By Japhet Alakam
As agitations for restructuring and even secession by some ethnic groups continue to dominate discussions in the country, the President of Isoko Development Union (IDU), Lagos State Branch, Comrade Frank Alordiah in an interview with Saturday Vanguard argues that there can be no real development in the country until each state is allowed to control the resources on its territory. He also describes as the joke of the country, a map released recently by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB which included Isoko ethnic group as part of Biafra.
How do you see the state of the nation?It is unfortunate that we found ourselves where we are today as a nation. Nigeria used to be a very peaceful and prosperous country before the military rule. I put the blame on our leaders who jettisoned regional autonomy for unitary government controlled from the centre.
That is why development and prosperity has eluded us as a nation and that is why you see agitations everywhere because the people are not feeling the impact of government. They say we are practicing democracy, yet state governments run to Abuja every month cup in hand to meet the Federal government for allocation.
Everything is concentrated in and controlled from Abuja. You cannot run a country peacefully and progressively like that. This is the major reason for agitations as people don’t have direct feeling and impact of government. I believe decentralization of the federal system is key to national peace and development.
Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB recently released the Biafran map where some states, apart from Igbo core states, were included. What is the position of Isoko?The position of Isoko has been well articulated and presented by some of our prominent leaders including our President-General, High Chie Iduh Amadhe and Chief John Araka.
The inclusion of the Isoko Nation in the map of Biafra is a pipe dream. The Isokos did not migrate from any of the Eastern states nor do we have anything in common culturally even though we are in the same country and are inter-married which is allowed. Our forefathers migrated from Benin in Edo State.
And don’t forget that in the early sixties, there was a referendum that resulted in the creation of Mid-West from then Western Region. It was created by law. The name was later changed to Bendel State and today, we have two states, Edo and Delta from the old Bendel State.
None of the two states have anything similar with the people now calling themselves Biafra. So, I don’t see how that can happen, Isoko people cannot be part of Biafra. That map is the joke of the century.
However, every group in the country has the right to agitate for whatever they feel will benefit them. I commend IPOB for their courage to speak up. That is one of the drawbacks of a centrally managed government. People feel marginalized and that has given birth to series of agitations. The Constitution that lays emphasis on federal character in all appointments is not even obeyed by the federal government. Look at the structure we have now, in the army, the police, the customs and other parastatals of government.
The federal character principle is not obeyed. In fact, all these agitations for Biafra, Ododuwa, Middle-Belt States etc. will fizzle out if every sector of the country has a sense of belonging in activities of government.
How can we then achieve restructuring when the Senate has thrown away the bill for it?
That is politics in action. Recall that soon after the bill was rejected, the Senate President said the rejection was as a result of misunderstanding of people regarding the concept of devolution of power. So, let us wait for the Senate.
Don’t also forget that whatever decision they take on the constitutional amendment, it will still go back to the State Houses of Assemblies for concurrent passage.
And if it gets there, they have to vote on it. My prayer is that the issue should be revisited as the Senate President promised because if there is no devolution of power to the states, development will continue to elude us as a nation.
So, are you in support of restructuring of the country?
Devolution of power to the states, yes. Most of the items on the exclusive legislative list should be moved to the concurrent list. For instance, if you go to the North, there are states with several mineral deposits. And from Ekiti down to Oyo, Ogun, Lagos and everywhere, states have untapped mineral resources.
There is no state in Nigeria without a mineral resource. But you see the constitution we are operating today vest the authority to exploit these mineral resources on the federal government that does not have the capacity to do so.
Restructuring the economy in such a way as to allow states to develop and grow their own economy in a pace suited for their own environment is the ideal thing to do. They should amend the constitution so that states will have autonomy over the economic resources in their domain.