Only restructuring can save Nigeria — Adebanjo, Nwodo, Akinrinade, Maku, Ann-Kio Briggs, others
Eminent Nigerians from different walks of life, including representatives of Afenifere and Ohanaeze in Lagos, yesterday, called for restructuring of the country before the 2019 general elections.
The gathering at a colloquium sponsored by one of the country’s leading social groups, Island Club, affirmed that restructuring remains the only panacea to the nationality problem facing the country.
Among those at the gathering, yesterday, were former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd); Afenifere Chieftains, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Yinka Odumakin; immediate past governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko; former Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku; former deputy governor of Ebonyi State, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, who represented President-General of Ohaneze, Dr. John Nwodo; Niger Delta activist, Ann-Kio Briggs; and notable historian and writer, Prof. Adebanji Akintoye, who was lead discussant.
They spoke at a colloquium hosted by Island Club which had the theme: “Restructuring: Challenges, implications and the Way forward.”
They spoke in response to the lead paper presented by Prof. Akintoye. Presenting his paper yesterday, Akintoye said: “Virtually my audience today are highly respected citizens of our country, and have probably said or written some things about the reason the Nigerian federation, as it is today, needs to be restructured urgently. Nigeria, a country of many nations —Akintoye “Our country is not one nation. It is a country of very many nations, some of which rank among the largest in the world.
The accumulated wisdom of the human race has established that a country that is made up in this way, the best structure is a federation and not the unitary system that it has tacitly operated.
“Another reason we need to restructure the Nigerian federation is what we may call the need for productivity. Productivity demands that in a healthy federation, each federating unit shall control its God-given resources for the good of the people.
“We have allowed over-centralization to do almost irreversible damage to the country. But there are enough citizens, who will not give up and more people are showing their hands. In this growing heat, control of everything by a federal authority is beginning to look unreasonable to more Nigerians.
“The economic realities are thus wading into the struggle; it needs to be recognised by Nigerians that the situation is now seriously desperate and that there is not much time left for Nigeria to mend its ways, revive its productivity, calm its disenchanted youths and go on to resume the journey to prosperity,” the notable historian said.
“Restructuring has become inescapable among Nigerians. The struggle for a rational federal structure has been a major concern since we were young men and women,” he said, affirming that Nigeria needs to restructure due to the “harsh affects of the federal structure of Nigeria.” Responding to criticisms that restructuring is a confused and confusing idea, he said: “Their strategy is clever but not clever enough. We want a federalism that is widely acceptable. We have to embrace restructuring for the sake of the masses.
“Best structure is federalism whereby each region should be a federal unit which would control and develop its own resources for the good of its people thereby, spreading wealth to its people. This is the only solution to our nationality problem.
“The structure we operated in 1963 supported productivity. Each region had its constitution and controlled its resources.”
He said the Federal Government had become inefficient and corrupt from the revenue of oil in the Niger Delta, noting further that the abandonment of export products that was helping Nigeria has become a problem.
He said: “The youths in the South East, Niger Delta, and South West are telling us that they do not want to be part of Nigeria anymore. It is under this that the cry for restructuring is growing louder.”
Following his presentation, Mimiko said: “Restructuring is not about the North against the South. Restructuring is decentralizing power to make way for distribution and consuming arrangement so that every federating unit can increase its fiscal resources for development.” He noted that any country that cannot protect or boast of security for its citizens and property is not worth to be called a country.
“We need to have state and local police to protect the lives of citizens and property. Let the states control their resources. We must restructure.”
On his part, Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo advocated a restructuring that would allow each region of the country to have a distinct Constitution to reflect the autonomy and differences among the regional units.
He said: “Nigeria is running a unitary system of government; you cannot run Nigeria as a military system of government considering the ethnic groups. We have passed that stage. “Don’t let anybody tell you lies, the word restructuring is not a strange or new word. All we are fighting for today dated back to 1954.”
Noting the role of the military in dismantling the autonomy of the various regions, he said: “It was the military that de-structured Nigeria. Awolowo fought to have an arrangement that ensured a true federal system; he never went to the Federal Government to ask for subsidy. Each region had its constitution. Western Region had its Agent-General in Britain. Regions built their own universities. Obasanjo federalised the universities,” he said.
“Nigeria is running a unitary system of government; you cannot run Nigeria as a unitary system of government considering the ethnic groups. We have passed that stage.
“Let us restructure now, without it, there would be no Nigeria. It must be now, not in 2019,” he added.
In his remarks, Mr. Maku said: “Nigeria is in need of restructuring. Nigeria offers Africa and Africans a great hope if we can reform the structure and its internal powers. The majority of us believe that restructuring will make Nigeria a great country. These kinds of debates are needed to ensure that restructuring works.
A Niger Delta activist, Ann-Kio Briggs, described Nigeria as a fast-moving train without brake, saying restructuring is the only thing that would allow for controlled development of the country.
She said: “We are still going on that train handed over to us by the British and we will soon crash. In order not to crash, we need to restructure. All regions must come together and agree on restructuring and everybody must say what restructuring means to them, and we must agree on restructuring before 2019 election.”
“There are 419 local government areas in the North and 365 local governments in the South and they are getting more than the people producing oil in the country. Niger Delta is producing more and getting less.
“We must have a new Constitution, or we can use the 1963 constitution and work on it. We can have a new Constitution that will take care of these injustices like the issue of Fulani herdsmen and religion.
“We must have political and economic restructuring. If we cannot restructure, we will call the regions together to call for a referendum,” she said.
In his contribution, former Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Prof. Ogbu, who represented the Ohaneze President-General, Dr. Nwodo said that “the best form of government for a country like ours is a federation.”
He said restructuring could be done by amending the 1999 constitution or by creating a new constitution, noting that restructuring does not mean disintegration of Nigeria but making Nigeria a federation.
“Restructuring is changing the unitary system of government that the military handed to us to a federal system of government to ensure security.” Gen. Akinrinade, while commending Island Club for organising the colloquium, said he would refrain from speaking on restructuring, nevertheless, condemned the quit notice issued by Northern youths to the Igbo and the one issued by Niger Delta youths to northerners to exit the Niger Delta. “Things are getting ominously dangerous for the country,” the retired general said.