From: Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The duo of former governor of Anambra state, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife and elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, have blamed past military governments for the current structural defects generating debate and problems in the country.
Speaking at the unveiling of a book “We Can’t All Be Wrong” (Nigeria and the Restructuring Debate) written by Dr Ethelbert Okere, in Abuja, Adebanjo argued that anybody opposed to the restructuring to return Nigeria to regional government is an enemy of the country.
His words, “I want to lay emphasis on certain things especially the impression that restructuring is about breaking up Nigeria,” he said, claiming that: “the government of the day is opposed to restructuring and have campaigned against it for obvious reason that they don’t want it.
“Anybody who wants this country to be united must ensure we live together and develop at our own space, which is the essence of federalism. In a country with multicultural and multilingual, only a federal form of government can keep us together in peace. They can bring us together by force but to be in peace, we must form a federal system that will make us develop at our pace.
“From Balewa to particularly Buhari and the APC, anybody opposed to restructuring which is not a political philosophy, don’t mean well for the country. We want to restructure the country from the unity that the military gave us to federalism. The military created this problem for us in 1966 we would not have been in this problem if the military has not restructured Nigeria,” Adebanjo said.
Similarly, Ezeife, in his goodwill message, insisted that restructuring remains the only solution to keep Nigeria united, warning that the current structure which conferred undue advantage on certain region portends danger to the existence of Nigeria as a country.
According to Ezeife, “What we mean by restructuring is returning to a structure agreed by our founding fathers, a structure that worked and the World Bank commended Nigeria. We mean a structure which were responsibilities were all the money used by the government came from the regions.
“The people monitored what the governors were doing with their money then. It is not about going to Abuja to get federal revenues and spending them as they chose without any supervision from anybody. We are talking about returning to a structure which vested powers on the regions as federating units.
“We must go back to that structure, do what we use to do then and things will begin to work again. Otherwise, we are just waiting for extinction of this country. I want to challenge all of us that believe that the amalgamation of this country in 1914 was a disaster.
“It is not true because God used the instrumentality of British imperialism to give Africa a rallying point and big brotherhood. That is exactly God’s purpose for Nigeria. He made Nigeria the greatest concentration of blacks on the face of the earth. Have we imagined what these tiny ethnic groups in Nigeria would have done if we did not amalgamate? God gave us everything to achieve the assignment he gave us- planet, geophysical structure, no earthquakes, no volcano, no hurricanes, no typhoons and other tsunamis.
“Remember that the northern military created more states and local governments with all of them getting money from the federal government. We must understand why some people are unhappy. We must find a way of making them less unhappy but talking against restructuring is talking arrant nonsense.
“For instance, Lagos has 20 LGAs like Sokoto state at one time, but today Lagos still has 20 LGAs while Sokoto has 89 and all of them are getting money from the centre. It is the unfair advantages pile up on some groups of Nigerians by some region in uniform. We must therefore restructure to know where the problem is.
“The military which ruled Nigeria all these while ruined Nigeria. Restructuring means retracing our steps to see how we can make the country meet her mandate destiny and God’s intention and purpose for her. I don’t want Nigeria to break up but the only way to avoid that is through restructuring,” he insisted.
Chairman of the event, Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, noted that restructuring would provide opportunity for Nigeria to renew the vow that brought them together as a country,
“Our culture is hostile to all the ingredients of democracy. So, it is understandable that when you come out of a culture of ‘rankandede’ let me put it that way with due respect, it is difficult for us to appreciate what is a vital component of democracy-‘voice’
“What we are doing is what we wanted to do when the military was out of power. But there are some people in Nigeria who believe that they can not only moderate what we have to say but what we think is not in giving with the spirit of democracy
“So, no matter how wide our spirit may be, democracy is a market place for ideas. We should not actually be at a point which people say they are for or against restructuring. In keeping with the spirit or why we are where we are, we are only doing what we are legitimately entitled. But I think that Nigerians think the only right we can expressed is a right through the ballot box. Even that right is in jeopardy, we can vote but we can’t choose.
“I find it striking when people come to renew their vow, they are doing it in order to confirm and also appreciate what life has been. They would accept the scars, the would accept the injuries, they would accept their tears, but they would also know that the fact that they are still physically together is something to thank God for.
“For me that is the metaphor to accommodating what we called restructuring. And those who feel threatened by the possible break up of Nigeria, it means that they are the ones we should actually be worried about because they actually may have had no emotional commitment to this country.
“They just want to use us for something because it is feeding them and it is keeping them healthy. I think the rest of us want to renew our commitment. There are mistakes that we have made, let us be courageous to correct those mistakes. For me, this is what the conversation is all about. We are citizens of free country, we must be, we should be free to say things that we strengthen our bond of unity.
“There is an aspect of restructuring debate that I find both amusing and disturbing at the same time. The part is the feeling of some that is about winning or losing a debate or about power play. When you hear some speak they sound as though they are saying “I am in power so you can say whatever you like and I won’t accept you position.