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How Nigeria can be peacefully restructured – Bishop Okonkwo

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By Joseph Erunke

RESTRUCTURING may have been one of the major campaign promises of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, ahead of the 2015 general election. It is, however, no news that the party was quick to forget that promise as it settled down to governance.

When it was recently reminded, the party’s national leadership said it did not understand what the term meant and reluctantly set up a committee to help it find the meaning. That committee led by Governor Nasir El-Rufai is still working on a definition of the term.

The committee apparently has not met with one of the enduring advocates of restructuring; albeit, a Man of God whose primary business is the resuscitation of the spirit of men, Dr. Mike Okonkwo, the presiding bishop of The Redeem Evangelical Mission, TREM.

Re-echoing his position Sunday, in Abuja, having presided over Leading Edge Conference, an annual business seminar promoted by the Abuja branch of his ministry, the fiery preacher said the season for restructuring of Nigeria had arrived, noting that nobody can deny the country any such opportunity.

*Bishop Okonkwo

Indeed, just as Jesus The Christ, took on the lawmakers of his time represented by the Pharisees, Okonkwo is unsparing of the National Assembly which he blames for walking away from the proposals on restructuring during the recent vote on the alteration of the 1999 Constitution.

Those who oppose the call, according to him, should be considered the real enemies of the people of Nigeria and warned the National Assembly not to take Nigerians for granted in the treatment of restructuring in the ongoing constitution alteration bill before it.

It was a homily that also touched on the ugliness of the church in Nigeria as the minister called on fellow ministers of the gospel to purge themselves to be better used of God in the country.

To this end, he asked the National Assembly which had recently rejected areas that connect with restructuring in the ongoing constitution amendment, to revisit them in order not to incur the wrath of the people.

“I think that whenever a season for something is ripe, you can’t hold back the season. There have never been agitations for restructuring as it is now, even those who had hitherto been indifferent to it and who would never touch it, are now beginning to touch it and that is an indication that the hour has come.”

Okonkwo said indolence and unnecessary dependence of states on federal allocations would be a thing of the past while healthy competitions among states resulting in unprecedented creation of ideas will take centre stage in the country if it was restructured.

“I believe with all my heart that if this nation is restructured, it will help us to be creative more than we expect.

“It will make those who are supposed to be in politics be more creative more than what they are doing now because most of them run to Abuja, collect money and squander and nothing is happening, but now, your people will demand accountability and competitions will be all over the place.

A man of God will take many insults for the gospel. Paul the, 1st-century apostle enjoined his disciple, Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. But, for Bishop Okonkwo, identifying with Nigeria with its oozing failures is something he is ashamed of especially in the light of the much endowments in the land.

Speaking further, he said:”Restructuring can be achieved peacefully if our lawmakers, those in the National Assembly could give it a chance.

“It is when they say no that there will be violence because people want it. So they should know that they are there to serve the people and not themselves, so they should listen to the people.”

“When that’s done, there will be no violence. Nobody wants war, especially if you have experienced it once.”

“I believe they will come back to it; there’s a limit to which you can reject people’s agitation. As long as they are rejecting it, there will still be pressure.

“People will still be talking, the Biafra people will still be creating their problems, and when it becomes a national issue, they will be forced to address it. So for me, I think that the wise thing to do is not to run from it.

“What’s wrong with restructuring so that every state develops at its own pace? What’s wrong with that that let us contribute to the centre? What’s bad about that?” he queried.

“For me, anybody in the National Assembly who says no, there should be no restructuring should be seen to be there to serve his belly and not serving the nation,” he added.

The Man of God was nevertheless quick to warn that the high decibel of the agitators should not be translated into violence.

“I keep on telling our young people agitating for war that ‘calm down, you don’t understand war.’ If you understand war, you will not ask for it. Everything can be resolved on a round table. “

“In a war, you will lose everything you have in a day, everything you laboured for, from the day you were born till now, in a day everything is lost. In a war, you can lose your entire family. We did that in the civil war, and we know what it cost us. We shouldn’t do that, let’s live in peace.”

So, how is the man of God calming the frayed nerves?

“I have been doing that myself. We tell them that that’s not the best way to go, that we can resolve our issues. There is no nation that doesn’t have problem. We can resolve our issues on the conference table. Let us abuse ourselves, let us fight ourselves when we finish, let’s still come back and see how we can agree.”

The bishop again, blamed the National Assembly for its recent rejection of South East Development Commission Bill, saying it was one of the reasons for the ongoing secessionist agitation by the people in the region.

“The nonpassage of the South East Development Commission Bill rejected in the National Assembly is one of the reasons for the agitation for Biafra. If the truth is to be told, the South East has been marginalized.

“That is the truth; it has been marginalized. And that’s why now the young people are coming out to say enough is enough. I believe that restructuring will address this imbalance.

“Personally, I won’t advocate a geographical Biafra; I will advocate restructuring. I believe that even in the mind of Nnamdi Kanu himself, he may not be agitating for geographical Biafra, he may be calling for the imbalance to be addressed but ‘we will pressurise you with this.’

“And people should better start listening to that guy because he has crowd. Let me be honest with you; you can’t stop him, the guy has unprecedented crowd. I don’t know how he put that up, but you must give that to him.

“In fact, if I have opportunity to talk to him personally and I’m trying to get him to come and see me. My advice to him is that he should connect to other pressure groups, Arewa, Oduduwa and the rest. He should connect to them all so that we can make our politicians know that the chicken has come home to roost. They can no longer cheat and deceive the people. If you are not ready to serve, get out of the way, “he said.

But in all these, the clergyman blamed church leaders for hitherto failing in their religious responsibilities, especially in the area of moral teaching just as he said efforts were being made by them to correct the mistake.

“Wrong teaching, from the pulpit, wrong teaching is responsible. We have to go back to the Bible and begin to preach the truth and complete gospel that will truly change people.

“But what we have is a bunch of hypocrites in church. They only tell the leaders what is wrong with them but without a solution on how to get out of it.

“I believe that church leaders have realized that and they are trying to address it. So I believe that in the next few years, we will begin to get the result we are expecting,” he said.

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