Eminent Nigerians on Wednesday supported the call for the restructuring of the country along regional lines as canvassed by former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar on Tuesday.
The former vice-president had, on Tuesday, advocated the restructuring of the country to ensure the development and growth of the federating units.
Atiku had said the country should be restructured in order to address the feelings of marginalisation by component units that make up the country.
“Agitations by many right-thinking Nigerians call for a restructuring and a renewal of our federation to make it less centralised, less suffocating and less dictatorial in the affairs of our country’s constituent units and localities,” the former vice-president had said at a book presentation, “We are all Biafrans”, in Abuja.
Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, and the pan-Igbo umbrella body, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, also supported Atiku’s call on Tuesday, asking the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference on the restructuring of the country.
A former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, and an ex-Chairman of the Nigerian chapter of Transparency International, Maj. Gen. Ishola Williams (retd.), on Wednesday, believed the restructuring of Nigeria would facilitate stability and development.
Anyaoku made this known in an email to one of our correspondents while Williams spoke with The PUNCH on the telephone.
Anyaoku said, ‘‘I have called for the restructuring of the country since 2005 at the political reform conference. My most recent public statements on the matter were made in Ibadan School of Public Policy and Government last January and at Akure 40th Anniversary Colloquium of Ondo State on January 30.’’
The ex-secretary of the Commonwealth had, in February, canvassed the abolition of the 36 states in the country.
He spoke at a public symposium organised by the Nigerian Bible Society in Enugu State.
Anyaoku canvassed a return to the regional structure practised in the First Republic, with the country’s six regions forming federating units.
He argued that the current 36-state structure was unwieldy and very expensive.
Anyaoku said, “The present governance arrangement we have, with the country comprising 36 non-viable states, most of which cannot pay the salaries of their teachers and civil servants, is not the best.
“Rather, we should return to an arrangement, where the six regions will form six federating units.”
On his part, Williams said many Nigerians, who were concerned about the future of Nigeria, had expressed similar views in the past.
He added, “What former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar said had been clamoured for by many Nigerians in the past. Even President Muhammadu Buhari knows that Nigeria needs to be restructured so that there would be resource control.’’
According to him, it is in the light of the need to restructure the country that there are calls for constitution amendment.
Also, Senate Leader Ali Ndume and the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, on Wednesday, described as normal the call for the restructuring of Nigeria as demanded by Atiku.
But Ndume said any form of restructuring should not be through violence or force because Nigeria did not come together as a country through violent agitation or protest.
He said, “I don’t think he (Atiku) is wrong. It is his opinion and constitutionally, everyone is free to think the way he likes. What I don’t agree is what is happening in the Niger Delta and the agitation in the South-East.
“I don’t agree that you address the issue of either independence or break-up through protest, sabotage or through treasonable means. Nigeria did not come together by violence or force, it was by dialogue and negotiation and even if we are going to disintegrate, God forbids, it should be through the peaceful means through which we came together.
“We are inseparable as a country. Biafra is history in Nigeria, those advocating it did not witness the war.”
Sani, on his own, noted that the restructuring of Nigeria was necessary at this crucial period of the country’s social and economic crisis.
The senator added, “Restructuring Nigeria is a necessity and a reality that we must live up to. It is a fact that Nigeria as a federation today is not functioning as it is supposed to be and the 36 states structure, bicameral parliament is too expensive for a federation.
“There is a need for us to dissolve the 36 states structure and create six straight structures, while each of the federating units works towards generating revenue to execute their programmes and policies, and the units contribute to the centre.
“Nigeria’s federalism, as it exists today, encourages parasitism, dependency and laziness. This is what I call cap-in-hand federalism, where people do nothing in the state; simply come cap in hand to the centre and collect money and go back.
“We must go back to a Nigeria where we would be all contributors to the national cause, we must move away from the sharing of the national cake to the baking of it.”
Also, a former Governor of Kaduna State and leader of the Conference of Nigerian Political parties, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, supported the call for the country’s restructuring.
Musa, speaking with one of our correspondents in Kaduna on Wednesday, stated that restructuring the country was of necessity, noting that it would certainly reduce the glaring injustice in the country.
Musa called for the return to regional government “where the regional government would be allowed to create states to develop at its own pace.”
This, he added, would encourage the growth of healthy economy in each regional government.
“Different people have different ideas on restructuring. But the question is which kind of restructuring? Is it a regional arrangement as was in the past, return to parliamentary system or the return of the role of the states in the economy?
“But I prefer a return to regional arrangement, where each region can create states they can cater for. This will reduce injustice and inequality among the people.”
Meanwhile, the Ondo State Government has urged workers in the state to join in the growing agitation for the restructuring of the country’s system of governance to pave the way for the autonomy of its federating units.
The government said this would enable the states to carry out their responsibilities without recourse to the Federal Government.
This was contained in a statement by the state’s Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, on Wednesday.
Akinmade, in the statement, said labour unions and workers in the country had critical roles to play in the actualisation of the growing clamour for a workable system of government in the country that would enable the states to use their resources to address their needs.
He stated, “If the states are allowed to control their resources, government will be able to pay workers their wages as at when due and the trend of going on strike to press for wages would become a thing of the past.
“If the country is operating a workable system, where states are allowed control over their resources, a state like Ondo, with its government’s ingenuity and capability to create wealth, would not be struggling to pay wages.
“Anyone that wishes Nigeria well and wants our states to develop will join in the growing agitation to restructure the country. This is a sure solution to the challenges and problems confronting us today as a state and as nation.”
In his reaction to the call for the nation’s restructuring, elder statesman and former Political Adviser to ex-President Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, said the nation must embrace the parliamentary system of government in order to address the perceived imbalance in the country.
Yakassai, however, noted that restructuring Nigeria would not solve the nation’s problems if certain issues in the system were not adequately addressed.
The ex-presidential adviser believed that with the parliamentary system, enormous power would be stripped from the Presidency.
He added, “I think the call for restructuring of Nigeria did not start with Atiku; it has been going on for many years, dating back to the time when the late Chief Anthony Enahoro formed his National Reformation Council under the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
“His argument is that Nigeria should be made of six Republics, not regions, not states; six Republics, each of which would contribute to the central authority on equal basis. That is to contribute the same number of soldiers to the national Army; a zone would contribute the same amount of money for the running of the central government. Each zone or republic would have its own judiciary.
“But my opinion is that if you are not careful, restructuring is not the answer to what they are agitating for.
“My opinion is that what is giving rise to all these agitations is the power that is concentrated in the central government, headed by an executive president. As long as we have the same arrangement, no matter what you do, unless the power at the centre is rearranged in such a way that this concentration of power in the hands of the Federal Government, controlled by the President, is reduced, you are not solving the problem.
“For instance, in India, it has regions like we have and India is a federation, but because it is not operating the system of an executive Presidency, you find that the power at the centre and at the state level is not being exercised by a single individual.
According to him, the presidential system is a creation of the military to manipulate power.
“That is why you see that the 49-member constitution drafting committee of 1976 was handpicked by the military. Each individual was handpicked to perform a certain role to serve the interest of the military.”
Also, a member of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said he would support the restructuring of Nigeria in such a way that would ensure justice and equity for component units.
Mohammed, who said a federal system, which would ensure that citizens would be given access to quality education, health care delivery, security and justice, should be encouraged, however, demanded the reasons for the call for restructuring at this time.
“If they are calling for a return to the regional government, which we had in the past, then, let them come out and say so.
“Whoever wants a new system out of the current system – I believe the system we have now has served us so far – and I believe that if it is to be changed, there must be a cogent reason.
Reacting to the calls for the restructuring of the country, a former Secretary-General of the National Democratic Coalition, Chief Ayo Opadokun, said the former Vice-President spoke the minds of many Nigerians.
Describing himself as a long-time advocate of Nigeria’s restructuring, Opadokun added that there were two reasons for the founding of NADECO.
He said the first was to bring about the convocation of a sovereign national conference to grant Nigerians the democratic rights to sit together and fashion out the ways for a national restructuring.
‘‘The second was to resuscitate the mandate of the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola, which was wickedly and ungodly annulled by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and his cohorts,” he stated.
Opadokun, who is also the convener, Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms, added that there were troubling contradictions in the fact that the country earned huge monetary returns from crude oil but ranked among the poorest countries of the world.
He said, ‘‘It is because we have a warped, lopsided and skewed national state. We cannot maximise our potential and realise what we ought to do as a people until we sit down to discuss how to restructure the country.’’