Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
The North is to adopt a position today on the ongoing clamour for restructuring of the country at the end of a meeting between the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) and the Northern Traditional Rulers Council (NTRC) in Kaduna.
Chairman of the NSGF and Governor of Borno state, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, said thursday while declaring open the meeting between the governors and traditional rulers at the Government House, Kaduna, that todayâ€™s session would consider the regionâ€™s position on the quest for the structural adjustment of the country.
Shettima, who was among the seven governors that visited ailing President Mohammadu Buhari in London recently, was represented at the meeting by Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State.
â€We, the political and traditional leaders of Northern Nigeria, are gathered here today against the backdrop of certain developments in Nigeriaâ€™s political landscape that we can only ignore to the detriment of the wellbeing of our people and the development of our region,â€ he said.
He noted: â€œIn the last few months, all manner of political agitations, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous have been going on and the North cannot be aloof,â€ adding that after the meeting with the traditional rulers and another one by the governors today, the North will adopt its consensus position on restructuring.
According to him: â€œIt is also my expectation that at the end of this meeting today (yesterday) and, God willing, tomorrowâ€™s (today) meeting of the governors, the Forum and our esteemed royal fathers will adopt a consensus position on restructuring of the country that will be reflective of the general overall interest of the people of Northern Nigeria and which will attract popular acceptance.
â€œIt is of vital importance to arrive at such consensus position because it is crucial to dispel the erroneous impression created and disseminated by certain interests in this country that the North is opposed to restructuring.
â€œSecondly, it is important to do so not only to accommodate the mainstream of Northern public opinion, our primary constituency, but to also counter the specific versions of restructuring which generally seek to place the North in a position of strategic political and economic disadvantage, but portrayed as the only versions that can work for the nation.â€
Shettima noted that while there were moderate and mature voices advocating for the scrapping of the 1999 Constitution and a return to the 1963 Republican Constitution with its own emphasis on regionalism, others have called for the practice of â€œtrueâ€ or â€œfiscalâ€ federalism with some others aggressively seeking the adoption of the Report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference as the authoritative basis for discussing restructuring.
Shettima lamented the worsening conflicts between herdsmen and farmers and activities of the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east which have impacted negatively on the socio economic lives of the people.
According to him, the struggle over grazing land is a recurring phenomenon in many African countries south of the Sahara, stressing that the situation in Nigeria has assumed a dangerous and worrisome dimensions, especially â€œthe ethno-religious colouration it has been so cynically givenâ€.
â€œI dare to say that unless we are ready to cast aside all sentiment-laden approaches to tackling this monstrous problem, it is capable of consuming the very social fabric of the North and even condemning the entire country to unwarranted destruction,â€ he noted.
He condemned the activities of groups like the MASSOB and IPOB for alleged hate speeches and sometimes incitement and urged leaders in the South-east to call them to order.
Ohanaeze Expresses Disappointment over Rejection of Power Devolution
The leadership of the Ndigbo apex organization Ohanaeze has expressed disappointment at the position of the Senate and House of Representatives on the issue of power devolution in the country.
Ohanaeze said thursday in a statement signed by its President General, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, that even though it was aware of the long process of the constitution amendment and that the National Assembly was not the final step, it said it was disappointing and disheartening that as representatives of the people, the legislature was unable to correctly gauge the mood and desires of their people and the nation.
â€œThe barrage of voices in this country lately shows clearly that majority of Nigerians are desirous of the country running a true federal system and one expected the NASS to have appreciated this in all their actions especially in constitutional amendment,â€ it said.
The Ndigbo umbrella body counselled the National Assembly that rather than go into constitution amendment at this time that the mood of the country was tuned towards total restructuring, they should have concerned themselves in making the necessary legislative enactment to empower the convening of a national conference for real constitution drafting.
According to Ohanaeze: â€œAny action whether legislative or executive in this country today that is not programmed to respond to the yearnings of the populace will amount to an exercise in futility.â€
Ohanaeze therefore urged the National Assembly and other legislative levels involved in the constitution amendment process to put the interest of the country first and ensure that its actions were such that would help to douse the tension and stabilize of the country.
Atiku Slams Senate
In his reaction, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar thursday expressed total disappointment at the rejection of power devolution in the country by the Senate.
He described as shocking and saddening, the decision of the APC-led Senate to block the passage of the bill which would devolved more power to the states.
In a statement by his media office in Abuja, the Waziri of Adamawa decried the lost opportunity to honour one of the partyâ€™s election promises to bring about change by shifting power closer to the people in the remotest regions of the country.
â€œThis blockade of the Bill by an APC-led Senate majority is a betrayal of our partyâ€™s pre-election promises,â€ Atiku said, adding: â€œIt was an important vote and Iâ€™m shocked by some so-called progressivesâ€™ visceral and cynical opposition to restructuring,â€ he exploded.
He decried the reluctance of democratically elected lawmakers to remove the insidious structural impediments to development, which decades of military rule had hoisted upon the nation
According to him, instead of building the foundations for a true federation, a small group of so-called progressive Senators decided to stick with the new party line, pretending they did not know what restructuring was all about, and that even if they knew, it could not be done.
â€œI think this is disingenuous,â€ he said. â€œAnd I think it is a sad day for our Party. But Iâ€™m confident the APC will learn the right lesson from this self-inflicted defeat, and remember the mission and mandate given to us by the people.â€
The Waziri also expressed the hope that Nigeriaâ€™s lawmakers would find the courage to stand by what is right, and not by what serves their personal vanities and political interests.
â€œLet me be clear: Restructuring is no panacea to all our nationâ€™s problems. But devolving resources and responsibilities from an overbearing, unresponsive, and ineffective federal government to the states is the first step we must make if we are serious about putting our nation back on track, and our people back to work,â€ he said.
But the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) expressed happiness over the senateâ€™s rejection of the quest to restructure Nigeria.
IPOB in a press statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Mr Emma Powerful, in Awka, Anambra State capital thanked the Senate for rejecting the quest for restructuring Nigeria, saying that its stand had vindicated its leader, Mr Nnamdi Kanu.