By Egufe Yafugborhi
FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday expressed his strong opposition to calls for the restructuring of the country saying there was nothing wrong with Nigeria to warrant the raging clamour for restructuring or dismemberment. General Obasanjo who spoke at the palace of Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, when he paid a visit to the monarch said what needs restructuring is the mindset of Nigerians.
The former president who was reacting to comments made by the Palace Chief, Brown Mene who spoke on behalf of the throne that the Itsekiri people were marginalised by the Nigerian state said “There is nothing wrong with Nigeria, but a lot is wrong with Nigerians. We need to correct what is wrong with Nigerians and you become an accomplice if you fail to say what is right”.
His words: “The point I note of your dissatisfaction is that in spite of history and in spite of the current situation of marginalization of your interests and desire, you never asked to be separated from Nigeria.
“When I was president, some people from Ogun state visited Aso Rock to complain that they were also marginalised. There is nothing wrong in asking for more share of the national cake but it is unacceptable for anyone to say that the only way out is separation.
“We can solve all our problems through dialogue, debate, discussion, conversation. I participated in the civil war. It was gruesome, destructive, deadly. Those clamouring don’t know what war means. I swore never to be part of it again. They say in my place that he who sees Sango (god of thunder) fighting, destroying with fire will never want to see Sango in his element again.
“The answer to most of our problems is mindset change and change of mentality. If we need any restructuring, it is the restructuring of our mindset and mentality. How will anybody in his right senses believe separation in the way out? We have passed that stage. We have problems, there are many ways we can solve them. It is our diversity that make us a great country. I won’t want a Nigeria where we dance same juju, or wear same attire. Our strength is in our diversity.
“Some progress is being made in spite of our difficulties and problems. We need to make greater progress than we have made before. If we do that, we will have good governance. There should be no impunity, everybody must have a sense of belonging, a stake in this project called Nigeria. Dismemberment of Nigeria is not good enough. Inequality, injustice, unfairness, impunity are not good enough and should be substituted”.
Earlier in his speech, palace spokesman, Chief Brown Mene had told Obasanjo that the Itsekiri people were being marginalised by the Nigerian state in spite of the Itsekiri kingdom’s contribution to the growth of the nation, but that they would rather not thread the path of violence or separation to redress their plight.
Brown said on Itsekiri’s cry for justice that, “We prefer ours in a refined manner devoid of violence. We will go with it reasonably, responsibly, peacefully, persuasively, so that what is just may be recognised. We are aware of several parts of the country clamouring for secession. Itsekiri prefer for Nigeria to remain strong and united, a nation where justice is recognised, merit rewarded and crime punished correctively so that we can build an egalitarian society.
Harping on the former president’s background, leadership experience, towering influence till date and his passion to support a united Nigeria against all odds, he said the Itsekiri nation placed much hope on Obasanjo to help the kingdom in surmounting the challenge of marginalisation.
Brown told Obasanjo that, “In the sense of how we see the hand of God in you, there is still a lot more that can be done for this country through you. As you still have the voice in Nigeria, please continue to speak so that minorities in this country will not continue to be sidelined just because we lack headcount majority. We have been contributing values to the building of this nation.
“As God continues to give you a voice to speak, remember us. Because of the path God has given you to walk through, you also have as a duty to speak for the downtrodden so that Nigeria may be built on equity based on justice so that those who labour to build this nation may be rewarded”.
Former President Obasanjo’s current stand on restructuring was a carry over of his convictions when he was at the helm of affairs in the country. As president, General Obasanjo was opposed to any call for the restructuring of Nigeria