By Ben Agande
Kaduna – Former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said Wednesday that the north had nothing to fear about restructuring of the country.
However, while Atiku Abubakar and Tambuwal spoke about how the present structure of the country could be tinkered with, Prof Abdullahi wanted regionalism or outright break up of the country.
The trio spoke at a two day conference on “The North and the Future of Nigerian Federation”, organized by the Arewa Research and Development Project, in collaboration with Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation; the Northern Elders Forum; Arewa Consultative Forum; Code Group; Northern Delegates Forum; Arewa Reawakening; Jamiyar Matan Arewa and Forum for Northern Youths Organisations.
While Atiku said the north was not afraid of restructuring because it stood to gain more if more power was devolved to the federating units, Governor Tambuwal, who is also the chairman of Northern Governors and Traditional Rulers Committee on Restructuring, said to show that the north had nothing to fear about restructuring, northern governors and traditional rulers forum had set up a committee to aggregate the views of the north on the issue.
Prof Ango Abdullahi on his part, said restructuring should mean a return to the regions as they existed in 1960.
He also suggested that the country should be broken up to the units that they were, prior to the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates in 1914, stressing that in as much as the region was not afraid of restructuring, it would not be blackmailed into it.
Atiku, who was represented by Dr Auwal Anwar, said his idea of restructuring was the devolution of more powers to the federating units; creation of state police and other such things.
“The north stand to gain more if there is devolution of power. There there local police, there would not have been Boko Haram for instance because they would have had the intelligence to stop them.
”The new North has nothing to fear (about restructuring) because we have the land, the people and resources. His Tory will not wait for us. The north should direct the process and the outcome,” he said.
On his part, Governor Tambuwal, who was chairman of the conference, said: “The idea that the north is against restructuring because it benefits most from the current state of things is circumscribed and patently false.
”The fact that some people continue to parrot such lies only help to give credence to the flawed argument. Let us be clear: the north wants restructuring as much as any one.”
The governor said what the north craved was a mutual agreement on the definition of restructuring, adding that any decision taken on the issue of restructuring “must be inclusive and respect procedures and processes so that the outcome is sustainable.
“In my view, if restructuring means taking stock of our arrangement to ensure that no state takes a disproportionate amount of resources, or most of the available space in the education of job sector, or subjugate the others’ culture or religion, or lords it over the other so that the number of the poor and uneducated whose future is circumscribed by their circumstance is shared proportionately, then we are in the game.”
He said what the north was asking for was a “country where there is peace and progress, where justice is guaranteed, where all lives are safe and people can pursue their legitimate livelihoods wherever they choose.
”I believe each state in this country has areas of comparative advantage and and life is a cycle so that what was once the largest revenue earner can in time become less while something else takes ascendency”.
But in his remarks, former Vice chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Ango Abdullahi said the call for restructuring in the country indicates “the failure of the operators and not the structure.”
He said those calling for the implementation of the reports of the 2006 and 2014 conferences by Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan respectively were ill-informed because the two conferences were tailored to achieve a predetermined result by the conveners.
According to him, while the Obasanjo conference was to ensure that he got a third term, President Jonathan convened the 2014 conference to legitimize his ambition to strangulate other regions.
Abdullahi, who noted that the best option for the country was to return to 1914 or 1960, said: “Let us go our separate ways. If on the other hand we give credit to the British and our founding fathers (and they deserve credit), and we cannot contain restructuring based on what existed in 1914, we should go back to 1960 when the country operated regions. The north is not afraid of getting our north back.”
Professor Abdullahi said the call for restructuring of the country gained more currency when a northerner was in power, adding that it was a “political blackmail against northern Nigeria and we will not tolerate it anymore.”
He enjoined political leaders in the region not to “rush into committing the north to any agreement or allow anybody to stampede us into agreeing with something that will hurt the north.”
In his remarks, the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir Rl Rufai, said it was the responsibility of the north to carry a ‘national plaque in the quest for restructuring” as it is the elder brother in the Nigerian federation and should handle the issue of restructuring in an amicable and harmonious manner.
Governor El Rufai, who was represented by his deputy, Bala Bantex, said the north should be concerned with addressing the dual challenge of poverty and deficiency in education in the region.
In a remark, the chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in the 19 northern states, said what ever form the restructuring of the country took, it must “respect all forms of worship. No one should be treated as inferior. We should respect our faiths”
Convener of the conference, Dr Usman Bugaje, said the resurgence of the call for restructuring represented failure of leadership at all levels of government.
“The raging debate about the future of our federation is only a fraction of the problem. We must see it as the first and necessary step that will help us prepare for our future. It is therefore important that we bring a lot of objectivity and maturity.
”Mere display of emotions is not going to be useful here. We need to think through whatever proposal we make. We should realize that we can’t force any view on anybody in this day and age. We must seek to persuade and not dictate,” he said.
He noted that one of the objectives of the conference was to “bring clarity,accuracy and precision to the debate on the future of the Nigerian federation.
”This is necessary because the the moment, there is a lot of confusion about what a federation is supposed to be. People who talk about true federalism clearly need to revise their notes and realize that true federalism is not only misleading but also untenable since every federation is unique and there are no two federations that are the same.
”Similarly, the concept of of fiscal federalism has been grossly misunderstood and many are reading their parochial wishes and confusing the debate.”