•Claims enemies of Nigeria sponsoring discord
•ACF recants, calls for referendum on Nigeria’s future
•APC has not abandoned restructuring, says Fayemi
Deji Elumoye, Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
The presidency in a veiled reference to renewed agitations for restructuring of Nigeria yesterday said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration would not be intimidated into making any hasty decision over the matter, claiming that the country’s enemies were actively sponsoring discord in the polity.
There have been renewed agitations for the country to be restructured to avoid its break-up, with the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, joining the fray at the weekend.
But the presidency in two separate statements said Buhari would not be pressured to make any decision that would not be in the interest of the nation, making it clear that the president would only work with the legislature on issues of national concerns.
“The presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country with factions giving specific timelines for the president to do one thing or another or else, in their language, “the nation will break up,” it said in a terse statement last night by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, adding firmly: “This is to warn that such unpatriotic outbursts are both unhelpful and unwarranted as this government will not succumb to threats and take any decision out of pressure at a time when the nation’s full attention is needed to deal with the security challenges facing it at a time of the Covid-19 health crisis.”
It emphasised: “Repeat: this administration will not take any decision against the interests of 200 million Nigerians, who are the president’s first responsibility under the constitution, out of fear or threats especially in this hour of a health crisis.
“The president as an elected leader under this constitution will continue to work with patriotic Nigerians, through and in line with the parliamentary processes to finding solutions to structural and other impediments to the growth and wellbeing of the nation and its people.”
Earlier in the day, the presidency had in another statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, accused the enemies of the country of sponsoring and encouraging discord and anarchy against the government for either selfish ends or as revenge for perceived injuries.
It warned Nigerians to beware of such persons, saying that the Buhari-led government was only interested in engendering better quality of life for the citizenry.
It claimed that some opposition elements against the government had wanted to hide under the botched planned strike by organised labour to attack the Buhari administration.
It, however, noted that some people were disappointed that the organised labour followed the part of honour by suspending the strike over the increase in prices of petrol and electricity tariff.
According to the statement, “Since Organised Labour toed the path of sense and sensibility last week, seeing reason with the imperatives of fuel price adjustment, and opening a further window of dialogue on the service based electricity tariff, some groups of Nigerians have been dolorous, disgruntled, and disconsolate.
“They had apparently perfected plans to use the strike by the labour unions as a smokescreen to unleash anarchy on the land, fomenting mayhem and civil disobedience. But the plan blew up in their faces, and they have been in severe pains since then. They have launched a series of tirades against organised labour.”
However, a traditional supporter of the government, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), yesterday bowed to pressure from the other geopolitical zones and called for a referendum to decide on the fate of the country.
The Pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; apex Igbo socio-political group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; the Middle Belt Forum; and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), have been calling for the restructuring of the country and the implementation of the 2014 Confab Report.
The RCCG overseer, Adeboye, had also on Saturday added his voice to the list of prominent Nigerians calling for restructuring, warning of a heightened danger of break-up if the country’s leaders failed to reform.
He suggested a merger of the British and American systems of government for Nigeria, stressing that the country should develop a system peculiar and unique to it.
The ACF had always argued that members of the National Assembly are the legitimate representatives of the people that should decide the future of the country.
But in an exclusive interview with THISDAY yesterday, the spokesman of ACF, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, agreed that Nigerians should be given an opportunity to decide the future of the country but pointed out that advocates of restructuring are not coherent.
“Our position is that Nigerians should be given the opportunity to decide whether the country should remain one or to break up,” Yawe said, adding: “There should be a referendum to decide on the fate of Nigeria. Once you have that referendum, if Nigerians decide to live together then they should decide on what form of government they want – whether it is federalism, unitary, parliamentary or whatever system of government they want.”
He said the referendum would also decide on restructuring, explaining that the people calling for restructuring had not really given a coherent message on what to restructure the country into.
According to him, many people have different ideas about restructuring.
“Some people are calling for fiscal federalism; to some people, restructuring means Nigeria should break up. Some people just want a better deal from Nigeria; they want to control the resources found in their domains. So you have different interpretations of restructuring,” he noted.
He said the people agitating for restructuring, don’t really know what they want other than abusing the north.
“It appears the only thing they have in common is hatred for the north. They keep abusing the north and they expect the north to accept it. You cannot keep on abusing people and expect them to buy into your idea,” Yawe said, adding: “They should go beyond abusing the north, calling northerners parasites and all those things. We are not parasites. We have contributed a lot to the development of this country.”
He said when people continue to call northerners parasites, they scare them away from the debate.
“They should change their language so that whatever they are advancing, we should also contribute to it,” he said, explaining: “So, the solution is for a referendum for Nigerians to decide whether to break up or to remain as one country. And if we decide to remain together, we should determine the restructure.”
Afenifere: ACF is Arrogant
Responding to the ACF position, the Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere and PANDEF condemned its position that those calling for the restructuring of Nigeria were insulting the North.
Afenifere’s spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told THISDAY yesterday that the ACF’s position smacks of grand arrogance.
“The ACF are insensitively arrogant to say clamouring for a settled society is an insult to them. Are they savages? God should forgive us the sin that made Him to lump us in the same country with these types,” Odumakin said.
PANDEF has also described as careless and irresponsible a statement credited to the ACF that patriotic Nigerians calling for the restructuring of the country “are insulting the North”.
PANDEF in a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, stressed that the statement was irresponsible, careless, and clearly speaks to ACF’s “high horse” disposition.
According to him, “If they claim not to understand restructuring in the context Nigerians are clamouring for, then it’s a pity. There is nothing to clarify or define. Those against the restructuring of the country are only living in self-deception.
Fayemi: APC Has Not Abandoned Restructuring
In a related development, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has said the ruling APC has never abandoned the quest for restructuring.
He recalled that the party had projected restructuring as a core manifesto and set up the El-Rufai Committee to make recommendations to its leadership.
Fayemi said not only has the panel submitted its report, but concrete steps had also been made to make proposals to the National Assembly.
He drew attention to the commencement of constitution review by the Omo-Agege Committee, saying that it has rekindled the agitation for restructuring.
The NGF chairman spoke yesterday with reporters in Lagos on preparations for the second year anniversary of his second term, gains and constraints of the administration, conflicts in Ekiti APC and agitations for federalism.
Fayemi argued that federalism is the answer, adding that the onus is on the National Assembly to look at the previous reports of National Conferences.
He said many recommendations along the line of restructuring, devolution and federalism were embedded in the reports of the Niki Tobi Panel, the 2004 Conference set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and 2014 conference established by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Fayemi said: “We must confront our reality as a federation. The current structure is supportive of the unitary model. The state structure, for now, is problematic. There is a need to move towards devolution, not only of functions but also resources.”
The governor also spoke on the quest for decentralisation of security, noting the actualisation of the South-west outfit, Amotekun, and efforts by the federal government to kick-off community policing.
He said local policing is meaningful and more effective when it is premised on the potency of intelligence gathering in the local environment.
“Security cannot be unitarised. It must be devolved,” he explained.
The governor also took cognisance of the protagonists and antagonists of constitution reforms, saying: “There are entrenched conservative interests to keep Nigeria the way it is. There are also entrenched interests to reform Nigeria.”
Reflecting on the activities of agitators for succession, Fayemi said: “Nobody wants Nigeria to break up. They only want Nigeria to work for all of us.”