A Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka; pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, and Ohaneze Ndigbo have called for the restructuring of the country to allow states have maximum control of their resources.
Speaking separately during a ‘Handshake Across Nigeria: Nigeria Beyond Oil,’ held in Lagos yesterday, they also called for the reconfiguration of the country in view of what they described as the disregard for the rule of law and the high level of insecurity in the country.
Soyinka, in his keynote address, stressed that for a country blessed with abundant natural resources to realise its full potentials, states must be allowed to have maximum control of their resources, to allow them to set their priorities.
He contended that the effects of playing religious card by the country’s leadership were grievous, adding that this has the potential to do incalculable damage to the unity of the country.
On the theme of the parley, Soyinka described it as symbolic, saying: “The handshake is symbolic; it is a gesture of solidarity. The handshake brings the best in us, that we are all one, it is handshake of forgiveness.”
He, however, charged the Nigerian youths to mobilise themselves in order to transform governance in the country, saying it was time to do so collectively as they could not do it individually, even as he also charged them to hold on to what could bring developmental stride.
“It is time, you can’t do it individually; you have to come together and choose a representative. The change has to be authentic and sloganeering. So what we are looking is not a handshake across the nation but a handshake across history,” Soyinka said.
Other prominent Nigerians, including Ibrahim Gambari; General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd); a leader of pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former Minister of Information and national leader of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, John Nwodo, and Prof. Anya O. Anya, among others were also unanimous on the need to restructure the country and allow states have maximum control over the resources available in their states for the benefit of their people.
Others, who also threw their support for reconfiguration of the country, at the parley were Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu as well as presidential candidates of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Dr. Kingsley Moghalu; Mr. Sina Adegbenro of Kowa Party and Mr. Victor Okhai of the Youth Democratic Party (YDP).
The President of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof. Ango Abdulai, also spoke on the need to let Nigerians into the debate on restructuring.
He said this was necessary in order to get their views on how they wanted the country to be restructured.
The President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, argued that the restructuring being demanded must be one that would give sovereignty to states on education, health, mineral resources, among others, adding: “Our model of sharing must go for a growth model; we must transfer more responsibilities and powers to states.”
Adebanjo, in his own remark, insisted that restructuring was the best for the country to realise its full potentials, adding that there was nothing confusing about it as being insinuated in some quarters.
The Afenifere chieftain, who went down memory lane to the 1954 Constitutional Conference attended by the country’s founding fathers, including the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, stated that it was based on its outcome that regions were allowed to run and take possession of resources in their areas under a true Federal System.
He said this was led to the developmental strides recorded in the then Western Region.
“Chief Awolowo had free education because the resources were in the region. Don’t let anybody confuse you; if the president cannot understand restructuring because of his educational deficiency, it is going back to what we were practising before 1966,” the elder statesman said.