By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West, Henry Umoru, Festus Ahon & Luminous Jannamike
South-South governors, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN and a host of regional and ethnic-based organisations, Sunday, disagreed with President Muhammadu Buhari over his comments that there is nothing to restructure in Nigeria.
According to the governors and leaders of CAN, Afenifere, Middle-Belt Forum and Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Nigeria’s federalism, security architecture, and revenue sharing formula, among others, need to be restructured to save the country, rather dismembering it.
President Buhari, who was represented as special guest of honour by Executive Secretary of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and fiscal Commission, RMAFC, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu, at the launch of the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation, in Zaria, Kaduna State, said advocates of restructuring, secession are dangerous and naïve.
Noting that his government had no time for “any obscure conference” to discuss the way forward for the country, Buhari said there is nothing to restructure other than getting the states to allow the local councils function and make the judiciary independent.
President Buhari added that some of those agitating for restructuring are not informed, do not understand what they want restructured and may not have read the 1999 Constitution.
We’re informed, restructuring ‘ll save Nigeria, South-South govs insist
Reacting to the President’s position, chairman of South-South Governors Forum, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, said: “I don’t know who is not informed here. Restructuring is not about dividing the country into regions as it were.
“Restructuring is a lot of things; true federalism. We can’t be a federation with the way things are; and with so much powers at the centre and the centre does less than even local government areas.
“That is why people are calling for restructuring to whittle down the power at the centre and give more powers to the states because they do more work.
“Restructuring includes security. If the federal security apparatus cannot cope with the security challenges and you allow states to have their police outfits, up to community policing, it is also restructuring.
“Restructuring includes good allocation formula from the federation account so that there will be equity. May be they are just thinking that restructuring means dividing the country, creating states. No, that is not all.
“In a federation, the federating states should have an entitlement. You are producing oil, oil royalty should go to you as much as it is going to the centre; that is what the people are talking about.
“Restructuring is all-encompassing. The Federal Government has not even done one aspect of it. So they don’t know what they are talking about. The 17 Governors of the Southern states have come together and talked about restructuring, they are not just joking.
“They know what they are talking about; they are very involved and other people have started talking about it. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar brought it to the front-burner about five, six years ago.
“Atiku Abubakar could not have been uninformed and every other person talking about it. Professor Wole Soyinka, two weeks ago, said if the country did not decentralise, it would disintegrate.
“So I do not know which Nigerian will talk about restructuring now that will make meaning other than what prominent persons have spoken about. Very many Nigerians have talked about it even those in diaspora and that is what restructuring is all about, going back to the basics and doing the needful.”
Restructuring can’t be at Buhari’s pleasure – Afenifere
Also speaking, Secretary-General of Afenifere, Chief Sola Ebiseni said: “lt is so unfortunate that Nigeria has descended so low that the position of the Federal Government or even the President would have to be deduced from some innocuous officials.
“From what I read in the papers, the fellow to whom this statement is credited is one Executive Secretary, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu, who presides over the sharing of the revenue of the federation to which his state probably contributes nothing.
“How else can he impress his principal than tell him what would soothe his sectional and sectarian ego?
“The elected governors of the constituent states of the Federation, the leaders of the entrenched federating ethnic nationalities, former leaders, presidents and knowledgeable personalities are all calling for the restructuring of the political architecture to reinvent the foundational federal principles of the polity and here you find an opportunistic official heading a parasitic office which had no place in a true federal state talking down on the nation.
“lt is my submission that the statement could not be the opinion of General Buhari who is already seeking restructuring of the current land use under the 1999 constitution to reopen grazing routes under a law made pursuant to the 1963 constitution.
“We are at a critical stage where children, particularly in states with the highest population of children out of school in the world, can no longer go to school at all for fear of being kidnapped for ransom.
“State governments are demanding the powers to establish state police to deal with insecurity and prominent traditional rulers, especially emirs have called on their people to rise in their own defence and some uninformed government officials are threatening us with war if we seek restructuring or self determination. It is so nauseating.
“ln any event, restructuring of the political architecture of the country in the interest of the people, their security and general well-being is not going to be at the pleasure of the President or the whims and caprices of his officials.”
Those calling for restructuring are patriots – MBF
To the National Chairman of the Middle-Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, those agitating for restructuring are not naive and dangerous, “they are people who want Nigeria to succeed, who want Nigeria to remain one indivisible entity.”
He said: “You can remember that the case of the South-East has been on for long before now. For the first time, Odua Republic has come up and lately I saw Akwa Ibom or whatever. People are clamouring to leave this country because things are not working. If things are working nobody will be clamouring to leave.
“So people who are calling for the restructuring of this country, people who are calling for a constitution that will allow devolution of powers and so on which is a component of restructuring, people who are supporting the governors who say they do not have the powers though they are called chief security officers of their states but do not control the Police and the security apparatus which restructuring will address, are patriots.
“The issues of lopsidedness in allocating even constituencies to the extent that some places are more favoured than others rather than using real population and all that will be addressed with restructuring.
“So people clamouring for restructuring are patriots who love Nigeria, who want Nigeria to remain one single entity and not to be dismembered because sections are dissatisfied with the way things are going on.”
You have indicted yourself, APC, PANDEF tells Buhari
To the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, President Buhari’s comment on restructuring was indcictment on him and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC.
PANDEF, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said that for the President to make such a statement indicated that the APC-led Federal government is either confused, dishonest or incoherent because the APC constituted a Committee on restructuring that was chaired by one of its governors, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State.
The statement read: “The President’s statement indicts not only his party, the APC but himself, as well. It speaks to the fact that they are either dishonest or incoherent and confused.
“How could a President whose party constituted a Committee on restructuring that was chaired by one of his governors, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, make such comments?
“The Governor el-Rufai Committee concluded its assignment and submitted a report to the party, of which the President is the supposed leader, over two years ago.
“That the President could make such comments, though through a representative, at the launch of a Peace Foundation in Zaria, Kaduna State, reflects the core of the nation’s problems at this time that he could threaten war and the destruction of livelihoods of Nigerians shows that this presidency is insensitive, callous, and doesn’t care about the unity and future of Nigeria.
“Mr. President did not talk about how to deal with the banditry and increasing kidnap of school children in Kaduna and other states in the North-West.
“Rather he reminded citizens of the nation’s military might which he has been unable to deploy against the terrorists, bandits and criminals making life unbearable for citizens, and undermining the nation’s territorial integrity.
“No responsible government anywhere in the world would make or sanction such gibberish statements against its citizens. We are, undoubtedly, under a grossly blinkered leadership, sadly, to the detriment of the security and welfare of citizens.
“And the so-called Executive Secretary of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mr. Shehu Mohammed Bello, could afford to voice the prattle remarks on behalf Mr. President because he is aware of their agenda; to perpetuate the subjugation and gross injustice against the rest of the country.
“A situation whereby every strategic executive position in the nation’s public sector has to be occupied by a Northerner, of which the said Mr Shehu Mohammed Bello is a prime beneficiary.
“They are against restructuring because they are benefiting from the flawed, military-imposed 1999 Constitution.
“Every month, the 19 Northern states receive a minimum of 57% of 100% of oil revenue to which they contribute 0%, while the South-South which contributes 87%, receives less than 20%.
“Of Nigeria’s 774 LGAs, the 19 Northern states have 419 LGAs while the 17 Southern states have 357 LGAs.
“Every month, the 419 LGAs of the 19 northern states, with insignificant contribution, receive 54.9% of revenue available to Local Government Areas in the country. While the 357 LGAs of the 17 southern states receive 45.1% of what they contribute almost 100%.
“Meanwhile, they restrict the gold and other minerals in the north to themselves, and plunder the oil and gas in the Niger Delta with their cronies. That is the Nigeria they want to be sustained. We are saying enough is enough of that.
“They can easily refer Nigerians to the National Assembly and fantasize about due process because they know the membership of the National Assembly is also, like everything else in Nigeria, skewed and lopsided in their favour.
“Out of the total number of 360 Members of the House of Representatives, the South has 169, while the North has 191.
“Perhaps, they need to be informed that the primary issues are not local government autonomy and judiciary independence. It is nauseating to even hear them, brazenly, talk about judicial independence, with the administration’s record of reckless disregard for the rule of law.
“The fundamental issue is that there is an over-concentration of power at the centre; there are 68 items exclusive to the Federal Government in the 1999 Constitution. That is the problem!”
CAN knocks Buhari govt for opposing restructuring
On its part, CAN through its Vice-Chairman, Northern region, Reverend John Hayab, cautioned the President against taking the rest of the country for granted saying his remarks bore the marks of autocracy..
He said: “This same Buhari-led government had in the past set up a committee on restructuring and which came up with a report.
“If the same government is now saying that there is nothing to restructure, then it is telling Nigerians never to take anything it will say in the future seriously. Indeed, it is sad to hear that our elected leaders see us, citizens, as people who have no rights.
“When a democratically-elected president considers the yearning of people as the yearning of the unelected, then you can simply say we are in an ‘autocratic democracy’.
“By that, we are nominal democrats; but in action, autocratic. In a true democracy, the citizens’ voice is key. Their voices must should be heard and respected.
“Calling for a National Conference is never a coup or does not mean handing over power to the unelected but instead it is about giving more space for citizens’ voices in governance.
“Nigerians are disappointed with the military posture that is being displayed in a democratic dispensation.
“Those in power should be careful with the foundation they are laying which will never help our democracy to grow strong.”