From Magnus Eze, Enugu, Chinelo Obogo, Sunday Ani, Chukwudi Nweje, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi, Noah Ebije, Kaduna, Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
President Muhammadu Buhari has come under scarthing criticisms over his position on restructuring. His comment which stirred the hornets’ next was made at the launch of the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation in Zaria, Kaduna State, at the weekend, were he berated advocates of restructuring.
“And again those who are discussing restructuring, my question is, what are you going to restructure? If you ask many Nigerians what they are going to restructure, you will find out that they have nothing to talk about. Some of them have not even studied the 1999 Constitution. The 1999 Constitution is almost 70 to 80 per cent 1979 Constitution.”
Buhari was represented by the Executive Secretary, Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu.
The comment has has drawn the ire of the Peoples Democratic Paty (PDP), the Afenifere, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Ohanaeze, The Middle Belt Forum (MBF), the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and other groups as well as individuals.
Reacting, PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the president’s stance that the Federal Government and the All Progressives Congress (APC) had no time for a discourse, especially in the face of deplorable security and harsh economic realities, showed their alleged arrogance towards the citizens.
“It is appalling, and to say the least, despicable, that Mr. President and his party, the APC, who came to power in 2015 on the promise of restructuring, have not only reneged, in utter duplicity towards Nigerians, but also turned around, six years after, to label restructuring as warfare and Nigerians demanding for it as ‘mischievously dangerous’.
“President Buhari should be tutored to know that even the quest for efficient local government system as well as an effectual judiciary, which he alluded to as a focus, can only be achieved through a constitutional restructuring that directly confers and vests the required powers and control to them.”
•PANDEF: APC dishonest, incoherent, confused
PANDEF wondered how President Buhari whose party constituted a Committee on restructuring that was chaired by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State be against it two years after the report was submitted.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, the group said the president did not talk about how to deal with the banditry and increasing kidnap of school children in Kaduna and other states in the North West, but rather chose to remind the citizens of the nation’s military might which he has been unable to deploy against the terrorists, bandits and criminals making life unbearable for citizens, and undermining the nation’s territorial integrity.
“No responsible government anywhere in the world would make or sanction such gibberish statements against its citizens. We are, undoubtedly, under a grossly blinkered leadership, sadly, to the detriment of the security and welfare of citizens.”
It added: “They are against restructuring because they are benefiting from the flawed military imposed 1999 Constitution. Every month, the 19 northern states receive a minimum of 57% of 100% of oil revenue to which they contribute 0% while the South South which contributes 87%, receives less than 20%. Out of Nigeria’s 774 LGAs, the 19 northern states have 419 LGAs while the 17 Southern states have 357 LGAs.
“Every month, the 419 LGAs of the 19 northern states, with insignificant contribution, receive 54.9% of revenue available to Local Government Areas in the country. While the 357 LGAs of the 17 southern states receive 45.1% of what they contribute almost 100%. Meanwhile, they restrict the gold and other minerals in the north to themselves, and plunder the Oil and Gas in the Niger Delta with their cronies. That is the Nigeria they want to be sustained. We are saying enough of that…
“Nigeria is in distress but the Federal Government has maintained the ostrich policy; refusing to accept the obvious, rather choosing to, un-presidentially, disparage patriotic and well-meaning Nigerians who proffer suggestions to resolve the challenges confronting the nation. Just like the ancient writers inferred, they have eyes but they don’t see, they have ears but they don’t hear. The stark reality is that if we do not restructure Nigeria, the country will restructure itself.”
•MBF, Ohanaeze, Afenifere, ADF fault Buhari
The Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Bitrus Pogu, warned that without restructuring, the country would not move forward. According to its national president, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, “the president doesn’t seem to understand the issues. Those calling for restructuring are patriots, they are the people who love Nigeria and unless the country is restructured to the extent that there is devolution of powers and the federating units have control over systems that would make the governors the true chief security officers of their states (that is federating units), this country would not work. The country is not working as we speak and there is clamour for secession from different groups because they feel that things are not working. So, it is better that we sit down and rather than allow things to degenerate to the level where we take up arms against each other.
The pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, said contrary to what Buhari may think, those calling for restructuring wanted to prevent Nigeria from disintegrating.
“Restructuring is the recipe that will prevent the component units of Nigeria from going their separate ways. What we are campaigning is what will keep Nigeria to remain united as one country, anybody who thinks that those of us canvassing for restructuring and how we can remain together as one united country is naive is just proving to us that he wants the country to break up or he does not understand what restructuring is, but we are ready to educate such people. The summary is that we want Nigeria to remain one, but not to remain one in a way that one component part will be lording it over the other,” its spokesman, Jare Ajayi said.
The apex Igbo organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) insisting that the popular will of the people must prevail. It argued that Nigerians were united on change of approach, which invariably meant restructuring.
It said Buhari ought to know that the strategy for sustaining federalism all over the world is anchored on regular discussion, interactions and adjustments as issues arise.
The National Publicity Secretary, Alex Ogbonnia, in a telephone interview, insisted that the president should be made to understand that federalism is a constant and continual adjustment of relationships as issues arise.
He said what proponents of restructuring were saying is that the Exclusive legislative list is too humongous and should be reduced and spread among the federating units for effective governance.
“The South East, South South, South West, Middle Belt and a lot of enlightened elements in the north including a committee headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, are all in support of restructuring. So, by the time you have a majority of Nigerian favouring restructuring, the president as a democratic leader will have no choice but to support it. It is my view that the President should listen to the political temperature of the people. He is leading us; therefore, he should listen to us.”
Similarly, ADF spokesman, Abia Onyike said that Buhari was driven by his rapacious Fulani-supremacist agenda, so, his negative comments on restructuring had nothing to do with the feelings and aspirations of the Nigerian people who are at the receiving end of the crisis-ridden Nigerian federation.
Onyike said: “There’s no way Buhari can stop the democratic agitation of the various ethnic nationalities for self-determination with the kind of politics he has pursued since he became President in 2015.
“So, it’s not for him to say there cannot be restructuring. He can’t eat his cake and have it. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic Nation-State; there are so many ethnic nationalities contending for space and some of them are mega ethnic nationalities like the Igbo and Yoruba. Even if he starts to kill everybody, he cannot subdue these mega ethnic nationalities under the canopy of Fulani hegemony.”
•We didn’t elect Buhari to be a dictator – Mzough-U-Tiv Reacting, President General of Mzough-U-Tiv, Chief Iorbee Ihagh (CP retd) cautioned President Buhari to watch his words saying he was not elected to be a dictator.
“This is democracy and so, he must listen and do whatever the people want. It is not for him to say whether he will succumb to the people’s wish or not because we have our representatives at the National Assembly. They will be the ones to decide for us.”
•Buhari does not understand concept of restructuring -NEF
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) spokesman, Hakeem Baba-Ahmad told Daily Sun: “I think the president does not appear to understand the concept of restructuring because failure to restructure the country represents serious threat to future unity of Nigeria. If this administration of President Buhari does not accept the principle of restructuring and the process of restructuring Nigeria, I am sure the action of Nigerians will impact the remainder of Buhari’s office negatively.
“If Nigeria is not restructured, it could be a liability for any administration that takes over from President Buhari and it will become a problem that ought to have been dealt with earlier….
“It is our rights to demand for restructuring, and we are demanding for it, it is legal, legitimate and popular.
Similarly, the Igbo National Council (INC), in a statement by its National President, Chilos Godsent, accused the president of a secret agenda to Fulanise Nigeria.
“We wish to state without fear of contradiction that it is President Muhammadu Buhari that has ulterior motive by going against the popular agitation by the majority of Nigerians because of his agenda to Fulanise and Islamise Nigeria through forceful Conquest.
“INC wish to promise President Buhari and his Cabal working relentlessly to Fulanise and Islamise Nigeria that the long time agenda of the Fulani’s is dead on arrival. Nigerians will resist this unholy agenda with the last blood in our vain,” Godsent stated.
•Ahamba, Hanga, Yakassai, Essien
Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) also disagreed with President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the former close associate of the president, “those clamouring for restructuring are the genuine citizens of the country while those against it are the ones with hidden agenda.”
Former Senator representing Kano Central, Rufai Hanga agreed that restructuring is inevitable and would lead to more problems if it is not done.
“The president has no capacity. He only said what he was told. He was told to say something and he said it but he doesn’t know the implication. A lot of people are calling for restructuring but the problem is that a lot of people have different definitions of what it means. Left to me, restructuring is necessary and is inevitable, it just depends on how it is defined. If you would not restructure, then allow those agitating for secession to go in peace because we can’t afford another war,” he said.
On his part, statesman, Yakassai challenged those calling for it to present a proper blueprint of what it is about so that everyone would have deeper understanding and the issues.
“We have over 200 million Nigerians and they need to know what restructunig looks like.”
Nduese Essien, former minister of Lands Housing and Urban Development and two-term member of House of Representatives, said restructuring dated back to before 1979 because it is a persistent call to return Nigeria to its Constitution before military rule.