Afenifere, Arewa Chieftains Clash over Restructuring

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Two prominent leaders of Nigeria’s socio-cultural groups, Arewa Consultative Forum and Afenifere, Anthony Sani and Yinka Odumakim respectively, have again expressed divergent views on the desirability or otherwise of restructuring the country.

Speaking at the 10th edition of the annual lecture organised by ‘The Change We Need Nigeria Initiative’ in Abuja at the weekend, the Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, said the present leadership in the country seemed determined to “remove the sandbags on the path of socio-economic development by prosecuting the war against corruption and insecurity.

On the issue of restructuring, Sani said the solution to the challenges facing the country may not be in the structure and form of government or on economic model but “in our attitudes and the way we do things due to distorted value system.”

Sani, who was among the delegates that represented the northern Nigeria at the 2014 National Conference held in Abuja, said those who think that restructuring the country would enable each section to develop at its own pace are actually canvassing that Nigeria should break into “different units.”

“Some people have advocated for the restructuring of the country to enable each section develop at its own pace as a panacea to the challenges, as  if Nigerians should live on different continents where some sections are on the cutting edge while others are on the knife edge of survival. And they hanker for this kind of restructuring without considering the fact that reduction of inequality is not only good economics but good politics as well,” he said.

According to Sani, the country has restructured several times on the political, geographic, or economic models.

The Arewa chieftain said if the country must restructure, the process should be done democratically where political parties would be allowed canvass positions through their manifestos and use it to seek the people’s mandate in an election.

“But it is important to note that in spite of the variegated challenges that transcend state, zonal and regional boundaries, majority of Nigerians still believe the certain benefits of one big, united Nigeria through properly managed social contracts by purposeful leadership more than the uncertain gains of disintegration,” he said.

On the way forward, Sani suggested that governance should be inclusive and driven in a way to promote national unity and solidarity, ensuring fairness and discouraging ethnic or religious biases.

 On his part, the spokesman of the Afenifere, Odumakin, said he believed that Nigeria should be restructured, and the present constitution should be tinkered with to make it a genuine and authentic law voluntarily adopted by the Nigerian people.

He said the present constitution was imposed on Nigerians, and as such, needed to be rejigged and revalidated.

Odumakin also condemned a statement credited to Junaid Mohammed that the North would revolt against any government that implements the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, describing it as irresponsible.

The Yoruba leader said: “He was part of the conference and the decisions reached. I challenge him to swear that he did not participate in the conference.”

Earlier, one of the guest lecturers at the event and the General Overseer of the Charismatic Renewal Ministries, Cosmas Ilechukwu, lamented the absence of genuine commitment to the rule of law and social contract with the citizens by government leaders.

He said if Nigeria must move forward, observing the rule of law and social contract is imperative.