From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja and Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
Former Vice President and chieftain of All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar have warned against dismissing the strident agitations for restructuring and true federalism with a wave of the hand.
While the Sultan said the ongoing agitations were symptoms of rot in the Nigerian system, the Waziri Adamawa said any attempt to ignore them with the expectation that they would fizzle out with time, could make a bad situation more complicated.
Atiku, in a statement released in Abuja by his Media Office, yesterday, said the issue of restructuring and true federalism did not only transcend religion and ethnicity, but were also inevitable, and in the interest of Nigeria.
“Our current federal structure should be freely discussed by allowing the federating units voice their grievances with a view to finding workable solutions that protects the rights and interests of all. The country could not afford to allow bottled up frustrations of the people to explode into violence, which threatens not only innocent lives, but also harms the country’s economic assets,” he warned.
“The convergence of positions around restructuring by leaders and stakeholders from diverse regions of the country is a show of patriotism and confirmation that I am not just a lone voice in the wilderness on the inevitability of restructuring of Nigeria for the good of all.”
He argued that the agitations for secession would not have arisen, in the first place, if the country had shown sincere readiness to address the underlying problems that feed the agitations by separatist forces.
“The restructuring debate transcends the ambition of any single politician in Nigeria, and any attempt to ignore the agitations could make a bad situation more complicated,” he warned.
According to him: “Avoiding a problem won’t solve that problem. With so much hate, distrust, suspicions and fears in the country, political leaders shouldn’t be afraid to confront the challenge.”
He commended the APC Progressive Governors Forum, and other stakeholders who had backed the call for restructuring and true federalism.
“I praises the Progressive APC Governors and other leaders and groups for their courage to confront the country’s most urgent national challenge.
Separatist agitations are dangerously threatening the country’s unity and indivisibility. No country could afford to take these threats lightly.”
According to the Sultan who spoke when the Rivers State Governor paid him Sallah homage, the present separatist agitations were the result of long years of misgovernance.
“In the past, a lot of things were done by some people with impunity. That is why you find shortage of good governance now weighing us down in the country.
“However, as it is now, no matter how bad your hand is, you cannot cut it and throw away.”
The Sultan stressed the need to employ dialogue to resolve all the misunderstandings and problems.
He said Nigerians should “sit together, brainstorm, look at what went wrong, retrace our steps and move forward.”
He appealed to statesmen in the nation to wade into the raging ethnic tensions threatening the unity of the country.
“We are not short of them (statesmen) across Nigeria and they should help the country by championing the dialogue. We should not allow sentiments to rule our heads. Nigeria is a very great country and we have no any other nation than it. We should love one another irrespective of any religious, ethnic or cultural differences,’’ Abubakar admonished.
Meanwhile, Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike said he believed in the indissolubility of Nigeria.
Wike said there were better ways to solve the agitations and problems of Nigeria, other than disintegration.
According to him, “Rivers state and its people believe in the oneness and unity of Nigeria and that is our stand,’ he stated.
He lauded the sultan as a father to all Nigerians and peace builder.
The call for restructuring peaked following the October 1 ultimatum handed to Igbo to leave the 19 northern states by a coalition of Arewa group, in apparent reaction to the secessionist agitations by the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
Frontline Nigerians from all walks of life and across ethnic divide have joined the agitation train. Just last Monday, former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida said restructuring could no longer be wished away.