Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr Seriake Dickson, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari lost an opportunity to become a great statesman when he rejected calls for the country to be restrcutured.
Dickson argued that Buhari’s position was even more shocking, given that a committee set up by his own party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) came out with recommendations on how to resolve the contradictions in the system through restructuring.This is contained in a statement issued yesterday by his Special Adviser to on Public Affairs, Mr Daniel Alabrahon.
The APC had constituted a committee led by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai on restructuring and devolution of power.
However, the president failed to act on the committee’s report.
The statement said Dickson spoke in Abuja on the topic: “Federalism, Restructuring and Nation-building” at the public presentation of “We are all Biafrans,” a book authored by veteran journalist and rights activist, Mr. Chido Onumah. The governor restated his position that his relentless advocacy for the restructuring of Nigeria was not about dismemberment of the country but a call for major constitutional reform.
The governor said: “There is no way we can go forward as a country without going back to address the faulty structure that we are currently operating. I therefore call for leadership responsibility by the president.
“He has to use the power, influence and authority of his office to mobilise our country to do the restructuring that is possible. I regret to say that I feel disappointed that the president did not rise to the occasion. It is a tragedy for our country and also a major tragedy for his own leadership.
“I however congratulate and commend the APC committee on restructuring and devolution of power led by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, for the work it did. The committee’s report was very clear on the roadmap to restructure the country.
“It is however unfortunate that there was no follow up and it is really regrettable that the president did not utilise the lifeline that his own party offered him for the purposes of statesmanship. The president threw away that wonderful and golden opportunity.”
But the governor rejected the idea of Biafra as a geographical connotation, insisting that he does not believe in it.
He added: “This country belongs to all of us. I don’t believe in the geographical expression of Biafra. I will rather we join forces to fight for a new Nigeria, a Nigeria for equal citizens, a Nigeria for the big and the small, for the weak and the strong.
“That is the critical challenge facing us rather than the idea of balkanising. Nobody owns this country more than you and I. I will never leave this country for any other person and we are going to slug it out here together. This is to underscore the point that I do not believe in the geographical concept of Biafra.”
He said that if the concept of Biafra is used as a constant reminder of the challenges and contradictions of the nation, it would be acceptable, but warned that if it was about secession, “I don’t agree with that Biafra and I am not a part of that Biafra”, he added.
However, Dickson advised that we should not run away from discussing the issues that people raise from time to time that they wanted to be Biafrans, adding that, “If all is well with Nigeria, who would not want to be part of what is big and is working?
“And if things are not working, why shouldn’t we talk about it? We shouldn’t be scared of disagreeing. We need more disagreements in this country. I don’t know what you are doing in the public space if you cannot hold a view. Whether we agree or disagree, it should be in the national interest. If you disagree, do not question my patriotism” he said.
He reiterated his view that the 2019 election would be a referendum on restructuring, stressing that he was delighted that having raised the bar on the issue of restructuring, more Nigerians, including the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had come to accept it as a necessary step in the country’s quest for development.
“This is about the future of our country. We will mobilise support for the party and the candidate that believes in restructuring in the 2019 election,” he said.
He further argued that the Nigerian brand of the presidential system of government was wasteful and had given room for the agitation for a return to the parliamentary system.