Published On: Sat, Jul 15th, 2017

Restructuring: Let’s keep debate healthy

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Support for the ongoing debate on whether or not to ‘restructure’ Nigeria came from the Presidency itself last week when acting President Yemi Osinbajo urged Nigerians to keep the debate going. Speaking during a book launch July 7 in Abuja, he said, “We want everyone to continue with this debate across the country, in boardrooms and conferences. This is what we need, not war. We are going to observe and take note of your opinions, and you can be rest assured that we are hearing you loud and clear, and something will be done to make this country respectable and peaceful”.
Osinbajo’s remarks came in the wake of the consultations he had had with the leaders of Nigerià’s ethnic nationalities, aimed at cooling the tension raised by agitations by Igbo youth led by one Nnamdi Kanu for a Biafra state and an equally bellicose response by a coalition of Northern youth, giving an ultimatum to Igbos residing in the North to leave the region by October 1, this year.To be sure, Osinbajo is backed by former President Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and one time minister of information Professor Jerry Gana, all of them Northerners. What we don’t know is if Osinbajo’s views are shared by his boss President Muhammadu Buhari, who is on medical vacation in the Uk, or the federal executive council.
We at Peoples Daily, on our part, support a healthy discourse on ways to resolve real national issues such as equity, justice and fairness, and not something imagined. However, to keep the debate healthy is the harder part. For another, we detect a swift undercurrent of insincerity and doublespeak in the narrative woven by some of our compatriots.
To the Igbo, “restructuring” is another word – an euphemism – for secession. This is the narrative of the so called Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by the infantile Nnamdi Kanu. Speaking recently, in Abuja, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, president general of Ohanaeze Ndi’gbo, declared that no ethnic group has “more stake in the Nigeria project” than the Igbo. However, they are not walking their talk; rather they carry on as though their destiny lies elsewhere.
The doublespeak by Igbo elders and political leaders is just as obvious. In the daytime, they say that they do not support a breakup, something, they say, resides only in the imagination of Igbo youth. But at night, they visit Kanu in droves, egging him on in his misadventure. If, indeed, they have no hand in the ‘Kanu phenonmenon’, why have they refrained from publicly denouncing the erratic young man? He is not known to be rich, so who is funding the protests he is inciting in the southeast? Recently he ordered a sit-in by the Igbo throughout the country, which was obeyed. That order was not countered by the governors of the five Igbo speaking states in the southeast. Silence, they say, can be louder than words.
The acting president made another point, which his speechwriters, unbelievably, buried somewhere deep in his speech. He said, “We cannot afford to go back to issues that were resolved during the Nigerian civil war”. Today’s secession campaigners, including former Abia state governor Kalu Orji Kalu, who has threaned to personally lead a war if Igbos come under attacks anywhere in the country, need to be told emphatically that one of the issues the war resolved is the indivisibility of Nigeria. If we have to fight another war to keep this country together, so be it. But may God forbid it.
However, this is not to say all is well with our country as it is. There are internal contradictions that must be addressed. Nigerians need to be assured that they have an equal stake in this country. As it is, there are sections of the country that believe they are entitled to the country’s wealth or political power more than others. Why should the state recognise officially certain religions when the Constitition declares Nigeria to be a secular state? This contradiction is at the root of all the violent religious upheavals that have beset this country.
Again, the Constitution says Nigeria is a federation but the central government in Abuja has robbed all the federating states of their powers. As a result, the states have become beggarly, many of them unable to pay their workers’ salaries. Is it not time we reconsidered the size of government, in the face of dwindling financial resource? Why, for instance, must we have a minister from each state or maintain a bicameral national legislature? These are a huge drain on the national purse . We recommend that the National Assembly dusts up the 2014 National Conference Report, study it and effect such changes as are necessary for making every Nigerian feel he or she truly has a stake in this country.

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