•At Zik’s annual lecture, Wike, Nwodo, Ezeife, others say Nigeria must “restructure or disintegrate”
From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Some leaders across the country have insisted that a comprehensive reorganisation of the nation’s political life was inevitable if Nigeria must continue to exist as one country.
Rivers State Governor, Nyeson Wike as well as Chief John Nnia Nwodo, Ayo Opadokun, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Dozie Ikedife, and others asserted recently that Nigeria must either be restructured or disintegrate.
This was the crux of discussion at the sixth Zik’s Annual Lecture Series organised by Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, in honour of Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor General, late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Owelle of Onitsha.
Delivering his lecture entitled, ‘Political economy of restructuring in Nigeria: Problems and prospects’, the President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, said Nigeria was created as a British sphere of interest for business, noting that it was the root cause of the problems of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Nwodo stated that Nigeria had never really been one homogeneous country, stressing that its widely differing peoples and tribes were yet to find any basis for true unity. He pointed out that the brazen impunity in dealing with matters concerning the South East was provocative.
He noted that the present constitution was written at the time of unprecedented increase in national revenue following the massive discovery of oil in Nigeria and its global reliance as a source of fuel for mechanical machines.
He lamented: “Our present constitution is not autochthonous. It was not written by the people of Nigeria nor approved by a national referendum. In jurisprudence, its effectiveness will score a very low grade on account of its unacceptability. Regrettably, it continues to hold sway and begins with a false proclamation, ‘We the people of Nigeria.’ ”
The President General maintained that a model based on sharing government revenue must give way to a new structure that would challenge and drive productivity in different regions across the country.
His words: “The restructuring of Nigeria into smaller and independent federating units and the devolution of powers to these federating units to control exclusively their human capital development, mineral resources, agriculture and power, is the only way to salvage our fledging economy.
“Restructuring will devote attention to the new wealth areas, promote competition, and productivity as the new federating units struggle to survive. It will drastically reduce corruption as the large federal parastatals which gulp government revenue for little impact dissolve and give way to small and viable organs in the new federating units,” he explained.
In his remark, the Chairman of the occasion and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike commended Senator Ben Ndi Obi for the initiative. He also thanked the university for providing the platform for the effective propagation of the timeless ideas and enduring values of the Great Zik of Africa.
Wike noted that irrespective of political and social divide, there was need to advance and preserve the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria, saying that it was the greatest honour that could be given to Zik.
“We must preserve the nation’s unity in the midst of increasing agitations for political and economic restructuring sweeping across the country. Like every pluralistic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society, our diversity remains the abiding source of our collective strength and resilience.
“However, our diversity is under severe stress and even becoming rather a threat to our collective progress because of embedded fault lines in the existing political structures of the country.
“Unfortunately, our failures as a people to resolve these structural defects continue to trouble and negate national cohesion and development. It is vain to expect peace in injustice, unity in inequity and where national institutions are easily politicised, weakened and rendered ineffective”, he stated.
The governor called for inclusive, equitable and participatory political and economic systems where every citizen would benefit, noting that these were lacking in the present authoritarian political environment of the national government.
The special guest of honour at the event, Ayo Opadokun, in his speech highlighted the need for restructuring Nigeria. He explained that restructuring was quite different from calls for the nation’s break up.
According to Opadokun, “restoring to the federating units powers contained in the concurrent legislative lists and sharing powers with the central government on the residual powers is urgent and a necessity. The federating units should also have restored to them legitimate authorities over means of raising resources to provide such services. Self determination is the anthem of this new millennium,” he said.
An elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, said the problem with restructuring was that campaigners from the South were calling for restructuring without carrying people from the North along. He described such moves as “rubbish.”
“Let me place it on record that there is no constitution in Nigeria that recognizes the Middle Belt which people from the south often referred to, and I challenge anybody to prove that,” he said.
Yakassai noted that many stakeholders in Nigeria have continued to attack the constitution of Nigeria, noting that “it is not healthy for our democracy. There is no difference between the 1999 constitution and the 1979 constitution which people accuse the military of doctoring to suit their whims and caprices.”
In his address, the founder/ benefactor, Sen. Ben Ndi Obi, said his motive for initiating the Zik’s Lecture Series was never political, but to immortalize his mentor and the first president of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. He said the lecture series also hoped to advance human capital development through research and knowledge.
Obi said that Azikiwe used the early education he acquired for the liberation of Africa from colonial slavery and bondage, stressing that he believed in politics without bitterness.
Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Prof. Stella Okunna, while thanking the guests for honouring the invitation, noted that the lecture series was a way of brainstorming on national issues as well as celebrate Zik. She extolled the founder and urged him not to rest on his oars.
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku, said that through the rendition of the sixth lecture series, issues of national and international concerns would be interrogated, adding that the timeless values that underpinned Zik’s worldview would be kept aglow.
Maintaining that the theme captures aptly the most contentious political issue in Nigeria, Ahaneku added that the word ‘restructure’ had become a singsong in the country’s political lexicon.
Other discussants in the programme were Prof. Mrs. Uche Azikiwe; Dr. Emanuel Iwuanyanwu; Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife; Dr. Dozie Ikedife; HRH, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe among others.