Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Disagree with Buhari, Insist on Restructuring

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John Nwodo

• Balarabe Musa calls for economic restructuring

Tobi Soniyi, Shola Oyeyipo and Segun James with agency report

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum as well as the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. John Nwodo, have disagreed with President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance on the restructuring of the country, saying that the only way to go is for the federal government to restructure the federation and devolve powers to the states.

The president had in his New Year broadcast Monday said that the problem with Nigeria was not with its structure but its processes.
Buhari argued that the country had tried many systems of governance in the past and had jettisoned them because they failed.

He explained that if things were done properly, the country would perform better.
However, disagreeing with the president’s stance on the thorny issue, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum insisted that restructuring was the only way to go to save Nigeria from imminent collapse.

In a statement signed by Yinka Odumakin for the South-west, Senator Bassey Henshaw for the South-south, Prof. C. Ogbu for the South-east and Mr. Isuwa Dogo for the Middle Belt, the forum insisted that powers must be devolved to the states.

The group said: “We cannot become a productive country under a 1999 Constitution which keeps 68 items on the Exclusive List including mineral resources which abound all over the country but which the states whose governors are constitutionally vested with authority over land cannot touch.
“We need to give authority to the federating units over their resources for self-sustenance and paying all necessary dues to the federation to sustain common services.

“We must devolve more powers and authorities to them to have effective state administrations.
“The federal police has shown it lacks the capacity to deal with crimes in a multi-ethnic society like ours, the imperative of state police has never been more urgent than now.

“Restructuring means nothing else than the above.
“It is a call for the return to a Nigeria that worked under federalism as against the failing state we are becoming under a unitary structure.

“Nigerians must organise, mobilise and work towards building an inclusive and productive country in 2018 using all democratic and peaceful means.
“It is a year to battle for the soul of the country by the forces of federalism and upholders of a suffocating unitary system.

“May victory be on the side of those who seek the progress of Nigeria.”
Continuing, the forum said the president could not resolve Nigeria’s problems by either running away from it or ascribing it to the wrong source.
“Unfortunately that is what we are doing as a country by playing down our crisis of ‘structure’ while on a wild goose chase about ‘process’.

“This is akin to a man going to Benin City while driving towards Benin Republic. The faster he runs the farther he is away from his destination.
“The truth of the matter is that our nationhood crisis has peaked and there are no further opportunities to guarantee opportunities for our citizens no matter the good intentions of leaders or even unrealistic promises packaged to offer them false hope.

“In 1983, when the Shehu Shagari administration was overthrown, its budget for a country of 80 million people was $25 billion. Thirty-five years after, the Buhari government has just proposed a $23 billion budget for about 180 million people!
“The above clearly shows that there is no way out of our systemic crisis except we resume productivity which was our hallmark in the years that we practiced federalism as an entity.

“We have exhausted all possibilities of a rentier and sharing economy and all that is left is unemployment, hunger, gnashing of teeth and conflicts among nationalities over shrinking opportunities,” the forum added.
It welcomed Nigerians into the New Year after a “gruelling and harrowing 2017 in which our people went through untold hardship as the crisis of our dysfunctional structure took its worst toll”.

According to the forum, it was a hellish time when “suicide” became the “man of the year” as many citizens found life unworthy of living and jumping into rivers or hanging from ceilings became the order of the day.
It noted that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported a loss of four million jobs in 2017 with millions of those employed working without pay for several months.

The forum also stated that many citizens who fled abroad because there was no hope for them at home were subjected to all manner of degrading and inhuman treatment as the horror tales from Libya where Nigerians were auctioned for $400, turned to sex slaves, and subjected to extreme violence, continue to abound.

“On the home front, life is becoming short, nasty and brutish as death and violence are now common place in the hands of AK 47-wielding herdsmen, armed robbers, kidnappers and enraged spouses.
“It is a time when we should be having national introspection to know where the rain began to beat us, how to dry our clothes, and ensure that we are no longer exposed to rainfall.

“Unfortunately, we are not addressing the cause of our affliction and only trying to rationalise our needless failure, passing the buck and running from the solutions to our problem.
“We are in a period where empty platitudes are being offered our people instead of concrete assurances on reasoned prescriptions,” the forum said.

Nwodo, who also spoke with THISDAY on the phone, said that he was yet to read the president’s speech but with Nigerian’s main source of income from crude oil threatened, government must unleash Nigeria’s potential by devolving powers to the states.

He warned that the world’s demand for oil was receding and that it might even further decline substantially in the next seven years, with implications as the main stay of the nation’s economy.
“Unless we begin to develop alternative sources of revenue our country will cease to exist. The only way to avoid this is to release our potential by devolution of powers.
“Until the government is nearer to the people and the people take their destiny into their hands the country cannot progress.

“We never agreed to be a country where the federal government will be a united policeman for the whole country. We are not running a federation, we are running a unitary government and we cannot escape this,” Nwodo said.
Meanwhile, a former governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, in his reaction to the president’s stance on restructuring, called for the country’s economic restructuring to ensure the delivery of good governance.

Musa made the call in a phone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Monday.
The former Kaduna governor said the problem with Nigeria has always been leadership rather than its structures, explaining that the regional system failed because leaders were pursuing a secessionist agenda.
Although he aligned with the president’s position that the process of governance needs to be improved upon, he faulted the economic system being operated currently.

Musa said the economy was in the hands of the private sector, hence the impoverishment of the masses, and suggested the restructuring of the economy to ensure that the government plays a greater role.
“The economy should be restructured. What we are operating now in which the economy is in private hands cannot help us.

“We should restructure the economy so that government can play a greater role for sustainable development,” he said.
The former governor agreed that saboteurs were behind the current fuel crisis and urged the government to address the situation.

He also called on Buhari to form a government of national unity in the New Year for all-inclusiveness, adding that Nigeria would be better off in 2018 if people subordinated personal interests to the public interest.

In his reaction, the publicity secretary of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in Lagos State, Shakirudeen Olofin, commended the president for restating the government’s commitment to the fight against corruption.

He, however, advised that the president should ensure that all pending corruption cases are speedily resolved to serve as a deterrent to others.
Olofin urged Buhari to be decisive in dealing with the fuel crisis, especially persons suspected to be responsible for the situation.

  • ben

    Igbos stop investing in lagos and northern nigeria.

  • omnia1

    RESTRUCTURING (WHATEVER THAT MEANS) IS A PIPE DREAM
    I support Biafra chiefly because I AM CERTAIN Nigeria will not be “restructured”; the Fulani-led cabal are smart devils and will never allow a true federation to emerge.

    The very core idea of a federal state is that the federating units are united by choice, not by compulsion. Therefore, a sine qua non of true federalism is the right to self-determination through referendum for the federating units. If the cabal allows this, it would amount to peaceful Biafrexit because the Igbos would immediately activate that referendum clause to get out of Nigeria. By my own anecdotal observation, at least 90% of Igbos want out of Nigeria.

    Within the next few months the cabal will manipulate events such that anyone who speaks of “restructuring Nigeria” would be seen as a “hate-speaker”. The short-sighted “one Nigeria” Igbo elites, are unwilling to be quiet slaves in a Fulani-manipulated police state, yet they had the foolhardiness to rejoice in the proscription of IPOB.

  • Ofuzo

    Mr nwodo, you are in a hot soup mess. From now on until your tenure is up and even beyond, you shall be confronted with your inability to achieve restructuring. The question to you always, when you show your face in public is, WHERE IS THE RESTRUCTURING. Yes, where is it? After you were cheering the demise of nnamdi kanu, you will forever be confronted with this question. You better have good answers or else be judged harshly by history.

  • Mystic mallam

    Buhari understands neither structure nor process . He’s simply clueless. The question should be what Buhari still wants from Nigeria. He ruled once after toppling an elected President and he thoroughly abused the governance process even for a military government. Out of power for 30 years he did nothing, absolutely nothing to improve on himself or acquire some skills. For 16 years of the democratic rule he denied Nigeria in 1984, he demonstrated extreme desperation to rule Nigeria again. He got the chance after 4 tries and has made a virtual mess of it to everyone’s consternation. And now we hear him spoiling to stay put in power another 4 years. Nigeria has given buhari everything his heart desires and am not sure what exactly he has given to Nigeria in return. Please someone tell us: what more does Buhari want from Nigeria? He has nothing to give Nigeria, definitely not leadership since no one should be expected to give what s/he does not have.

    • Free Reckoner

      Well Stated.

      • Mystic mallam

        Thanks Mr Free Reckoner.

  • lord vuga

    Restructring is not and has never been the solution. Restructure and you would end up with the same band of thieves now stealing and oppressing at the regional level. Unless of course our problem is not that we are being robbed but rather who is robbing us.
    The problem is to get the right leadership and followership in place.
    Are the states with the resources being allocated to them not bein run by folks from there? How come most have little or nothing to show for it?

    • Ade Whenu

      We have too many self acclaimed political and economic experts, offering solutions, for source of problems they lack understanding of.

      Will restructuring have stopped Ibori from siphoning the state coffers?

      For as long as the current gang of thieves and rogues hold sway in Nigeria, restructuring is a stupid and foolish concept.

      A thief will always be a thief, whether his operating at a federal or state level.

      • lord vuga

        Very well spoken

  • KWOY

    Nnia Nwodo should just accept that the Igbo predicament will continue for a forseeable time… Restructuring is a futility! For the sake of the Igbo alone nigerians, (especially the Yoruba) will ensure it does NOT happen! Any realistic Igbo must think BEYOND Nigeria – even if only as a long term plan!

  • Lawrenece Ifo

    I have never seen any blank populated county where social-political reforms was achieved through readining and I wonder if it can be achieved in the the most docile part of it like the zoo.Nwodo and his cohorts can rant as much as three like but the fact remains that they will be pushed away the same way Anton Lembede and other fiery young men including Mandela and the late Tambo pushed out those they described as “good men with clean hands” in order to take their destiny in their hands and create what they want to see for the children and those unborn.

    • Grelia O

      Long grammar will not solve this issue. The options can’t not be any clearer. Enough of all the good noise, and we have had tons of it. The faction that favours devolution of power has grown from one group in 1967 to now four broad groups as of this 2nd day of a brand new 2018. And at least three of the four have strongly endorsed and adopted a certain economic emancipation document called “The Ibadan Declaration” aka “On Regionalism We Stand.”

      This is the height of positive noise, I call it noise because it has not been acted upon. For as long as it is not put in action to achieve it’s objectives, objectives that are noble and overdue, it remains noise, however noble.

      If the South and the NC are serious and take the well-being and future of their people serious, power and responsibilities MUST be devolved for ease and efficacy of governance. While this group (South and NC) has no right to force the the groups in favour of the unitary status quo to accept devolution of power, it should not allow the pro-unitary groups to blackmail it to continue to swallow the bitter and destructive pill of the status quo.

      The difference cannot be any clearer. There is an urgent need for a coalition of the willing. It’s as simple as that. Let the progressive groups form a union and run a government of lose federations not unlike the 1960/63 constitutions. The pro-unitary groups will have the right to retain and even strengthen the unitary structure in their areas of jurisdiction.

      The taste of the pudding is in the eating. The onus is not on the pro-unitary groups. This is the time for Afenifere, Ohaneze, SS and NC groups to walk their talks. Individually, they have everything it takes to control their fate. Collectively, there is no contest, none. If the the pro-unitary groups had a fraction of the advantages the pro-restructuring groups have, there will be no discussion.

      The alternative to this solution is outright separation, and it is still better than the status quo.

      • Don Franco

        Dear Grelia-O:

        You nailed it, with such clarity of expression; I adopt your position as my own! But will the three falcons hear their falconer?

        • Grelia O

          Bulk of the very progressive groups that are groaning under the unitary yoke were largely responsible for the yoke in the first place. As they walked, clear-eyed, into the prison called backward structure, they can walk right out of it. The odds favour them overwhelmingly.

          Consider this – for starters, there will be no gang-up against them unlike the fate of the lone-rangers in ’67. They have an array of aces in the game, the most lethal being coastal access. Forget about manpower, hydrocarbon (for the interim because it’s exhaustible and oil is losing its relevance), large enough population to support and sustain a vibrant market/economy, potentials for agriculture and tourism, various mineral resources, the list goes on. Throw in the fact that they have not enjoyed (or been cursed) by the pampered and aristocratic status of the pro-status quo groups, and you begin to appreciate the additional advantage of their resilience and ability to survive under trying circumstances. The 50 year silver-spoon unearned advantage of the pro-status quo groups becomes their greatest liability. It will take some effort to cut their coats to their real sizes. Despite their immense potentials in agriculture, solid minerals, and breathing space, the culture of indolence, depence, and a sense of entitlement make it difficult for them to see these potentials for what they are.

          The South can and will get whatever it wants whenever it is ready. The North has zero chance to stop the South whenever the South decides to stand strong and straight because the North will have no back on which to ride. Willingly, most of the South bent low in ’67 and gave unconditional access with a lot of cushion to the North to mount their back. Excise the Middle Belt from the North in this dialogue, and the exercise becomes a walkover.

          This reality is part of the reason Buhari is doing everything possible to find oil in the North. It’s part of the reason he mismanaged the IPOB crisis. His obstinacy and recalcitrance have done what common sense could not achieve for over 50 years – unite the South against the retrogressive structure. His desperation is leading him to make a subtle use of the military and other instruments of coercion to oppose restructuring. He is projecting Northern weakness in the process.

          This is not 1967. Like pregnancy, truth can only be suppressed for so long. Ojukwu’s Aburi speech made a come back at Ibadan. Those self-determination principles were as true and as relevant to the survival of the nation back then as they are today. The nation has had 50 long years and taste the opposite of what young Emeka Ojukwu proposed, and the verdict is in for all to see.

          Good luck to Buhari and other ultra-conservatives trying to stop restructuring now or at some point. He is trying to lift the Olympus. Good luck to him doing that.

        • Grelia O

          My more expanded response to you on why the falcons will not just hear but also heed the falconer’s call. Not even Thisday can stop that from happening.

          Welcome to the new year.

  • Toby

    This country will one day be restructured. If not in my time, it will be in my children’s time. Buhari can not prevent it from his grave.

    • Michael Oteri

      Toby,you are a man after my heart.Restructuring is inevitable and it will happen some day.Did we ever think Apartheid would end in our time, particularly those of us that read Tell Freedom by Peter Abraham while in secondary school. All the killings of native South Africans,restriction of their free movement with the obnoxious Pass Law did not stop them from taking back their country. So shall it be in Nigeria.The core Northern leaders do not want it because the present structure favours them immensely,but they are living in borrowed times.Like you rightly wrote, no one can stop it when the time is right.
      .

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  • Moon

    Nnia Nwodo is wrong on this quote, “We are not running a federation, we are running a unitary government and we cannot escape this,” (Nwodo)

    Nigeria is running federation system of government not unitary system. Federation is a system of government in which a group of States with a central government but independence in internal affairs. Just like the system runs in Unites States.

    On the other hand, unitary system government is single or sort to be wholeness in which power of separate constituent parts are vested in central body. Muhammadu Buhari is running unitary government.

  • Daniel Obior

    If these Southern and Middle Belt leaders are serious about restructuring, they should unite, form a coalition to vote out Buhari in 2019, instead of these noises. We are sick and tired of their noises, only for some of them to surreptitiously vote back Buhari, come 2019.

    • KWOY

      Indeed, if only because YORUBAS are involved in it, then it is a FUTILITY! These were people who rejected just 25% derivation during 2005 political reform conference, totally sabotaged 2014 national conference, voted Buhari, & massively fight against it with their media. They have been hipocritical about it; now they are opennly against it! This exercise is a deception & a FUTILITY!

      As for voting out Buhari, you know equally it is self-deception. You know 2019 is now settled & nigerians are now planning for 2023! And even in that plan, (securing) Buhari’s friendship is VERY VERY critical!

    • omnia1

      Daniel, you are dreaming. Buhari’s re-election is a forgone conclusion. There is no true election in zooNigeria. What obtains is a four yearly charade that is manipulated by the Cabal towards a predetermined answer.

      Freedom is NEVER earned through a political process if the Cabal involved is driven by Islamic ethos. Nowhere in the world or in history has an Islamic ruling cabal ever freed their under-dogs without a fight. If it happens in Nigeria it would be unprecedented.

      The ruthlessness of the Fulani-led Cabal in maintaining their hold on power cannot be tamed by any electoral process. If we are not willing to kill, rape and pillage the innocent, practice unrepentant tribal bigotry, subdue the common will of the majority, pervert justice, apply vicious divide-and-rule tactics, rig the constitution, falsify the census, witch-hunt and persecute opponents, suppress dissent and engage in all the other wicked and inhuman ills which are the hallmarks of the Cabal, we cannot beat them. It does not matter how many elections you conduct.

      Mazi Nnamdi Kanu (MNK) had a perfect strategy – NO REFERENDUM, NO ELECTION! At the end of the day, we will all be forced to return to it.

      • Daniel Obior

        Painfully, all you have said is true. I may indeed be a dreamer. Hopefully, dreamers will have their day, some day. The rest have to develop their own strategy of beating the cabal. Else they die in perpetual slavery.

  • OJpo

    TIME FOR BUHARI TO TEACH THE OLD DOGS NEW TRICKS.
    RESTRUCTURING is a fraud/corruption. It’s a deceit and means for bigots to make monies.
    Nigeria can develop without RESTRUCTURING, let the RESTRUCTURING start first from them, to their immediate families, local council, State, then Federal government.

    • Adele Uhuru

      Zero logic – make no sense what so ever but I do see why you aligned with Buhari – you both lack the intellect to se past your nose- Buhari like this process that he has come to abuse so much so he is addicted to the thievery by proxy that has instituted in his cabinet. Ethnic divisions have propelled him to the apex office and he seeks to keep on exploiting it since he know without the structure as itis currently he would have not ammassed as much wealth as he has thus far.