• Afenifere chieftains, Dickson, Ezeife, others meet
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria persisted Monday as leaders of thought from the Southern part of the country gathered in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, to review the state of the nation, warning President Muhammadu Buhari that he risks the breakup of the country with his opposition to the rebalancing of the federation.
The leaders who spoke on the topic: “Restructuring and the dawn of a new Nigeria,” at the 6th Anniversary of the administration of Governor Seriake Dickson, said the logic behind the incessant strife in the country demanded that a review of its current structure that was feeding conflicts and the underdevelopment of Nigeria, had become necessary.
On the discussion panel were Afenifere leaders, including Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd) and its spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin; a former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife; former Petroleum Minister and Amayenebo of Nembe, King Edmund Daukoru; former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Ambassador Godknows Igali; and a university don and activist, Prof Gordini Darah.
A leader of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) and Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), which recently renounced a quit notice to Igbo in the region, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, was also one of the discussants.
Akinrinade, who was the guest speaker, argued that despite the initial opposition to restructuring by some Nigerians, the clamour for it seemed to have reached a crescendo and must be hearkened to by the Buhari government.
He said: “A new era is usually preceded by a dark night of struggle and strife. It was the same with the struggle for restructuring and inclusive federalism. While the battle raged, no weapon known to humanity was considered too vulgar and lowly.
“Blackmail, violence, extortion, religious manipulation, economic sanctions and intellectual persuasion were freely deployed. But at the end of the day, when all weapons of intimidation and coercion seemed to have exhausted their capacity, calm, reason and rationality appeared to have prevailed.”
While wondering why former President Goodluck Jonathan did not commence the implementation of the 2014 National Conference, which recommended restructuring, he expressed anger with Buhari’s consignment of its report to the dustbin.
He said: “Four years ago as the battle for the restructuring of the nation raged unabated, President Goodluck Jonathan convoked a National Political Conference with the express mandate to look at the grave political issues facing Nigeria and to come up with acceptable solutions.
“Given the urgency of the situation, one would have thought that the convener would have acted with express resolve once the conference turned in its report. But for reasons best known to him, President Jonathan delayed and prevaricated until he was defeated in a landmark presidential election.”
He added: “In his own case, and as if government is a radical dis-continuum, General Muhammadu Buhari would have nothing to do with the Confab report. In fact it is on record that the former infantry officer went as far as to flatly assert that he would make sure that the report ended up in a permanent cooler – the archives. This was not just a case of benign indifference but active hostility.”
Akinrinade, however, warned that restructuring will also not lead to an ‘automatic El Dorado’ without fixing the current level of grinding poverty, feudal squalor, misery and state larceny.
Quoting Albert Einstein, he said: “Insanity is doing the same thing all over again and expecting a different result,” noting that had the country embraced devolution of power and the decentralization of the police, it might have been possible to avoid or minimize the fallout of the current spate of communal clashes, marauding ethnic militias, violent kidnapping, banditry, cyber-terrorism and religious insurgency.
He concluded: “President Buhari should go immediately for the clusters of consensus and low hanging fruits by initiating a Bill for the structural unbundling of an overburdened centre through the removal of several agreed items from the current Exclusive List and their devolution to the constituting states in a way and manner that does not enfeeble or endanger the manifest destiny of the nation.”
On his part, Ezeife described Nigeria as a failed state because the country had refused to rethink the terms of its existence.
He said: “They gave us change from frying pan to fire. Since this change came about, some jumped into the Atlantic Ocean in Lagos, some in other ways take their lives and others are travelling out.
“Nigeria has failed God, Nigeria has failed man and there can be no other way to remake Nigeria than restructuring Nigeria to work and for justice to prevail in the country. Some of you have seen what nature has done to Nigeria. I don’t think there’s a luckier nation than ours. Look at our weather.”
Dickson, who later spoke to newsmen on the sidelines of the event, reaffirmed his position that restructuring holds the key to preserving the unity, stability and economic prosperity of the country.
He maintained that those championing the restructuring crusade were the true patriots of an egalitarian, just and fair Nigeria and called on all well-meaning Nigerians to support the restructuring movement towards actualizing the Nigerian project.
“Those in support of restructuring and constitutional amendment to address the imbalances in our nation are indeed believers of the Nigerian project and not the other way round,” the governor said.