â€¢Southern leaders unveil five-point agenda for restructuring
â€¢Buhari’s trip to US is fake news, says Mohammed
By Omololu Ogunmade, Wale AjimotokanÂ in Abuja andÂ Gboyega AkinsanmiÂ in Lagos
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday challenged Nigerians to abate the growing separatist agitations and debates about the unity of Nigeria, taskingÂ them to rather channel their energies and resources towards building a great nation.
Osinbajo made this remark while representing President Muhammadu Buhari at a feast in commemoration of the Eid-El Kabir celebration in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said it was time citizens stopped promoting talks on the division of Nigeria but should rather concentrate on how Nigeria will attain the level God has designed it to be.
“Our energies and resources shouldn’t be spent again on the debate about division. Our manifest destiny is to be a great nation, not to be a nation where we are talking about division. We must focus our time, our energies and our resources on being that great nation that God has called us to be,” he said.
He further described Nigeria as a great nation, blessed with human and natural resources which he said some other nations of the world had to embark on a long journey to see.
According to him, the country is so blessed to the extent that people hold the opinion that one of every four or five black persons in the world must be a Nigerian, as he went spiritual, pointing out that God conceived Nigeria as a nation blessed with the diversity of resources and ideas.
He insisted that it was time to put paid to protracted controversies which characterise Nigeria’s experience, insisting that Nigeria is a country ordained by God to remain eternally united.
He emphasised that Nigeria was so rich both in human and natural resources to the extent that God conceived it to be a honey pot to other African nations which he said would have to depend on it to survive.
Arguing that he was confident that Nigeria would never disintegrate, Osinbajo said God designed the country to be a pre-eminent black nation that is rich in culture, commerce and technology.
“I am one of those who are extremely confident that our nation will remain united because I am convinced that God’s plans and purpose for Nigeria are that we would be the preeminent black nation in the world.
“This is a nation that will show forth in culture, in technology and in commerce, God’s investment in the black race. This is why today, some people say out of four blacks, some say five, one must be a Nigerian. That is not a mean attainment at all.
“That nation that God has in mind is a diverse nation, diverse in resources, in ideas, in opinions – kind of nation that we have, where there is an argument about something everywhere. Before you get tired of that lone argument, another one arises and before you finish with that one, there is yet another one.
“This is the type of country that God has ordained where we have a diversity of opinions, diversity of ideas. People are saying their own things here and there. But, He has also planned that this country will remain together and that we’ll be a nation that is gifted just as we have the oil, the gas, and the most arable land space than most continents.
“This is a country that has all of what other countries will travel and spend money looking for the sort of resources that we have.
“All of the tourism resources that we have, people will travel everywhere looking for it.
It is a nation of men and women so creative and prosperous, that we will feed the entire continent and create opportunities for the world,” he stated.
The vice-president disclosed that the president was unavoidably absent at the event because he had to celebrate this year’s Eid-El Kabir in his Daura country home which he said he had not visited in the last one year.
Reflecting on the essence of Sallah and its application to Nigeria today, Osinbajo challenged Nigerians to cultivate the spirit of the sacrifice made by Abraham when he willingly prepared to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
Explaining that Abraham expressed his willingness to make that sacrifice because he considered it a necessity to fulfil his own destiny, the vice-president said, even so, all Nigerians, irrespective of their religious and ethnic leanings, must realise the necessity to make sacrifices that will help the country attain its own destiny.
“Mr. President is unable to attend because he is celebrating Sallah at home in Daura. He has not been in Daura for over a year now. So, this is an important home going for him.Â Â The significance of this celebration was the willingness of Abraham to make the great sacrifice of possibly the dearest thing to him, his son Isaac.
“Obviously…it was a willingness to make a great sacrifice and Abraham was able to make that sacrifice. And he made it in order to be able to fulfil his own destiny and the destiny of his people.
“The message today is that our nation’s elite, Muslims, Christians and all ethnicities must recognise that we also must make sacrifices, the sacrifices that are necessary to attain the destiny that God has brought unto our people. All the different ethnic groups are important in that arrangement. On every ethnicity, incredible minds, brilliant and creative people doing all manner of things,” he stated.
He submitted that Nigeria’s current travail is an indication that like a woman in labour, the time of its breakthrough is at hand.
Southern Leaders Unveil five-Point Agenda for Restructuring
Meanwhile, the Southern Leaders of Thought (SLT) has unveiled a five-point agenda for restructuring Nigeria in line with the principles and tenets of what it calls true federalism, which it argues, is key to ensuring the countryâ€™s survival against the forces of division and conflict inherent in its heterogeneous nature.
The SLT, a forum of eminent Nigerians, also rejected the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and demanded a new constitution that would derive its authority, legitimacy and validity from the people rather than a decree of the military.
These were contained in a 22-page document obtained by THISDAY from the SLT Secretariat in Lagos at the weekend, in which it accused the National Assembly of making itself part of the problems standing in the way of the restructuring of the country by seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution.
The document signed by Prof. Benjamin Nwabueze, on behalf of other members of the group, specifically outlines a five-point agenda that seeks restoration of true federalism; restructuring of the territorial structures of Nigeria; instituting fiscal federalism; removal of factors impairing true federalism; and a new constitution to be adopted by the people at a referendum.
The group comprises former Secretary-General of Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; Chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Convener of Yoruba Assembly, Gen. Alani Akinrinade; former governor of Cross Rivers; Mr. Donald Duke; former governor of Akwa-Ibom, Obong Victor Attah; and Chairman of the National Democratic Coalition NADECO, Rear Admiral Ndubusi Kanu (rtd).Â
Other members include a businessman, Chief Harry Akande; a renowned political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi; a professor of International Law, Prof. Akin Oyebode; former President of Ijaw National Congress, Prof. Kimse Okoko; former Managing Director of Daily Times of Nigeria, Chief Tola Adeniyi; and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Solomon Asemota.
It said: â€œThe 1999 Constitution is not a democratic constitution. Indeed, it is a constitution only in a loose sense of the word, but not in the strict, generally accepted sense of an original act of the people by which a state and its government are constituted.â€
It, therefore, contended that the 1999 Constitution was an imposition on the people through Decree 24 of 1999, and canvassed the restructuring of the country, saying it was not concerned about the system but the actual conduct of government and the way it was formally organised in terms of its power relations and territorial structures.
The group also canvassed the need to institute resource control and fiscal federalism, which it said, was at variance with the principle of derivation stipulated in section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution.
It said the provision countered to the principle of fiscal federalism, noting that it was the source of much of the agitations about resource control.
â€œFiscal federalism requires that mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas should be a residual matter with the exclusive competence of the regions or states,â€ the SLT said.
The group then demanded that section 162 should, in its entirety, be expunged from any new constitution and be made a residual matter in accordance with the requirements of fiscal federalism.
It emphasised the importance of restructuring the territorial structures of the Nigeria in a way that powers would be taken away from the centre and be given to the 36 states of the federation or to bigger territorial structures based on regions or zones.
However, it proposed a federation of eight regions comprising North-West, North-Central, North-East, South-West, South-East, South-South, Middle Belt (to be made up of Kwara, Kogi and Benue States) and Mid-West (consisting Edo and Delta States).
It noted: â€œA structure based on the existing 36 states raises the questions of the viability of the state. Viability in this context should not be viewed entirely in terms of economics. It should also be considered in relation to other issues: a separate constitution; a separate police force; a separate machinery to conduct elections for the political functionaries.â€
It gave three main reasons why restructuring could not be effectively and meaningfully by amendment to the 1999 Constitution, arguing that the best way to achieve it is to promulgate a new constitution that would be adopted by the people at a referendum.
The SLT said the 1999 Constitution was unitary in nature, explaining that having a single constitution for a federation contradicted the principle of federalism.
It argued: â€œIt is a manifest contradiction to conceive of a government, whether in a federal or unitary system, without a constitution.â€
The group, therefore, lamented the subversive consequences of the contradiction of a single constitution for a federal system.
Mohammed denies news of Buhari’s trip to the US
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has urged Nigerians to disregard as fake, news being circulated via a parody Twitter account and an old NTA news video that President Muhammadu Buhari had travelled to the United States.
Mohammed in a statement in Lagos on Sunday said one of the numerous parody Twitter accounts in his name, @MohammedLai, @ â€œwas used to disseminate the fake and ludicrous news that claims that President Buhari is due to leave Nigeria for the USA on Monday to condole with President Trump over the floods in Houston.”
He said an old NTA News video being circulated on the Social Media claims that Buhari had already left for the UN General Assembly in New York.
”This is a 2015 NTA News video that was repackaged to look current, and to give the impression that the president left Daura, where he is celebrating Eid-el-Kabir, directly for New York,” Mohammed said.
He said Nigerians should disregard any news credited to any account in his name, neither on Twitter nor Facebook, adding: ”Numerous parody accounts have been opened in my name on the two platforms when indeed I have no Twitter or Facebook accounts.”
Mohammed recalled how the same parody Twitter account which was used to disseminate the fake news about the president’s purported trip was employed to circulate a fake report that he sharply criticized Senator Dino Melaye for attending the Notting Hill Carnival in the UK.
He said these two instances highlighted the dangers posed to the polity by the purveyors of fake news and disinformation and vowed that the federal government would soon fish out those behind them.
”Fake news disinformation and hate speech are the antics of the naysayers, those who are pathologically opposed to this administration. That is why we are urging Nigerians to be more discerning and to double check any information emanating from the social media,” Mohammed said.