Deji Elumoye in Abuja
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), Thursday canvassed for the restructuring of the country so as to integrate the Igbo into the polity.
Gowon, who spoke at the debate for national unity with the theme: “ Federal Character, Restructuring and Rotation of Presidential Power in Nigeria” organised by Igbo Leadership Development Foundation in Abuja, also emphasised that the Igbo nation still remains marginalised 50 years after the civil war.
The elder statesman represented by a former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, therefore appealed for urgent steps to be taken to ameliorate the pains of the Igbo.
According to him, Nigeria had what it takes to cater adequately for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or creed.
He further canvassed for the convocation of a constitutional debate on restructuring to holistically observe the imbalances that had kept Nigeria down over the years with a view to making progress and promoting national unity and cohesion.
“I believe that a lot of injustice has been done to the Igbo and a constitutional debate on restructuring must address all imbalances and restore hope and confidence.
“Nigeria is big enough for all of us and I believe that the Ndigbo, Middle belt and the Yoruba are the true Nigerians because if you look round our borders, people came from abroad and are still coming but Ndigbo’s have always been there, middle belt have always been there, even Yoruba have always been there”
“People who came in yesterday who have a duty of respect are now the ones talking. Going forward, we must create a federal democracy that will respond positively to all the aspirations of our people not about East-West but all about working together in equality, bringing in the youths and the women to build a new Nigeria.”
Gowon stressed that Nigeria remains incomplete without Ndigbo, adding that the nation needed to properly harness the intelligence, creativity and hard work of the Ndigbo for national growth and development.
God, he further said, did not make mistake by making Ndigbo part and parcel of Nigeria and called for justice, equity and fair play in the practice of Nigeria’s democracy.
He explained that while restructuring was critical to national advancement, it must be carried out in an atmosphere of tolerance and love for one other.
“I am not a friend of hate speech and bitterness but a friend of patriotism because Nigeria is dear to my heart and I believe in bright future of Nigeria and Ndigbo and that together, we can make our country great,” the elder statesman stated.
Also speaking, the Founder of Gregory University, Uturu, Prof. Gregory Ibe, said Nigeria is practising a unitary system of government that does not cater appropriately for the federating units as intended by the 1999 Constitution.
Ibe, in his keynote address, emphasised that the present system was a clear departure from the federal system bequeathed to the country by its founding fathers and Britain.
According to him, most of the power centres that would have aided the development of states and local administration had been unduly looped in the Exclusive List of the Federal Government thereby denying the other tiers of powers to operate.
The don therefore called for urgent restructuring to reverse the current political lopsidedness in the land and create the path for national peace, unity and integration.