The controversy over the restructuring of Nigeria has continued with Afenifere, the Yoruba socio- political group, asking northern leaders opposed to restructuring not to hold the country hostage.
The group’s position came on the heels of the support for restructuring from former military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, who said, last week, that the Nigerian federation, as currently structured, needs reform that will emphasise the individual strength and advantages of the component units so that governments can really work to improve the lives of Nigerians..
Before then, former VP Atiku Abubakar, also a northerner, had also expressed his support for restructuring.
Among northerners opposed to restructuring, Governor Nasir el-Rufai, on Thursday, described those advocating for the idea as opportunists.
Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo spoke on a day the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie – Oyegun said he did not know what the proponents of restructuring mean, saying they should not armtwist him to use a confusing terminology which means different things to Nigerians.
Afenifere, while welcoming Babangida and Atiku’s intervention on the restructuring debate, yesterday, urged northern leaders still opposed the idea to take a cue.
It noted that the fact that Babangida and Atiku had spoken in favour of the idea means that not all northern leaders are against restructuring.
The National Publicity Secretary of the group, Mr Yinka Odumakin, told Sunday Vanguard, “We welcome their intervention, IBB, especially. We remember Babangida was opposed to restructuring in 1999 when we held a national conference with the late Mr. Alao Aka-Bashorun,we were flogged out of the place. For him now to come to reality to say we have to restructure, and to have spoken those words, and to break it down the way he has done, shows that he has realized the mistakes of those years and that it is the right thing to do. We welcome him, he is a critical voice and he has added value to it.
“For Atiku Abubakar, he has been consistent on restructuring over the years, right from when he was in office. We have noted his intervention for over ten years. He has added value to the debate, he has removed the notion that not everybody in the North is against restructuring.
“So, the two of them have added value to the debate. They have shown clearly that those of us, who have been talking about restructuring, know what we are saying and they have confirmed our position that it is the right thing to do.
“We know that those who oppose restructuring are doing so for their selfish interest cannot see the larger picture and do not care about the future of this country. But those who can see that this country is in danger, and that we have moved to edge of the precipice and we need to arrest the drift, are the critical voices from the North who are speaking loudly for restructuring now. We welcome their intervention and see them are co-citizens who want to save this country from disintegration.”
On those still opposed to restructuring, he added: “They should join the train for us to rescue this country. Everybody can see that there are danger signals. Nigeria is gradually becoming a failed state.. We just have to restructure to bring about inclusiveness to governance. This will bring about an era of prosperity all over Nigeria because that is the most important aspect of restructuring. The idea of restructuring is to move from us from scarcity to abundance, it is scarcity that is causing all the fighting in the land.”
On its part, Ohanaeze Nidigbo, the dominant Igbo socio-political group, is believed to align with the Afenifere’s position that the North cannot continue to block the agitation to restructure Nigeria if it was to move forward.
Although the President General of the group, Dr Nnia Nwodo, could not be reached, a source close to the group cited a former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd), as conveying the message to Afenifere and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo is in support of what other Nigerians are saying. We cannot be different. Ohanaeze is thinking along the same line; that Nigeria must be restructured. We are on the same page with them”, the spokesman for Ohanaeze Ndigbo, who preferred anonymity said, yesterday.
Late into the night, Igbo leaders, comprising state governors and legislators, were in a closed-door meeting in Enugu to hold further talks on the state of the nation.
I don’t know what they mean by restructuring — Odigie-Oyegun
The APC National Chairman, Odigie-Oyegun, last night, said he did not know what the proponents of restructuring meant and they should not arm-twist him to use a confusing terminology, which meant different things to Nigerians.
Odigie-Oyegun, who insisted that his party stood for true federalism, told Sunday Vanguard that some persons mischievously misrepresented what he said, last Thursday.
Odigie-Oyegun spoke to Sunday Vanguard on phone; “I do not know what some people want to make out of my statement. Must I be forced to use the word they want me to use, which I do not want to use. I stand by what I said; the APC promised true federalism and I know what true federalism is.
“I did not want to use the word restructuring, which conveys different meanings to many Nigerians. Some will tell you that they want the country to be restructured into 10 federating units, some will say into six federating units, everything is confusing, I do not even know what they mean by restructuring”.
He went on: “Go and read our party manifesto and see what we said there, we did not promise restructuring, we did not address true federalism all this time because of the collapse of the economy, but we will soon get there.”
The APC leader blamed the controversy over his statement on lazy reporting by some journalists, saying that some media houses, however, captured his views accurately, while others sensationalized what he said.
On his part, Obong Victor Attah, a former governor of Akwa Ibom and Co-Chairman of PANDEF, who disclosed that he was attending a function at Calabar, Cross River State, said he had taken time to read the statement credited to Odigie-Oyegun and did not come out with the conclusion that he was against restructuring.
According to him, it was all semantics because from the assertions of the APC National Chairman, his party was not against true federalism, devolution of power and other essential ingredients of true federalism, which is the main plank of restructuring being demanded by Nigerians.
Social justice, cause of our predicament —Faseun
Also, yesterday, the founder of Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr Frederick Faseun, said the reason for the agitations from different sections of the country was become of the faulty structure of the country.
“That we have not institutionalised social justice is the cause of our predicament as a nation”, he said at an event organised by the United Niger Delta Forum (UNIDEF) in Lagos.
“ For those calling for the nation’s break-up. It’s too late for Nigeria to separate because we have been together for 100 years.”
“Majorly, it’s because report of the last Sovereign National Conference, held during former President Goodluck Jonathan administration was left unattended to, that we have agitations by various groups across the country. I bet to say the crisis of Nigeria will not cease until the issues raised by the National Conference including restructuring are addressed. “
We are on top of agitations — Al-Mustapha
Also speaking at the event, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late head of state, Gen.Sani Abacha, called for a platform where all Nigerians would be treated equally and realistically in a democratic setting that would support the future and younger generations.”
“ Any call that would separate Nigeria is unacceptable. I have been playing a leading role right from the onset, before it even got to this level. We have been criss-crossing the North and the South-East, and to all parties concerned, mediating for peace.
I was recently in Owerri to sign a peace accord with appropriate associations as well as in the North. We are on top of these agitations but my understanding of it all, is that people are investing in these problems to promote themselves. If Arewa youths had addressed IPOB as a group or the leader Nnamdi Kanu as an individual, it would have been a fair share, but addressing millions of Igbos that reside in the North is not acceptable by our Constitution. We have spoken to the Northern Leaders Forum as well as Ralph Nwazuruike because Nnamdi Kanu was the boy he brought him up to be in the Radio House in London.
“People that want to create tension in Nigeria are behind Kanu, so he became what he is today as a result of that. However, what he is conveying may not necessarily be his agenda but those investing in the tension to separate us as a nation. But our security agencies are doing a lot to track them and they have the initiative of what is going on. All I am after is creation of a platform that is sincere and caters for indigent Nigerians.”
UNIDEF leader, Comrade Ese Oghenevo Gabriel, told the gathering that Nnamdi Kanu and his fellow agitators may have their reasons for agitating for Biafra, saying however that his group believed in one and indivisible Nigeria. “All we are clamouring for is a system restructured to favour regional resource control where every region control its resources and reporting back to the centre”, he said.
Separately, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP and one of the contenders for the coming governorship election in November, said social restructuring of Nigeria is the solution to the agitations by some sections in the country.
“Whilst the arguments on restructuring range from geographical restructuring where groups seek secession and or statehood to economic restructuring where some seek resource control and more allocation to the center, I see a type of restructuring which our leaders are not discussing nor agitating for. It is the failure to provide this form of restructuring that has led to the increased agitation for self independence and civil strife that has attracted the militarization of our society today”, he said.
“From the NADECO, OPC, Niger-Delta, MASSOB, Boko Haram to Avengers and IPOB, one thing in common is that they all were fighting injustice, deprivation and perceived or outright marginalization. Our nation, Nigeria needs social restructuring where the average Nigerian has a sense of belonging, is hopeful rather than hopeless and basic needs are met by the state as well as protected by the law.
“When someone gets 50 of 200 of admission cut-off points,he or she is admitted while the other applicants who get between 180,170,190 and even above the cut-off points are not admitted. The same thing in job opportunities. You don’t need to meet the job criteria,once you know somebody, a stark illiterate would be given a job of a graduate.
As long as this kind of injustice continues, as long as we don’t place everything in the basis of merit but on where and who you know, the kind of religion you practice, there would continue to be this kind of agitations here and there.
“I am certain that the application of social restructure in everything we do and say will reduce greatly the tension as we presently see it. I am very confident that no constituent zone of this country can few years after its self independence be free of smaller units complaining of marginalization. With over 200 ethnic groups that live within 36 geographically prescribed states, there will always be those who will cry of marginalization as long as we continue to do things the way they are done today.
Nigeria needs to review this quota system in education as this is different from supporting educationally disadvantaged areas, and review our value system. Until these and others are done, we would continue to breed poor leadership in all spheres in this country and possibly a revolution”.
In a related development, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, criticised Kaduna State governor, el-Rufai, over his opposition to restructuring.
Onuesoke, who spoke in Kaduna, said while Nigerians are searching for political and economic solution to move the country forward by correcting the imbalance in the system, el-Rufai, among others, were dragging the country backward.
According to him, his opposition to restructuring of the country and the implementation of the Jonathan CONFAB report was evident that he is against the unity and progress of the country. He stated that El-Rufai should not claim to know better than Babangida, Atiku, Bisi Akande and Olusegun Obasanjo among other leaders who who have been clamouring for the restructuring of Nigeria and implementation of CONFAB report. Vanguard.