L-R: ARISE News Anchor, Charles Aniagolu; President General, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo; constitutional lawyer and member of the Northern think-tank group, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu

You are a newspaper man, Eniola Bello, tell us what this mean from your perspective?

Eniola Bello: Essentially, it is just one of those words that our elites invent when they want to create problems for the country. I will rather see it as a pot because whoever you ask, it differs from one person to another; so, let’s have a pot and have different things in that pot. When you talk about state police, should there be state police? Should we have fiscal federalism or not? Is the centre too powerful or not? Should states or the regions have their purse increased or not? Should resources for example be owned by the states or the centre? Those are the issues that come up depending on who is talking about restructuring, and so essentially, let us look at those issues.

 

Nella, for some people, it means seceding from Nigeria; others talk about fiscal federalism as being at the core of restructuring where states control resources, and a lot of that is coming from where you come from – the Niger Delta. Still, others focus on changing Nigeria’s presidential system of government and adopting a parliamentary system, abandoning the 36- state structure in favour of the six regions that form the geopolitical zones in Nigeria. Which is it for you?

Nella Rabana: Well for me, when I hear that restructuring is likely to disintegrate the country, I think that is mischievous. I say that because in my opinion, Nigeria from the 60s continued to restructure. So, the concept of restructuring is a kind of adjustment from the existing system. From 1960, you’ve had for instance–from regions to states is a form of redistricting. Even diversification in my opinion is restructuring. But primarily, it is a devolution of either political power or fiscal, and one of the features which to me is central and which I believe has triggered the restiveness in parts of the country is the element of fiscal federalism; so, it is an element. How are powers devolved? If it is the federal system of government, which we claim it is, then, what are the features? Are we governed in a manner that is contemplated by either the law–as it is or the law as it was when we got independence? What was the belief? What was the concept? What were the structures, how were powers devolved?

In my opinion, it is a manifestation of governance, it is a system that the amendments or the various changes that occur, which hopefully would be to make us better, especially in issues of development because if you look at fiscal federalism, it is a philosophy of development. And so, if you are not developing – technologically, you are not developing; then the questions would be: are we doing what we are supposed to do?

 Luqman, you represent the youth – I mean, you are younger than everybody here. She is right to the extent that Nigeria has in fact been undergoing a kind of evolutionary form of restructuring already because in the 60s you had three regional government, a parliamentary government, a military dictatorship over a period of years and the 12 states structures, which metamorphosed into the 36 states, and all of it rightly or wrongly aimed at improving governance and national cohesion. What’s different this time?

Luqman Edu: Well, I know what I think should be different. Firstly, I think we should have a stronger intergenerational partnership. As I said, I am one of the youngest people here, things need to start shifting towards the younger people, get us more into politics.

 

Do you see this restructuring then as a potential way of achieving what you liked to see happened?

Luqman Edu: You see, there is a fundamental issue with Nigeria that it isn’t working. As far as I’m concerned, it will start from asking the question. Are we actually practicing democracy in Nigeria? That’s where I want us to start, and I’m not sure we are, that’s the truth’; if you look at the level of education and the level of poverty in Nigeria. Do we even know what’s right for us, meaning that us here, we probably represent one per cent of Nigerians? With the level of poverty in Nigeria, really when it comes to elections, it’s really the person with the biggest pockets, the person who can give the biggest pack of rice that will get the votes. Because of the level of education in Nigeria, people are now picking sides depending on tribalism, religion and political associations. Does that really change? We have seen Goodluck Jonathan-led regime and the Igbos then, how much development happened then when he was around? Now, we hear about Buhari and northerners around, how much of that is affecting the northerners? So really, restructuring has to consider all these things; it has to create more competition. We talked about institutions, we hear about the same thing all over again; before all of that, we need to bring the right people to talk; We need to bring young people to these discussions.

 

You are possibly the most respected international diplomat to emerge from Nigeria. You were former commonwealth Secretary General, bestriding the global stage and would continue to enjoy the good will that you gathered during your time in office without getting stuck in messy Nigerian politics and yet you have come out not just in support of but an advocate of restructuring Nigeria, why?

Chief Emeka Ayanoku: Well let me say that I am not in Nigerian politics as such because I don’t belong to any political party and I don’t carry any political party card; but I felt that with time I should make known my views in very major national issues and I happen to believe that at this time, given the situation in Nigeria, we need restructuring of the governance architecture. We believe that restructuring will help Nigeria achieve greater national cohesion, greater national development and greater national political stability.

And why now?

Chief Emeka Anyaoku: Because Nigeria at the moment is far more divided than it has ever been. I remembered the golden age of Nigeria’s nationalism and patriotism, immediate years after the independence in 1960 when we had a true federal system of governance and our founding fathers, most prominent of them: Amadu Bello, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe and Chief Awolowo, after many conferences, they agreed that the best form of system to serve the multi-ethnic religious Nigeria was true federalism and I believe that we departed from that following the military intervention in Nigeria, (Since then) we have being moving backward. 

And is it fair to say that you talked about the 60s and so on and we all remember the Nigerian civil war 50 years ago that broke out when Nigeria almost broke apart and a bruising war over partly the regions and their power relations to the federal government. In other words, the structuring of Nigeria, to some extent, that the issues have surfaced again with all its potentials and it is dominating political discourse in Nigeria today.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku: We must be very clear on one point; the structure of governance had nothing to do with the crisis that ended up in the civil war. The crisis originated then from the killing of the southerners in northern Nigeria and what followed after.

 

But it had the same theme of inclusion and the sense of corruption was sort of taking over the country and all those type of things which eventually led to a coup, which eventually led to a war.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku: Yes, but not in the sense that the structure of government had anything to do with it and what has happened since the military intervened in governance the constitution of Nigeria which was originally truly federal has continued to be eroded to reflect the military, the command structure in the army, with the result that we now have a very powerful centre and the powerful centre provokes do-or-die, as they say in political competition of that centre and this sort of competition accentuates the divisive tendencies in the country, whether religious or ethnic or what have you; and I believe we must return to true federalism, which enables each section of the country, each federating unit to develop at its own pace and which will look forward to dealing with the centre, which will have far diminished responsibility as it currently has and it is in that way we will be able to revive the national spirit that existed when we were a true federation.

 And you talk about you wanting to ensure that the federating components of Nigeria are functioning properly. Is that what motivates the people to call for restructuring? There is a political side of it in the sense that perhaps that all Nigerians don’t feel that they have an equal stake in this country. In the economic side of it, people feel that revenue sharing and resource sharing isn’t equal and that sort of thing, there seems to be so many strands to this.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku: There are a lot of strands to it. I think that virtually everyone recognizes that the 36 state structure that we have at the moment is unsustainable. We have a situation where no less than 27 of the 36 states are no longer able to pay the salaries of their civil servants. 

What guarantee is there that if you devolve powers to the regions or the states that the same multi issues that you are talking about that plays out regularly on the national stage – corruption, nepotism and all these things – will not accompany this devolution?

Chief Emeka Anyaoku: Well, to start with, if you create five federating units, in my view six federating units, we will have a basis that lends itself more readily to accountability.

 

Is that feasible?

Chief Emeka Anyaoku:  Yes, it should be.

 

The reason I said that is because I was in a meeting a few days ago and people talked about agreeing with the concept of restructuring and when they talked about the South South for example, you have got homogenous groups in the South East and the South West but not in the South South and places like that, not in the middle, central region. And the people said essentially, “there was no way we are going to be consumed under the weight and population of the Ijaws, we are not going to accept that”; the point of putting us in our own state is to get away from that domination.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku: I think that can be addressed by retaining the existing states as developing zones in the larger federating unit and if within the larger federating unit the existing states were to become the development zones, they can continue to look after their development and after their various sectional aspirations, and indeed if there were to be another pressure arising from the federating units, the federating units should be free to create new development zones to cater for aspirations, sectional ambitions within the federating unit. But the point is that the 36 states that we have at the moment means 36 administrative structures, 36 state assemblies, 36 civil services, 36 judiciaries and the result of all that is that if you take Nigeria as a whole the country is spending about 80 per cent of its revenue on administration leaving 20 per cent or less on capital development. No country has developed with that degree of allocation of its revenue to administration.

 

Well, you have got a similar structure in the United States, the difference is that each state has control over the resources within its territory. Could that happen in Nigeria because I see this as much as I understand the argument that you are making and the logic of it; but I see considerable problems because the reason people agitated for states was because they didn’t want to be subsumed under the weight of bigger ethnic groups and their domination and all that.

Chief Emeka Nayaoku: The thing is that if you retain the structure that has enabled them to fulfil their various aspirations, if you retain those structures within the larger federating units that we will have, you will have a situation where resources that would be available to the larger federating units and the bigger; more viable basis of planning  development that would be available to the larger federating units, you will have the opportunity of addressing the sectional feelings and sectional interests of these less viable units.

 

So what system of government would you propose under such a regional arrangement? I mean there are those who favor parliamentary system of governance, for instance, where lawmakers serve on a part time bases, making it less expensive like than the current presidential system.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku: I think that first and most important thing is to agree on the structure of governance. Is to agree that instead of 36 largely non- viable states, you have six federating units, where whether it is a presidential system or a parliamentary system, you could come up with a system that will be less expensive than what we have today. What we have today is mimicking of the United States because the Nigerian parliamentarians we have today are far more remunerated than the US Congressmen and women and you can have a presidential system with much reduced cost of running it.

 

And that’s a consideration that a lot of Nigerians will be looking keenly at, because there is also the concern about the expenses of running government. So what should be the mechanism now of getting this idea of restructuring to the political agenda? What are you asking for? Referendum, another constitutional conference, a bill to the National Assembly; all of them in various forms or bits?

 

Chief Emeka Anyaoku: Well, I am asking for a combination of an executive acceptance of the idea to enable the executive prepare a bill, which will go to the National Assembly and the National Assembly, which is already dealing with constitutional review will take that into account and the new constitution that will emerge from this consultations will then be put to a national referendum. For the first time we will have a constitution that can truly be described as ‘we the people of Nigeria are responsible for the constitution.’

 

Chief Horsfall, you were a former Security Chief, what is restructuring to you, looking at what is happening in this country, how big a movement is it and how important is it?

 

Chief Horsfall: Well, it is an inevitable trend in the process that we started in 1960. If you asked me and my own people in the Niger-Delta, we have been talking about resource control; we have been talking devolution; there is too much power in the hands of the federal government. Why should the federal government be dividing money that is our own, we produced the money; we bring it here for them to give us back the little we should get. We think very sincerely and seriously that monies, resources are the key element to this restructuring we are talking about; it is fiscal federalism. Why should I produce the money, somebody here in Abuja shares that money and gives me what he thinks I should get? Restructuring should mean everybody should go back to work. In this country, we use to have major productive areas. In the North, it was groundnut and cotton; in the East, it was palm oil and rubber; in the West, it was cocoa, etc. Then, came the issue of oil, and everybody stopped working. We don’t produce groundnut anymore, no more cocoa that is marketable to sustain resources of the West, which was the largest cocoa producer before Ghana took over and so on. The basic challenge that is facing this country is for us to be able to produce and contribute to a central government that is structured in a manner that has very little control over what I do in Rivers State or in the South-South. We should be able to run our affairs as much as possible as prescribed by the constitution.

 

Let’s get the view of Prof. Auwulu Yadudu. If you did restructure along the lines Horsfall was talking about, you will still keep moulding  and restructuring over a period of a time in order to achieve the reforms you need; it will be accompanied by a lot of disgruntlement, won’t it?

Professor Yadudu: I like to pick up where Eniola Bello stopped. This whole discussion about restructuring at the moment is a construct. It is not something new; it is what the elite do when they are left out. If you roll back the years, it was the National Sovereign Conference, it was power shift and rotation. Once the elite, who in Nigeria have tended to reach some level of consensus on how to move forward. If you are out of government, the tendency is to now construct some object and keep pursuing it and undermining the authority of the state. When I said this, I don’t mean to say that we have a perfect constitution; we have a perfect political system; we have a perfect legal system; we don’t. As one of us has said also, we have been restructuring, not only in terms of division of the existing political units, but even in the system where we ran a parliamentary Westminster system; we had three regions; we had four regions; we had states; and we keep changing. The problem I have with the ongoing discussion, the tendency by the elite, depending on the trajectory they are taking, is that if it is not done this way, it’s not restructuring; you are wasting your time; we will continue to have the problem and the doomsday is around the corner. Then, you take the different varieties in the continuum that have been painted, from the secessionists. If you ask Mazi Kanu, the man who lead the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), if you don’t’ allow Biafra to go, you are not restructuring. If you ask the Afenifere, we have their representative here, if you don’t implement the 2014 National Conference Report, you are wasting your time, you are not restructuring. We have had other reports that have made recommendations, which go to change the system, which we must all accept that it’s not working.

 

Chief Nwodo, what is your take on it?

Chief John Nnia Nwodo: Charles, thank you for having us; I thank THISDAY also for promoting this kind of discussion. I think we started with a definition pattern, which seems to be eclipse kind of pattern. We have had three constitutions since independence – the 1960 constitution negotiated between 1958 and 1960, which transformed into the independence constitution; the 1979 constitution of Obasanjo and the 1999 constitution. The 1979 and 1999 constitutions were creations of the military. In fact, it is an aberration of truth that the 1999 constitution should start with “We, the people of Nigeria”. We never got together to write the constitution. I was a minister in the government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar and I never had an Executive Council memo on the constitution. It was a discussion of the Armed Forces Ruling Council. And even the conclusions and the printing of that constitution were not ready until the elections were fixed. So, it was an attempt by the military to transit us as quickly as possible to a civilian regime but doctored to suit the political nuisances of those who constituted the ruling council. It was an unelected council. It did not reflect the representations of the various areas. Prof. Auwalu Yadudu is a professor of law. He knows that in jurisprudence, the effectiveness of the law is measured by its acceptance by the people. This is an aberration. This is the only country in the world, which answers a federation but has no characteristic of a federal structure. We have 36 states but unfortunately, there is no independence of the federating units. That is what a Federation is all about. Now, the question is: this 1999 constitution that we have now, you can see that a cross-section of the country is dissatisfied with it. These two military constitutions were created with, in my view, the concept of sharing national wealth, rather than the engine of locomotive for the economic and political transformation of the country, namely: enhancing production. Why did I say that? I grew up in Enugu in the time of the 1960 constitution. Using myself as typography of a basic Nigerian, when I was growing up, I went to a primary school in Enugu, in what we called the provincial part of Enugu; away from the city – St. Patrick’s School Iva Valley. My classmate in that school was Peter Enejere. My father was a member of Parliament and a Parliamentary Secretary, which in today’s parlance is called a Minister of State. Peter Enejere was a junior brother of James Enejere, who was my father’s driver. There was no school for the minister’s son and another school for the driver’s son; the quality was the same. Chinua Achebe went to school in his native Ogidi and he grew to that best. What I am trying to tell you is that when we had the regional structure, there was production and there was competition among us. You see, this idea of creating a federation that waits every month for wealth collected from every part of Nigeria to be shared has destroyed production. What I am trying to say is that, call it whatever you like. Restructuring today says ‘change our constitution’ it is not autonomous, it doesn’t promote competition, it doesn’t promote production and if you give me another chance I can amplifier it.

 

I would actually like to get Mr Yadudu’s response to this but obviously I would like to get other people’s response who are here and also get their take, and it is back to Yusuf who is a political leader and an intellectual from Northern Nigeria. You state what you understand restructuring to be?

Bashir Yusuf: I want to be honest with you, I think the overwhelming majority of the people agitating for restructuring are actually scrambling for political offices and resources. There is no discussion about values; for example, throughout this agitation you wouldn’t hear someone discuss what constitutes Nigeria’s value. Everyone is talking about replication of federating units or collapsing them. The people forgot that we have been there before, we have had regions before and Nigerians were always fighting over non-multiplication of these confederating units. Nigerians agitating for creation of states in 2014 at the National Conference recommended 18 more states and I am surprised that the same people that are calling for the restructuring of Nigeria, who do not know whether the restructuring are efficient or workable, are also calling for multiplication of constituent units. So, for me personally, Nigeria isn’t working not  because of a bad structure; Nigeria isn’t working because we Nigerians don’t stand for any set of values. So any talk about restructuring must address the issues of value. What do we believe in as Nigerians? If you go to France for example, you hear terms like liberty and fraternity; in Nigeria what do we talk about? We just talk about national unity. National unity is up in the air; it doesn’t say anything. What are the bases for national unity? What are those values that will bring us together and make us a nation? I do concede that there is tiny minority of Nigerians that are really interested in a more efficient federation whereby you devolve more powers to the states and even maybe reduce the number of constituents for economy of scale, but these Nigerian visionaries are very few. Most of us that are agitating for restructuring are doing so for the spoils that restructuring promises. I am not in Lukman’s generation and I am also not in Nwodo’s  generation; so I don’t want a Nigeria whereby we scapegoat the structure; and we say we are not functioning because our structures are bad. The truth of the matter is that we Nigerians that operate these structures, should accept the responsibility for the failure in order to make this structure efficient.

 

So, let’s get the final views in this first round, Mr.  Shonibare. What is your take on what restructuring is all about, how has it come to this and how much of this has to do with simply what he suggested – bad leadership?

Chief Supo Sonibare: Well I think we have to be true to ourselves in accepting the fact that there is nowhere in the world where a multi-ethnic collection of peoples run a unitary system. We will understand that we will accept the fact that a lot of people asking for restructuring are simply saying that we need a departure from the unitary system to federal system and the basis of even starting this entity called Nigeria, which is talking about our identity is that we had a federation. Our three founding leaders.

 

Eniola Bello, judge for us the real strength to restructure Nigeria and what resilience does it   have among ordinary Nigerians?

 

Eniola Bello: Essentially, I think it’s an elite thing. They want the same things.  They want the good things of life. They are ordinary people. What they want is simple. They want good schools, good public health system, they want to have  their salaries paid , they want employment.  The way the country is today, they don’t have those things. They don’t know what this restructuring is all about, the big things you mention, they are not aware of it.  What is obvious to everybody now is that the way the country is, it’s not working.  So something has to be done or there would be problem.

Can I get you take on that (directed to Nella Andem Rabana (SAN)

 

Nella Andem Rabana (SAN): Ordinary Nigerians may not necessarily know what restructuring is all about.  But they want a change. There is hardly any Nigerian that will tell you that they are comfortable or are happy with the way things are. So people as basic as their understanding may be… sometimes because we talk of concept, it removes the essence of what we are talking about.  Is there effective economic governance? No! Do you have good schools? No! Do you have access to good medical care? No! Do you have good roads? No! Are you feeling affected? Yes! The basic things that you ordinarily would have taken for granted, they know that they don’t have it. The youths in particular, do they have any hope? Because they think that there is no hope for them. They are not sure what the purpose of their education is for. With this sad background, how sound or how real is this move? It is fundamental, it is so clear. A point was made that for restructure to occur, you have to first of all restructure your constitution. Because like they said, I think Chief Nwono also mentioned, we the people we are funny. On top of being funny, I think it is even evil that chapter two which contains the values, which gives all the government agencies and platforms a responsibility to ensure that they effectively manage the responsibilities and resources for the benefits of the public. It is not justiciable. So it is academic and gives the people the impunity to do or even take the light and still remain in office. So if you don’t have water running from your tap, you have a borehole, nobody is accountable. So as far as that is concerned, if you forget all the concepts and all of that and talk to the ordinary man on the street, he will tell you in plain language we want a change, we are tired of these people, they are telling lies, we want a change.

 

So, it’s all about the leadership, but I’m going to ask you if this movement for restructuring is less visible in the northern part? 

Luqman Edu: Everyone has realised that there is failure and I have heard a lot of interesting things about this restructuring. My idea is that if we have weak leadership, we are going to have the same problem.

In my little understanding of economics, in a monopoly you pay high price to get more output. I think that is where we need to focus on in that we need to create more competition. The developmental goalpost is a process. It is a journey that we need to go through. We need to build the institutions and create a situation where bad people don’t get in. and if bad people get in, we will still have the same process.

  

Restructuring can make people more accountable. There is a general consensus certainly on this restructuring or fundamental reform is needed in Nigeria. What should be the next step and what form should it take – a referendum or constitutional change at the National Assembly? 

Chief A.K. Horsfall:  All of these. Not only restructuring – political, administrative and fiscal. We need laws to promote all of these. The process to promote this has to do with the legislature. The people have indicated several times, talking of secession and avengers and so on. The whole political structure gives so much authority to the federal government which should in effect have the least of all powers, not skewed in the interest of ordinary people.

 

Would you support state police and also what form would that take?

 Chief A.K. Horsfall: It has become obvious that unless you give authority to state to create their own forces, the crime now in various parts of the country…whereas there is Boko Haram in the north, in the South is cult and cultism. Only local police can handle this matter effectively. The local policemen who come from the system who see it every day will know how to handle these things in their specific ways.

 

Whatever happened to the 2014 constitution and the recommendation? Why can’t it be the basis with which Nigeria can move forward?

AuwaluI Yadudu: I hate to have to correct you. I was not in the military and the Supreme Military Council. For the 1999 constitution, there was a process that brought it about. If you have a problem with it, state what problem you have with it. My view about the 2014 conference is that it is a team of distinguished ladies and gentlemen that would not have submitted themselves to an elective post. They did their best. I have serious reservations about the conclusion of the conference. This claim about consensus is not a consensus. Surreptitiously, 18 states were created. You don’t create states like that. The conference can be part of what would bring about changes in the system. You cannot just dignify it and make it look like the best thing to have come out of Nigeria. 

 

How would you recommend that this country deal with the issue of herdsmen?

AuwaluI Yadudu: It is not a constitutional issue. Not that I know too much about it. We have the problem of herdsmen as both environment and a misunderstanding. Every small event that has happened has been blamed on the herdsmen. Herdsmen is not a specific way of describing who is doing what.

 

Do you feel that government is listening to this growing agitation and it is likely to act on it?

Bashir Yusuf: I don’t think it has to be government to either decide or not decide to restructure Nigeria; it is up to Nigerians. But there is a lot of revisionism taking place, a lot of attempts to rewrite history and as very, very distinguished as Chief Anyaoku is, if you listen to him, he was talking about the current structure being unwieldy; that is 36 states, but what he was actually saying is that we now create another level of six zones and then keep the 36 states. So how do we reduce costs? There is not much thinking going on this restructuring exercise and let me say this, I still stand by my position that overwhelming majority of those agitating for restructuring are agitating for political offices and for resources. I do not hear anything about values to restructuring. Nobody is asking why are we stealing resources that are meant for development. Some people are conflicting restructuring issues with governance issues.

 

We are missing the real issues here; whether the local, state and federal government levels are not delivering

Bashir Yusuf: At one point one politician actually abducted a governor (Anambra State). So this is governance issues, not restructuring issues because they are all the same people, in the same locality, managed by the same values and they inflicted that kind of thing. Also the resources that go to the local government chairman; from which part of the country is your local government chairman? He is from your locality. What does he deliver? What does the governor deliver?

Chief Nwodo: I mean you can’t drive from Abuja to Kaduna, people are being kidnapped every day; legislators can hardly go home to their constituencies because there’s no devolution of security power; you know the local thief in your community. As long as you have this omnibus policy… and only a federal structure. How can you have a security system in a country that is headed mostly by one part of the country? There’s no one from the South East who heads any part the security outfits in this country – whether it’s the head of the navy,  air force,  army, Chief of Defence Staff, road safety corps,  even the civil defence, even the National iitelligence Agency,  SSS, minister of Interior, minister of defence.

 

What are your thoughts about restructuring?

Chief Nwodo: First of all, I will like to apologise to all those who advocate for restructuring who have been described variously by some people in the panel as opportunists, job seekers, people who are looking for new advantages. I think this is unfair and I wish to dissociate myself from it. I don’t think General Ibrahim Babangida (retd) is one; I don’t think Chief Emeka Anyaoku is one; I don’t think Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is one; or am I one. I was a minister at 31 and I didn’t forget anything in government and I have no desire to go back there; but I would like to meet a better Nigeria than I met. Secondly, the ideas of some of the things we are talking about that are referred to as governance issues are, in my view, not correct. This is because governance is derived from the constitution. The whole power to govern is a function of the laws provided in the constitution. Now, we all agree on this panel that our situation is bad. Our economic situation is bad; our political situation is bad and social cohesion is extremely bad. It has never reached such a crescendo like this. As I grew up, a Katsina man was the Mayor of Enugu. He was elected by adult suffrage, Umaru Atini, and nobody cared about where he came from. As I grew up, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe won election in Lagos, into the City Council and tried to become Premier of Western Nigeria. Mbonu Ojike was Deputy Speaker, Western Nigeria. In the North there was an Igbo man who was a member of House of Chiefs, Okonkwo Ikeazor. When I went to the University of Ibadan, it was a Yoruba dominated university, but I stood for election of the Students Union and I won the election; that is in a Yoruba dominated environment. That was the product of 1963 atmosphere.

 

 So what do you think has happened?

Chief Nwodo: What has happened was that the army plunged us into a civil war because they could not agree on Aburi and thereafter we discovered oil. Don’t forget that before the war, natural resources were within the exclusive control of regional governments. There was acute competition among the regions. The North fired Ahmadu Bello University from the proceeds of groundnut; they fired textile industry; they fired cotton industry. The East fired the University of Nigeria; they fired Dunlop tyres, Michelin tyres; they fired the first brewery in the South East, they fired the first cement industry. In the West we had the first television station in Africa, the first stadium from proceeds from cocoa. Now, that kind of competition is no longer there. All those industries have died. Oil was the basis of 1979, 1999 constitutions and it is a disappearing asset; by the time it finishes what happens to this country? Look at a country like Netherlands. Netherlands exports $100 billion worth of agricultural related products, mainly dairy and vegetables. In the last 10 years our annual revenues from the proceeds of oil has not reached $100 billion. Northern Nigeria has the greatest endowment in agriculture, but the attention of the ordinary man has been removed from production because of the money that is shared every month. It is the same thing in the East. As a child, I knew every specie of yam. My father was a farmer, but my children and I are not because we have all taken to consultancy on businesses associated with oil and production has been forgotten. And in order to lace our conversation to appear to be proper, we defend the status quo because it patronises our laziness. We need to break up into independent federating units and challenge each other and I bet you that if this oil is not there Nigeria will still survive.

 

What’s the possible timeframe for restructuring with presidential election barely two years away? Should restructuring be left till after the elections or before it and in either scenario, what would be the justification?

 

Supo Shonibare: I think the justification is that Nigeria is not just working.  I have suggestions: the 2014 Confab report. No one is saying it’s the panacea to all the diverse problems in Nigeria but it’s the template that can address most of the issues; it has a solution to issues of open grazing; it has a solution to the issue of state police and has a solution to a plethora of challenges that the country is facing. What Afenifere is also suggesting is that the government should take a look at the 2014 national confab report. That report has suggestions on what the president can do that could only require executive orders. I think the present government should look at it and adopt aspects of it. I think most of the aspects of it are aspects that could move Nigeria forward; most of the aspects are aspects that’ll move us away from this unitary system; our problem is in operating a unitary system. If we don’t address evolving powers for people in ethnic nationalities and people in particular settlements to take the future of their economic and social well-being to take decisions on it,  if they don’t allow that to happen, then this country with great respect, will not hold. Even the United Kingdom, there are levels of development even in Liverpool, they’ve Council on Liverpool; and people are suggesting that regional governments should exist as a point of coordinating functions that Federal government is now exercising in the states. The regions will not necessarily subscribe to the size of state governments that we presently have.  But because the states are federating units, and people are taking money from the center, there’s no template on determining 36 states and that’s the problem. Twenty-five stateside as desirable as 36 states because the template the military left in determining those states is not of general application and the only thing that can be of general application is to have regions that can ensure that we can carry on the equality between the northern protectorate and southern protectorate, which is how we started this country called Nigeria and we have even federating units between the north and south.  Once you do that, you douse ethnic tensions and it’s only if you douse ethnic tensions that you can build a Nigerian nation. If ethnic tensions are allowed to fester, if ethnic tensions are allowed to determine the sharing of our common wealth, then I’m afraid it’s very difficult to keep the Nigerian unity.

Chief Nnia Nwodo: (To Bashir) the reference you made on Anambra is a constitutional issue. If we had state police the governor of Anambra state would have been protected. I don’t know whether you read an article written by Mike Ozhokome (SAN) about his recent visit by road to the South East. I am inviting you to come to the South East. If you come to the South East you will wonder whether we live in the same country. Every city in the South East is garrisoned by police and army. If they were looking for weapons or they were looking for drugs it would be said it is on national security but they are open day toll gates.

 

With eight distinguished panelists voicing out their opinions on the agitations on restructuring Nigeria its implication of what might be. We have had renewed militancy in the Niger Delta, the Biafra secessionist in the South East, North West, North Central and even the South-west with loud noises threatening each other. What is behind this rise been intensified since the president came to power?

 

Eniola Bello:  Essentially, I think the president himself has been responsible for this. He came in with a popular vote because people were not happy with the past government and people wanted change and he was massively voted for. His first steps as first president was his approach on sections  of the country that didn’t vote for him (that only 5 per cent), that was a wrong step, taking two zones of the country. Also, all his appointments came from one section of the country. People complained about it but he didn’t do anything about it. When the issue of herdsmen attacks came up Mr. President was indifferent because they were Fulanis and they can do what they want. Essentially, Mr. President’s response intensified the agitations that came up

 

Nella Andem Rabana (SAN): I think I agree with what Eniola Bello has said. The euphoria of change. I remember I went to the market and the price had skyrocketed and this has anything to do with dollars. But the traders will tell you it is the exchange rate. And they would tell you after all ‘It is change’. It is like we seem to underestimate an average Nigerian public but they are aware of what is going on.  An average Nigerian is well informed. It is not everyone that will effect the change but a group of them are there talking. If you put on the radio, the social media the national issues are there. An average Nigerian on the streets has expectations, basic understanding and they feel they have the right to ask what is going on in terms of development and progress.  And when it appears that nothing is happening, when it seems that the road we are today there is no clear direction, the youths in particular are protesting. People are asking  questions and the issues is that if the restructuring  of governance is not yielding results, there is no human capital  development, if  no clear vision on the economy, if there is no hope and some areas feel that they have  been marginalized, naturally, there will be a clamour  for restructuring. And the restructuring we are talking about was intended at the federal system of government, for as long as the federating states are not coordinate, the intensity of the resistance is clear and if it is not addressed ,the agitation will continue.  It is also important for me to note, however that the issue of values, the issues of character is really fundamental and there is no way we can pretend that they don’t exist. When you look at the issue of education for instance, we have developed a generation that don’t have the kind of values we grew up with.

 

The current agitators are mainly youths. Do you see an opportunity in turning that channel to a political movement that will benefit all?

Lukman Edu: Yes. The youth came out to vote for President Buhari and it was the first time that the youths came out massively to choose the next president. I believe it was the right choice not for us only but for the growth of the nation. We thought we were in charge.  But then the change we voted was not what we got. Let’s look at the history of Nigeria and the past presidents: From Obasanjo who came twice, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gen. Abdulsalam, Mallam Yar’Adua, this is Gen. Buhari’s second time. These are the same generations of people that have ruled Nigeria for how many years now. How many generations have been missed out? And that is why Nigerian youths now realise that the real change is a shift of Nigerians from one generation to another. When people talk about community policing and think that is what will fix it, what happens when elections come and we have the same people that now have access to power? I think we have to be careful if we are going down that way.

AK Horsfall: What we see now is the same expression of sectional  interests. We are talking about moving Nigeria forward, if we are to achieve the sentiments based of sections, ethnicity nationalism must begin to disappear otherwise we will not get anywhere. What took us to the civil war was because people did not trust one another: the Hausas Fulani, the Ibos, the Yorubas don’t trust one another. I think we must find a way to accommodate one another.  To avoid similar things happening we must have a way of overcoming it. If have a problem there must be a solution and if left unsolved it becomes inevitable. The restructure we are talking about is a separation and we would have to reduce ourselves to units of ethnic governance, which can manage themselves and agree.  For instance, I come from South South with several ethnic nationalities and we would never be able to agree. What I will advocate and I think the country should walk towards is a system that works towards justice whether it is Hausa Fulani, Ibo, Yoruba  or Ijaw in charge. There must be  a balance of fairness of  justice  and fairness for all. It doesn’t matter who is in charge we must experience similar standards. If I can trust you wherever you come from we will make a headway. 

 

Auwalu Yadudu: Sometimes I think we misunderstand things. When we speak about ethnic nationalities, you lump the entire North as Hausa-Fulani. If you go to Adamawa, in a small local government, you have as many as 10 to 15 ethnic nationalities. We have more ethnic nationalities in the North than you can ever have in the South. So this construction of Hausa-Fulani ruling all and lording it over all is a problem…

 

Well you can’t deny the fact that they are the most dominant group in the country…

 

Auwalu Yadudu: There’s no such thing as Hausa-Fulani but that’s for another segment. May I just address the issue which is the mechanics. How do we go about this restructuring thing either between now and 2019 or when will it be best to go about it? Most people will want to avoid doing the right thing but would rather in a manner that is illusory.

 But whatever form, whatever idea of restructuring you want to buy into, and you want to make a change to the system, there is a laid out, legal, constitutional order that you need to follow. We may not like the national assembly, we may not like the state houses of assembly, we may not like the way we go about altering our constitution, but there is no other way of changing things, of modifying, altering, to whatever extent you want, of the existing legal order. And you have to follow that… Now, I heard Chief Anyaoku talk about a referendum. Well, I don’t know the magic wand in a referendum.  But the thing is, we can change the present constitution to admit a referendum but as it exists now, there are a thousand and one recommendations in the 2014 national conference. Which one do you want to submit for referendum? Is it the entire report or the constitutional amendment? By the way, there are three distinct recommendations that the conference has made. There are a set of recommendations that need constitutional amendment, and there is a whole volume that has been described as such submitted to the national assembly as a draft recommendation for amendment.

So there’s a recommendation to government to…

Auwalu Yadudu: Well, we have separate institutions… it’s not for the government. You see President Jonathan received that report and dumped it and did nothing about it,

 

It was the last days of his administration

Auwalu Yadudu: well, I don’t know about that one. It was submitted in august and he had 10 months to do something about it. Nothing stopped him and of course nothing stops the government now from tabling the set of recommendations as constitutional amendment and the Nigerian people also wanting to bring some more things to that because as he said, it’s not the panacea for our ills. You can do that, but to say you have no regard for the national assembly or the house of assembly, or we want to do something ready made for referendum in a system that is not recognized by law or a system that is not recognized by the constitution, I think that is dangerous.

 

I actually think that is a very valid point, and I want to put this to you, Chief Nwodo because obviously you have legal experience as well among other things … he talked about the necessity of the legal process, let’s look at one example of the sort of grievances that has led to the heightened agitation for restructuring, the call for an additional state  in the South east and the feeling that the region is being denied an extra state as punishment or to disadvantage it, yet there is a legal, constitutional means by which the people of the South east can apply to have an additional state through the national assembly, and as Mr Yadudu said, have it debated and possibly passed, yet for all the outpouring of emotions over this one issue, nobody has ever thought to identify an area in the South east where an additional state is needed and file a legal constitutional application accordingly. What is your take in that?

Chief Nwodo: That is not true, first of all, under general Abacha, there was a constitutional conference. A clear decision was taken to create a state in the South east. All the states created are products of military administrations. If they created 36 states, and under their rulership, there was a decision of the national conference, that was the decision in which the six zones of Nigeria were created, and the remaining administrative zones.  Every political party in Nigeria shares its offices among the six zones, most federal government establishments operate on the basis of the six zones. But it has no legal enforcement. They just refused to enact it into law.  At that time, you just needed a group of soldiers to promulgate a law. You didn’t need this kind of national conference. And while my colleagues here are disparaging the discussions of several Nigerians, who sat down at a constitutional conference, they are acknowledging with audacity, the legal enforcement of a constitution written by a set of soldiers who were members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council as representing the will of Nigerians.

 However, we are at a logjam.  Anybody who says he cannot feel the tension in our country, today, is deceiving himself. This is the kind of situation we were in 1966 before we ended in war and God forbid that in our lifetime, we should experience war twice.  The rhetoric of our children is uncontrollable. Their tendency for violence is uncontrollable. Part of the problem in the south east is this kind of situation that has emerged now with the Arewa youths. The Arewa youths have asked for a country that does not include the south east of Nigeria. In other words, they are declaring a new state of Nigeria without the South east, that’s treasonable, that’s against our constitution.

They have issued an order for the inventory of property of people from the South east. That’s completely against our law of acquisition of property/..       

 

But they don’t represent the majority of the people of the North,,,

 

Chief Nwodo: Yes, but neither does Nnamdi Kanu represent the majority of those in the South east, but he’s been incarcerated for it and his bail refused three times. And these gentlemen have been ordered to be arrested by the inspector general of police and the governor of Kaduna state and they dared them openly. You arrest us and you see the consequences. 

It’s a total breakdown. Chief Horsfall has said something here, which is very interesting. In the milieu of this ethnic controversy, the truth is inflexible and statesmanship is inflexible. There comes a time when you have to look at things and say haba! This is right or wrong. We can’t have double standards for two different situations that are identified by…. having said so, I think… it is so painful that the head of state is presently unable to be on seat to address this matter.

When you ask for something from someone is not the same as when the… And given his wide experience in the governance of Nigeria, I felt that if he were here, he would have been more decisive because we need an urgent intervention in order to arrest the anxiety in the country.

 

I need your take on whether or not you believe that restructuring is now real force in the Nigeria politics?

Bashir Yusuf: I think the most productive contribution made during this debate is from Horsfall… No country can endure without good faith. These shifting sands of ethnicity, religious sanctions and so forth, this is not the main problem that afflicts the common Nigerian. The common Nigerian doesn’t care about that.

I remember when Buba Marwa was a military administrator in Lagos. When he left, Tinubu came in as a governor and for the first six months, he pulled down Marwa and Lagosians were like, what do you have to offer? Stop talking about the guy who …. So this is the kind of experience that Nigerians should… we are conflicting purely failures of governors with failures of structures. Our structures may not be perfect but it is not our problem.

 

Supo Shonibare: The structure is the real thing we need to address. If we do not address the structure that is imperfect structure, if you do not ensure that you return back to devolution and regional government, the issues of ethnic tension will foster and end up in a failed republic.

TO BE CONTINUED…