By Ejiofor Alike
Despite the claim by the presidency that those calling for restructuring are threatening the corporate existence of the country, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has thrown its weight behind other regional socio-political groups and prominent Nigerians, calling for restructuring following what it described as the failure of the country.
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.
Adeboye spoke at a symposium alongside the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke; and a former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili.
The respected cleric had warned that it was either the country restructured as soon as possible or it broke up.
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, describing the calls as “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.”
Following what they described as the presidency’s “very uncouth and rude warning,” an elder statesman and chieftain of the apex Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; South and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF); and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) had on Monday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to purge himself of dictatorial tendencies and be more tolerant of dissenting public opinion.
However, NEF yesterday joined these regional groups and advised Nigerians not to be tired of demanding the restructuring of the country.
The forum argued that the Nigerian state has failed in the management of security, insisting on the need to revisit the way the country is structured to provide security for citizens.
Speaking on a live television programme monitored in Lagos, NEF spokesperson, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, insisted that the country must be restructured to address fundamental issues that ought to have been addressed since Nigeria gained independence.
He said: “The two basic functions of the state are to secure citizens and provide for their welfare. Now, the Nigerian state is failing in both camps. So, restructuring for us means addressing those failures and identifying ideas, suggestions, and changes that can actually fit into the process of improving them.
“Policing is a fundamental issue. Here in the north where I come from, you could spend three days with bandits ravaging communities and you will not see a single policeman. Something is wrong with the way the country is structured to provide security for citizens. So, we need to revisit some of these issues.”
The NEF spokesperson stressed that the Nigerian constitution must be revised to “deal with issues that divide Nigerians rather than unite them.”
He explained: “We need to look at our constitution, look at the way it provides for the Nigerian state, the federating units, allocate responsibilities in power, the works of vital institutions, or the failure of vital institutions to work and how we can improve them.
“When we make demands for the restructuring of the country, we are not necessarily saying that the government is deliberately causing the problems – they are cumulative issues, matters that should have been addressed a long time ago but they were not addressed. Nations must accept to revisit how they live.
“Nigerians have a right to ask for changes, for amendment, for improvement in the manner in which we live. There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is for the government to specifically say we don’t want to hear anything about restructuring.
“Right now, no one will dispute that the federal government carries too many responsibilities most of which it doesn’t discharge, has too many resources and is not well run. It has become a focus of intense competition – the type of competition that makes the political system unstable. Everybody wants the presidency. Everybody wants to go to Abuja. Abuja is everything. This is wrong.”
He added: “Many conferences whose recommendations have not been implemented need to be implemented.”
“We believe that Nigerians should never (be) tired about demanding that their country must be made to work. If the government is not going to do it on its own, it needs assistance. If it needs some pressure, we believe we can provide that pressure.