â€¢Â Â Â Forget restructuring, devolution without constitutional amendment, says presidential aide
By Tobi SoniyiÂ in Lagos andÂ Okon BasseyÂ in Uyo with agency reportÂ Â Â Â
Notable statesmen and eminent leaders of thought across the country have agreed to embark on national consultations to facilitate a negotiated consensus among stakeholders on the restructuring of Nigeria.
The consultations, which are being led by Professor Emeritus, Ben Nwabueze (SAN), are aimed at ensuring that the country arrives at a consensus on restructuring and also forestall the degeneration of the festering ethnic political acrimony in the country.
Agitations for the country to be restructured have recently become more strident, as there appears to be a consensus in the southern part that the present arrangement is not working and the structure must be altered to promote, justice, equity and good governance.
However, there is an apparent lack of consensus among the proponents ofÂ restructuring, thus underlining the importance of the consultations being led by Nwabueze.
Other members of the high powered consultative team from southern Nigeria enlisted so far, as announced by NwabuezeÂ on ThursdayÂ in Lagos, include the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, General Alani Akinriade (rtd), Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), Chief Ayo Adebanjo, General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), Mr. Donald Duke, Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Kimse Okoko, Solomon Asemota (SAN), Chief Victor Attah, General Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), Chief Harry Akande, Prof. Akin Oyebode, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Chief Tola Adeniyi and Prof. Sola Ehindero.
Confirming the emergence of the consultative team, the groupâ€™s head of secretariat, Mr. Olawale Okunniyi said the team has already initiated major tactical consultations across Nigeria to forge a negotiated consensus among critical stakeholders on how best to restructure Nigeria along the lines of democratic federalism.
Okunniyi, who also heads the Nigeria Political Summit Group (NPSG), a clearing house for eminent political leaders of conscience in Nigeria, said regional youth groups, as well as ethnic militias, were also not left out in the ongoing consultations aimed at facilitating a cohesive national movement around the agenda to restructure Nigeria on the path of democratic federalism driven by a negotiated peoplesâ€™ constitution, to be democratically adopted by the social movements federating parts of the country.
According to him, this initiative which will be driven by stakeholders, under the auspices of Project Nigeria Movement (PNM), is projected to surpass what Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO) achieved under the late Chief Anthony Enahoro and Prof. Wole Soyinka between 2005 and 2007, when PRONACO convened a major peoplesâ€™ national conference of ethnic nationalities and social groups in Nigeria, leading to the unanimous adoption of a draft peopleâ€™s constitution for Nigeria on 26th August 2006.
He said: â€œThe good thing here is that President Muhammedu Buhari, with The Buhari Organisation (TBO), was strategically involved in that former process, just as it is also instructive to note the unparalleled support of the All Progressives Congressâ€™Â Â (APC) national leader, Chief Bola Tinubu to the PRONACO process as a sitting governor in Lagos.
â€œIt would therefore be reassuring to recall how both progressive leaders rode on the same vehicle into the open hands of Chief Anthony Enahoro and other leaders at the PRONACO secretariat on June 12, 2006.â€
Okunniyi also confirmed that the octogenarian professor of Constitutional Law, Ben Nwabueze, who is the only surviving holder of an LLD in Law through examinations in Nigeria, a most prolific writer on the Nigerian constitution and foremost statesman and activist, has been mandated to lead the national consultations to facilitate a negotiated consensus among Nigerian stakeholders on the restructuring of the country.
He said youths and women activists have pledged their support to the consultative team.Â
He, however, said that the list of the Northern/Middle Belt team for the national consultations on restructuring was still being put together by northern leaders.
He said the labour movement and other social groups in the country have also been listed for strategic consultation and mobilisation before a major interface with the federal government on the modalities for the restructuring of Nigeria takes place.
Okunniyi said the PRONACO secretariat, in response to the new initiative, would meet next week after which it will be expected to brief Soyinka, the groupâ€™s surviving leader, about its plans
He commended Nwabueze, the convener of the new initiative, for winning the confidence of militant groups like the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Yoruba self-determination groups, and Ijaw youths, among others, with reference to eliciting a rare buy inÂ on ThursdayÂ from Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB to support the restructuring agenda based on the blueprint presented to the nation by Nwabueze that same day.
He also commended some Northern leaders of thought and statesmen, who had already demonstrated positive dispositions and readiness to negotiate a national consensus on restructuring with stakeholders and leaders from other parts of the country
He singled out the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Saâ€™ad Mohammed Abubakar III, as well as the leadership of both the Northern Elders Forum and Arewa Consultative Forum for commendation for their latest disposition to the agenda for democratic federalism in Nigeria, while also applauding former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar for his vigorous country-wide ideological campaign and fraternal support for the restructuring of Nigeria towards the path of real democracy.
Forget Restructuring, Devolution
But as the elder statesmen and leaders of thought forge ahead with the national consultations to reach a consensus on restructuring, the Senior Special Assistant to the President, National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang has said that issues bordering on restructuring and devolution of powers in the country could only be achieved when the Nigeria Constitution is amended.
Speaking to journalists at the weekend in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, he said: â€œIt is not the president that will concede these powers to the lower tiers of government.
â€œIt is the amendment of the constitution that will transfer certain powers of the federal government to the states and local governments, and if that is not done by the National Assembly, the executive cannot do anything because anything the executive does becomes unconstitutional and the court would set it aside,â€ he stated.
Enang stated that the federal governmentâ€™s position on hate messages as recently pronounced by the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed was not an attempt to bring back the obnoxious Decree 4, which was introduced during the reign of Buhari as military Head of State.
He debunked as false the thinking by some persons that the federal government was reintroducing Decree 4 through the back door in order to gag the media.
According to him, the directive by the Minister of Information on hate speech was a reinstatement of the regulations as enshrined in the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Code.
â€œI want to say that there is no new law that has been made. What the Minister of Information simply did was reinstating the position and content of National Broadcasting Commission Code; he was not making any new law.
â€œIf any new law is to be made, it has to be submitted to the National Assembly and such will be passed by it and will be submitted to Mr. President for assent, no such law has been made.
â€œWhat it reinstated is the position of the current law, as existing in the law of Nigeria including the law of defamation, incitement as to conduct that could lead to the breach of peace and all other legislations which make what you say capable of generating or creating an offence.
â€œSo no new law has been made, it is simply a reinstatement of existing law,â€ Enang clarified.
Speaking on the current position adopted by the vice chancellors of Nigerian universities and Academic Staff Unions of Universities (ASUU) regarding the 120 cut-off mark announced by the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) for admission into universities, Enang said the new cut-off mark does not favour any geopolitical zone.
â€œIt does not favour any group or geopolitical zone, nor is it aimed at lowering standards. Admission into universities should not be a thing of privilege but a right, let it be that a child has taken the examination and failed, every child should have the opportunity of coming and getting admission,â€ he said.
Enang also lauded the Akwa Ibom State government and the residents of the state for standing with the president during his medical travails.
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) at the weekend said that any threat against the peace and unity of the Northern states was its primary concern.
In this regard, it said it has constituted a Special Intervention Committee to look into issues affecting its 19 member-states.
Alhaji Mustapha Wali, a member of the forum, announced the development in Makurdi when the group paid a courtesy call on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue.
Wali said the committee was saddled with investigating and recommending the best ways to intervene in lingering and emerging issues affecting its members.
He regretted the internal challenges that had often led to bloodshed in some Northern states and expressed NEFâ€™s readiness to work towards resolving all disagreements to make for a united and peaceful Northern Nigeria where prosperity would flourish.
â€œAny issue that threatens the peace and unity of the North of Nigeria is our primary concern; currently, our major concern is the herdsmen/farmers crisis,â€ he said.
He urged the federal government to intervene to settle the issues and douse tension in the land, and specifically suggested a uniform policy on grazing and ranching of cattle.
Earlier in his address, NEF chairman, Chief Paul Unongo said that the forum was in Makurdi for a three-day meeting to discuss issues bordering on peace, unity and the challenges affecting Northern Nigeria.
Unongo said the forum was a political association that was not partisan, stressing that the peace of the region and the entire nation was not negotiable.
In his response, Ortom charged the forumâ€™s members to speak up on issues bothering the north â€œespecially the herdsmen/farmers crisisâ€. Ortom explained that the Benue Anti-Grazing Law, which he signed into law in June, was not against the herdsmen.
â€œThe law is aimed at checkmating the activities of both herdsmen and farmers, as well as other livestock in the state.
â€œMy administration is ready to assist herdsmen and other people who are willing to ranch their cattle for the peace and unity of the Benue people,â€ he said.
He assured herdsmen living in the state of adequate security and urged them to embrace the Anti-grazing Law in good faith.
The governor further commended the 25-member NEF for selecting a Tiv elder to lead them and expressed confidence that Unongo would not disappoint them.