By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – THE Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, has said that the rejection of restructuring by anyone no matter how highly placed is an endorsement of secession agitation.
UPU in a statement issued by its President-General, Chief Joe Omene, titled, “Mr. President: A Rejection of Restructuring is an Endorsement of Secession Calls”, said that the unity of a people is an aspiration that, if desired, must be worked for by the various ethnic nationalities as a common mission and not an imposition at the convenience of one party at the expense of others.
According to UPU, which is said to be the 6th largest ethnic group in the country, “The statement credited to President (Muhammadu) Buhari, by one Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu, who represented him at an event that “…those calling for restructuring, my question is , what are you restructuring?” and describing them in the most unacceptable derogatory and acerbic adjectives as “naive” and “people who have not even studied the 1999 constitution” is not only tantamount to pouring petrol on a raging inferno but has sent shock waves of total disappointment and hopelessness among Nigerians, both at home and in the diaspora.
“Particularly those Nigerians who see restructuring as the only viable and sure pathway that has made instability the most distinctive feature of the country. And the only possible solace from a worrisome situation in which the country is drifting apart speedily.
“How will the foreclosure of such civic avenue of dialogue, as the President is proposing, help to secure a country that is falling apart? Did the President actually endorse these volatile statement made on his behalf by this representative at that event on Saturday 19th June 2021 in Zaria?”
The statement further said,” The Urhobo Progressive Union believes from its recent engagement with the Attorney General Of the Federation (AGF) that ultimately the Officers of the Federal Government, like all Nigerians, long for a Country that all Nigerians can be proud of to live in, as equal stakeholders, where no group should lord it over others.
“This has been the challenge and the overwhelming task that we have not been able to achieve since independence with the result that, as at today, the country is collasping and in urgent need of the embrace of enduring solutions that will bring peace to the land.
“However, the statement credited to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Buhari, to the effect that Nigerians seeking solutions by way of restructuring of the federation, by returning to the original federalist template of 1963 are naïve, is an unfortunate and needless provocation that completely negates the assumption that he means well for Nigeria.
“This is not the kind of statement that should be made at a very dicey momement when there is anger across the land and the country bleeding is from the weight of its internal contradictions and failure to effectively manage our diversities.”
It stated that Nigeria has become so riven with social strife emanating from disaffection with how federalism is practiced within the country, adding,” these disaffections and dissatisfaction are rooted in issues that have been identified before independence like the fears of the peoples of Niger-Delta and have been repeated in several national conferences that have been suppressed whenever nationalities or fragments of their demographics agitate over such disaffections.”
Chief Omene whose position as the President-General of UPU has been in contention further said,” But these suppressed yearnings are snowballing everyday like the rumblings of a volcano about to erupt. These volcanic rumblings are evident in the increasing calls for secessions from diverse corners of Nigeria.
“Most moderate Nigerian Nationality groups, like the Urhobo Progressive Union, UPU, that have called for restraint on the part of those calling for secession, do not do so because the UPU feel that they have no justifiable cause. Their causes are well and truly justified, but like many moderate groups, the UPU feels that there are some residual justifiable reasons to make an effort to salvage the federal union which was broadly discussed and envisioned during the Lancaster House talks that led to the Republican Constitution of 1963 in Nigeria.
“Even under those broad agreements, sections of Nigeria including the minority groups that their resources became the sacrificial lambs for sustaining the civil war still had unresolved grievances that remain glossed over till date by all regimes.
“We are now the third generation of the people of Niger-Delta that are still on the same issues, while one government after the other plays pranks with words. Hence, restraint has only been endured and endorsed because all moderates hold the hope that Restructuring is a peaceful option towards an acceptable compact between all Nigerians to enable a federal union that approaches the ideal for national harmony, but this recent disparaging statement discrediting efforts at such peaceful change is by all intents and purposes a provocation that leaves and endorses only one option, Secession!
“Again, UPU wishes to correct the wrong notion that seccession is synonymous with war, not at all. There was a Great Britain that later restructured without fighting war and formed a loose independent union of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland that is now known and called United Kingdom.
“The unity of a people of diverse backgrounds cannot be a thing for a mere textbook definition. Unity of a people is an aspiration that, if desired, must be worked for by the various ethnic nationalities as a common mission and not an imposition at the convenience of one party at the expense of others.
“We must acknowledge our diversities and respect one another in order to coexist together in peace in one country under God. There is nothing like “indivisibility” and “indissolubility” of any state entity in the history of formation of nations as is often used by some Nigerians to avoid rational disscussion of the gridlock that we have found ourselves as a people.
“Nigeria is a creation of Britain not God, for their own economic exploitation and not for the benefit of the indigenous people, it can only endure under mutually beneficial terms.
” To avoid the raging fire for succession, there is urgent need to make people see the benefits of one Nigeria through the embrace of equity, justice and fairness to all ethnic groups through restructuring now.
” To say that respected Nigerians, statemen and celebrated scholars all of whom have advocated for restructuring as the pathway to restoring peaceful co-existence do not understand why the country needs to restructure its federal praxis is a vexatious attempt to underestimate the dangers the country is at the moment.
“Even in the President’s own state and geopolitical zone, there is abundant evidence that federal policing as currently prescribed by the Exclusive list of the distorted federal constitution has failed woefully, bandits and criminals have taken over most areas, such that farmers and peace loving people in the North West can no longer carry out any meaningful activities to earn a living.
“If the President cannot even see the obvious need for restructuring in his own backyard, it is hard to see how he can see or understand the imperatives for restructuring in other peoples’ domains.
” Yet, Mr. President needs to hear about restructuring as the only option left at this stage, even if these mute facts have been repeated often enough.
” For the avoidance of doubt and to make it clear to all Nigerians, Deltans and in particular Urhobos, whom the UPU primarily owe a duty to properly articulate and aggregate their interests; the following are some of the important issues of distorted federalism requiring restructuring that are at the root of the issue and make it difficult for the Urhobo people and other hard-working Nigerians to achieve progress and prosperity, adequate welfare as well as security within the Nigerian federal union.
“The Current 1999 Federal Constitution is invalid and lacks legitimation from Federating Units referendum.
” It is claimed that the current Federal Constitution was made by Nigerians and accepted by them, this is a lie, the constitution was crafted by a few people and no referendum conducted to affairm its contents by Urhobo people, it does not aggregate the interests of most Nigerians and within it there are many contradictions on the claims of federal practices, which many nationalities will never have acceded to if their inputs were sought.
“Most stakeholders, including federal authorities at the inception of the current civilian rule were unable to obtain a copy of the constitution until the Obasanjo Government was sworn-in in 1999.
” Since then it has been amended over 200 times by legislators whose primary interests often do not reflect the aggregate interest of the nationalities that constitute the federal union assumed in the so-called national federal grundnorm.
” To legitimate a proper federal Constitution, federating nationalities will have their inputs which will be aggregated in it and all will vote in a referendum with each geopolitical zone acceding to an agreed group-decision making mechanism on the Constitution.
“The Exclusive list of the Current Constitution is centrist, it concentrates power to the federal centre rather than de-concentrate it to federating units or balance power between federal and federating units as federal principles demands, the consequence is that the extant constitution arrogates too much power away from federating units making them unproductive and dependent.
“States that are supposed to be centres of development are idle because they have no access to resources within their domain, they must sit and idle while the federal centre plans and implements how they will obtain and distribute electricity power for their needs, fuel for their consumption and productive needs, regardless of whether the federal centre is efficient in doing so or not, their destinies are yoked.
“How do we expect to make progress and develop when the 1999 constitution domicled 68 items to an unproductive federal centre that is only interested in only one item; Niger-Delta oil, that it collects only rents and royalties from and is not interested in anything that will bring other investments to the sector as exemplified with the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that has been locked up in the chambers of the National Assembly since 2003?
“The derivation principle agreed upon prior to the 1963 Constitution whereupon federating units in Nigeria agreed to enter into a federal union was based on a principle in which federating units produce from their resources and pay royalties and rents to the central federal government, but the current 1999 constitution rest most of the productive capabilities from electricity, mining and ports to a federal centre hence rendering federating units incapable of being effectively productive (see distortions between S.134 of 1960 Constitution compared to section 162(2) of 1999 Constitution).
“The current Constitution as it envisions the national defense council arbitrarily creates federal defense forces into occupying forces in geopolitical zones, rather than creating a federal army that are formed from armies from each geopolitical zone, thereby creating and sustaining an oppressive asymmetrical armed forces.
“To provide remedy and national harmony there should be the adoption of one of the Aburi agreements for the creation of area commands in each geopolitical zone made up of purpose-fit contextually germane armies formed from each zone and balanced with technical federal units.
“For example, if the North East and North West were a fit for purpose Geopolitical zone armies, these geopolitical zones will not be overrun by bandits and ISWAP fundamentalists.”
UPU said the federal constitution as it currently exist only pays lip service to balancing of Nigeria’s multicultural nature and its pluralism in the very important political issue of power sharing,, adding that it was not grafted into the constitution to ensure power rotation at national and subnational levels.
“This has created doubts in the constitutional provision, and incrementally sowed distrust in national and sub-national institutions such that at federal levels some sections that have been in office for two terms of eight years still claim they can retain it further, while at state levels some governors make a mockery of such understanding, for a segmented and plural society, this is a very toxic oversight and omission.
“Lijphart (1977) has argued that consociational democracy is the only possible solution for deeply divided societies to practice democracy. We cannot repeat the mistakes that other countries paid dearly for before they made amends.
” Lijphart used the term of consociationalism for a particular power sharing design that he identified while investigating the political stability of deeply divided societies of Western Europe, namely the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria.
” In recent times even the federal character clause that should be used to manage our diversities has been breached with arrogance because there are no constitutional provisions to punish erring elected officials,” it said.
In conclusion, the group said that several other areas of distortions can be pointed out if a granular analysis of the current constitution is carried out.
It further said that” all these negate the federal principles under which the Nigerian union assumedly came to exist.”
UPU in the statement also submitted that” These are significant fundamental issues that clearly justifies yearnings for secession which in real terms translates to a refusal of federating units to accept to be forced into a marriage of inconvenience or what some in the Western world will describe as a short-gun wedding.
“The statement by the President is very unfortunate and therefore amounts to telling nationalities in Nigeria that they must be forced into a short-gun wedding with others even if they do not want it. Restructuring is the only condition for an acceptable wedding of nationalities.
“Restructuring is a development proposal, an economic argument for progress having regard to the enviable pace of development in the first Republic under the peoples constitution of 1963.
” Any statement implying that restructuring is naïve is therefore an invitation to forced marriage and therefore an invitation to violent uprisings.”