Former Vice President and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has reiterated that restructuring remains the best panacea for the spate of separatist agitations, militancy of religious and secular varieties in the country.
Atiku, who spoke at a book launch titled “Constitutional misconception of secularism and implications for politics and religion in Nigeria” in Abuja yesterday, however, cautioned Nigerians to be mindful of others who may not think, act or believe in what they do.
“We should all be sensitive to the feelings and preferences of those who may not think the way we think, speak the way we speak, worship the way we worship or belong to the same political party as us. Our diversity ought to be our strength and, together, we can still build the Nigeria of our dreams,” he said.
While commenting on the book, the Waziri Adamawa, who was represented by the former Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, George Daika, said: “I’ve just been drafted to serve as chairman of this occasion, so I have not been able to read the book being presented. But, as someone who likes being in places where ideas are being shared, I accepted the honour to chair the occasion. Thankfully, we have a book reviewer who will educate us as to the key arguments and analyses in the book.
“The book deals with constitutional misconception of secularism and its implications for politics and religion. On face value, I am not sure whether it is our constitution that has the misconception or we, the operators and interpreters of the constitution that are being referred to. I am sure the book reviewer will help us to untangle and clarify that.
“Be that as it may, I know that the framers of our constitution, going back to our first national constitution, carefully considered our diverse character as a nation and chose the secular path for us in order to accommodate that diversity and ensure peaceful coexistence,” he said.
Meanwhile, National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, yesterday said devolution of powers and resources in the federation was one of the critical issues canvassed by the various political parties that formed the party in 2013.
Odigie-oyegun disclosed this when he received a delegation of the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) at the APC National Secretariat yesterday.
“It’s strange that people could ever think or dream that the APC is in anyway against some degree of reordering of our federation. Our constitution, for instance, is replete with references to devolution of powers, resources and the rest of it. As a matter of fact, it was a basic issue at the coming together of the APC, that we must take a fresh look at the distribution of powers and the workings of our federal system.
“Today, we have brought some direction to the debate, rather than everybody trumpeting restructuring without exactly getting down to defining what restructuring really means. We are now engaged in that exercise, and I think things are beginning to be clearer as to what different groups want. At the end of the day, what will happen is what will make our federation stronger and what most Nigerians are ready to accept and work with,” Oyegun said.
Also speaking at the meeting, Chairman of the Forum, Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN), said the organisation has visited other political parties in the country.
He advocated for a truth and reconciliation committee similar to what South Africa had after the abolishment of Apartheid.
Asemota said the organisation believed there is an urgent need to redirect the ongoing socio-political discourse in the country from ethnicity and religion to nationalism.
“We’re elders from five Christian blocs. Most of us have had some experiences in our lives. Some say we had the best of Nigeria and we think as a country, we could do better.
“We decided that political parties are most suited for it, because their members are in the National Assembly and will be in good position to push things through. So, we have come with two documents; first is the question of the need for politics of nationalism. If you look at the history of our country, it started that way.
“When we asked for independence, it became politics of ethnicity and religion. What we are calling for is politics of nationalism. Fortunately, things are gathering momentum and we hear that the question of restructuring is being taken seriously by the APC
“We have a reconciliation commission. We have written down our position so there is no misunderstanding. We believe that the situation in our country is just a little shade different from what obtained in South Africa. “In our own case, it is a conflict based on tribe and religion. And we believe if we don’t have a truth and reconciliation commission, and everything is swept underneath the carpet, when we are doing our restructuring, we will not solve the problem.
We are concerned. It is not a matter to be waved aside,” the chairman of the forum stated.
Other members of the elders forum present at the meeting were Pastor Bosun Emmanuel (Secretary); Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro (retd); Rev. Dr Musa Asake; Elder Mathew Owojaiye; Elder Shyngle Wigwe; Dr Ayo Abifarin; Eder Michael Orobafor; Dr Saleh Hussaini and Elder Moses Ihonde.