With one voice, some leaders from the North, East and West yesterday spoke on restructuring, saying it is the only way to stabilise Nigeria and guarantee its progress.
Former Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former military governor of Rivers State Gen Zamani Lekwot, renowned historian Prof. Banji Akintoye and Ohanaeze Ndigbo President-General Chief John Nwodo, among others, urged those in power to arrest the country’s drift by returning to true federalism.
They spoke on Leadership and the future of Nigeria at the 10th memorial symposium of the late Afenifere chieftain and Alliance for Democracy (AD) national leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya.
Adesanya, a politician, lawyer, activist and deputy leader of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a pro-democracy movement formed in 1994, died on April 27, 2008. He was 85.
Former Head of State Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, who chaired the occasion, described the late Adesanya as a man of integrity.
He added: “I had a good relationship with him when destiny brought me to be the head of state of the country. I commend organisations that fought to bring democracy to Nigeria, and NADECO was the leading organisation. I relied on his advice and others to pilot the transition to democracy in Nigeria.”
Anyaoku described the late Adesanya as a symbol of loyalty to his ethnic group and country.
The late Adesanya, he said, protected the interests of the Yoruba, democracy and Nigeria, as a whole.
“He was devoted to the fight for democracy in Nigeria and he incurred the wrath of Abacha with an attempted assassination on his life in 1996. He was a political activist, a patriot and a defender of truth and public interest,” Anyaoku said.
He lamented the killings in some parts of the country and the simmering agitation for secession.
Anyaoku said: “I believe that restructuring Nigeria’s present governance architecture by returning to the provisions of its 1960 and 1963 constitutional arrangements will not only help the emergence of a leadership that will pave the way for a national rebirth, but will also put the country on a more assured path to political stability and faster socio- economic development.
“I am proposing a restructuring of Nigeria into a true federation of eight federating units comprising the existing six geo-political zones plus a restored old Mid-West region and a newly created Middle Belt federating unit”.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who spoke with reporters on the sidelines of the event, spoke of his plan to restructure the country in six months, if elected president in 2019.
He said: “The process is not rocket science. A serious-minded government that knows how to listen and build consensus can restructure Nigeria for the benefit of all and this I undertake to do when I become president.
“Indeed the Federal Government can voluntarily withdraw from most of the items listed in the exclusive list of our constitution. I believe that the benefits accruing from these first steps will help us as we move towards the changes that require amendments to our constitution.
“The major task is recomposing the second schedule which does not encourage development and when you enjoy cordial relationship with the National Assembly and see it as an independent partner in progress rather than as a competitor, you can achieve great things,” he said.
Nwodo urged Nigerians to vote only politicians who believe in restructuring.
He said: “Nigerians, any leader who does not recognise that the cause of our underdevelopment, bickering, missed standards, is the fact that we do not have a restructured nation, don’t vote for him.”
Lekwot urged Nigerians not to be afraid of restructuring. He also called for state police, and better funding for the armed forces as a way out of insecurity.
He said: “Our police are well trained because when they go overseas, they win medals. But back home because of the faulty structure, they cannot perform. Even if we had a million policemen, this country is very large, they cannot cover every corner. This is why restructuring will create room for community or state police.
“The American presidential system we are running has three tiers of policing. They have the county police, which are the local government, state police and the federal police. I hear people say we cannot pay them. Well, if we don’t pay them to do the right thing, we are going to reap the harvest, because, those who make life uncomfortable for us are well organised.
“Another advantage is if community or state police is created, many youths will be employed and as we know, people in the rural areas know the ground better than anyone else.
“I hear some people castigating the military, it’s based on ignorance….What is happening now, even the military, they are very thin on the ground, and because of the number of years, fatigue has set in. They too are suffering from manpower shortage and when morale is not high, anything can happen.
“Given our diversity, restructuring is the way out, because the present structure is not working. If you programme something and it is not working, you have to come back. So, we have to get back to the drawing board in order to see if what requires fixing can be fixed.
For Prof Akintoye, a historian and former senator, a break-up is imminent if the country fails to urgently restructure.
He said: “If Nigeria does not take steps, which are important and prerequisite; if Nigeria does not take steps urgently, to return to a federal system, the kind of federal system that we saw in the 1950s up till 1965, Nigeria may very likely break up. That’s my assessment of the situation.
“I’m a historian and I also happen to have been in your politics, but I speak from what I know. Don’t say that your country cannot break up, it can. Any country can break up. The Soviet Union had the most feared government on earth by the middle of the past century. I was in Tashkent, Uzbekistan for a few days and I saw that the people were scared of the Kremlin. That was in 1982. Less than 10 years later, those people who were scared of the Kremlin were already an independent country.”
Former Managing Director of Concord Newspapers Dr. Doyinsola Abiola, urged Nigerians to go back to their roots in their quest for quality leadership.
Dignitaries at the event included former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga; former Governors Olusegun Osoba (Ogun), Chief Gbenga Daniel (Ogun) and Peter Obi (Anambra).
Others included former Interim National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, KOWA Party chieftain Prof. Remi Sonaiya, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain Chief Bode George, former Akwa Ibom State Governor Obong Victor Attah, former PDP Lagos State governorship candidate Jimi Agbaje and eminent scholar Prof. Adebayo Williams, among others.