the auspice of the National Economic Council (NEC), and working together with the Federal Government, we chart directions of economic policy, and that is part of shifting the federal-state balance. A lot of the talk about restructuring is political opportunism and irresponsibility, in my opinion.
“People who have presidential aspirations think there is a platform upon which they will exploit this. As I said, if you look at the APC manifesto, all the elements to divulge power to the state to change the balance in the Federation are there, and we are committed to that as a party.
“The national chairman of our party will restate that commitment and we are discussing it and, as I said President Muhammadu Buhari and (Prof. Yemi) Osinbajo’s government has taken very concrete steps, rather than rhetorics, to actually move in that direction, and we are going to move in that direction. But, we do not believe the basis, for it is rhetoric and opportunism; we do not believe that the 2014 National Conference report is a sensible basis to even begin.
“We all know the circumstances under which the so-called Confab was put together, we all know the composition, how lopsided it was, how important stakeholders were not taken into account, how even the composition and numbers do not reflect the demographics and the diversity of this country, and we took a position, as a party, not to participate, but to encourage our state governors to be there at the table.”
Speaking in Abuja, Oyegun noted that although the party avoided the word ‘restructuring’ in its manifestoes, it promised devolution of power and true federalism.
He, however, declared that the party won’t renege on its manifesto. “A lot of people talk about restructuring without any commonality. We have stated clearly what we want to do; devolution, true federalism.
We really avoided the word restructuring because it means so many things to so many people. But, our priority for now, for today is to fix the economy and restore hope, provide jobs to the teeming millions of our youths all over the country. So, it is a matter of priority.”
Asked if the APC-led federal government will allow ‘Biafrans’ to secede, Oyegun said: “I think that is the most unlikely thing, I don’t think it will go that far.”
Meanwhile, former Information minister and chieftain of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Jerry Gana, has joined the call to restructure Nigeria.
He insisted that the solution for increased agitation by different ethnic groups lies with the implementation of the 2014 confab report.
Gana, who spoke at the public presentation of a book, “African Study Bible” in Abuja, yesterday, said government “cannot afford to turn deaf ears to the loud cry of Nigerians to the call for the restructuring of the Nigerian system.” (The Sun)