From: Noah Ebije and Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Prominent northern leaders and known pressure groups from the region, on Wednesday, expressed divided opinions and views over the much-debated issue of restructuring the country.
First to fire the salvo was Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State who maintained that the North was not against restructuring.
Governor Tambuwal chaired the Opening Ceremony of the event organised by Dr. Usman Bugaje of Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) on the theme, “The North and future of Nigerian federation”.
Tambuwal said, “Therefore, the idea that the North is against restructuring because it benefits most from the current state of things is circumscribed and patently false.
“The fact that some people continue to parrot such a lie only help to give credence to the flawed argument.
“Let us be clear: the North wants restructuring as much as anyone else.. However, as a people we do not easily jump unto the bandwagon because we are always there for the long haul.
“We believe that any decision we take must be inclusive, and respect procedures and processes so that the outcome is sustainable.
“I think we should first, as a country, agree on a mutual definition of the term restructuring.
“In my view, if restructuring means taking stock of our arrangement to ensure that no state takes a disproportionate amount of the resources, or most of the available space in the education or job sector, or subjugate the others’ culture or religion, or lords it over the other so that the number of the poor and uneducated whose future is circumscribed by their circumstance is shared proportionately, then we are game.
“We all want a country where there is peace and progress, where justice is given, where all lives are safe and people can pursue their legitimate livelihoods wherever they choose.
“I believe each state in this country has areas of comparative advantage and life is a cycle so that what was once the largest revenue earner can in time become less so while something else takes ascendancy.
“As a country we must look to the future and agree on what in the long run will benefit us all”.
Also, a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, insisted that power and resources should shift to the states as part of restructuring.
Atiku Abubakar, represented by Dr. Awwalu Anwar,said, “My idea of restructuring is devolution of power to the States with the resources.
“The Federal Government should only be bothered about the economy while the States should be left to provide education, security and build roads.
“To me if the State is given the responsibility of providing security, State police will better secure their areas because they will be familiar with the nature and peculiarity of their security challenges.
“In the whole of this the North has nothing to fear because we have the land, we have the population and we have the resources. North has nothing to fear because oil will soon become history”.
More direct and explosive on the issue of restructuring came from former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, and Spokesman of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Professor Ango Abdullahi.
Abdullahi said the region was not afraid to go its separate way if the entire country insisted on restructuring.
According to Abdullahi, “The North has always sacrificed for the unity of Nigeria. I was a student when we got independence and we saw that each time there was need to unite Nigeria, the North made the largest sacrifice.
“Now we have 36 states from three regions which existed in 1960. No country has had constitutional conference like Nigeria, yet it has not created basis for a united country.
“We ought to have realised from that that, the failure of operators of the country is needed, if we want to restructure Nigeria, we have to start from the beginning, 1914, North and South, let’s go our separate way”.
He said that such clamouring are not new, because it has always been an antecedent of the South whenever a Northerner was in in charge of leadership.
“Things happening since 1999 to 2006 tazarce, and 2015 when a party agreed that Presidency should rotate, and that was the beginning of what we saw.
“Some of our various formations were unhappy with what was happening to the North, we decided that we must confront it and thanks to our efforts we succeeded in changing leadership.
“Since assumption of Northern leadership, we have witnessed demands like they always occur whenever a northerner takes over leadership,” he pointed out.
“The Governor of Sokoto State who is the chairman of the Northern Governors restructuring committee, and chairman of this conference we do not want you to rush into committing us, but views of north should be collected, nobody should stampede us.”
For the Northern chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as well as the Jamatul Nasir Islam (JNI), the country was better together than to restructure it.
In the same vein, Jam’iyar Matan Arewa (Northern Women Assembly), said even if the country was restructured to family units, there would still be problems of leadership.
The Jam’iyar Matan Arewa, represented by Ambassador Marina Mohammed, said, “Nigeria cannot afford to be divided because our strenght in the comity nations is our number.
“So rather than restructuring the country we should focus on the real problem, and the real problem is the failure of leadership, and not our structure.
“Even if we break up to family units what is more paramount is for the leaders of such units to do the right thing.
“The reason why youth are agitating is because the leaders have failed. You cannot pocket money meant for development of your State and expect things to go the right way.
“Even in our places of worship, our Imams and Pastors cannot pocket money meant for entire congregation, flying private jets, establish private schools that members of their congregation cannot afford to send their children and expect things to go right”
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Northern States by its chairman, Rev. Yakubu Pam represented by Air Commodore Tanko Ato (rtd) said, “North can stand for the unit of the region and the nation as a whole.
“Our position on the restructuring debate is that Nigeria is better and firmer together.
“To us it does not matter whether we restructure or not, what matters to us is the united North and Nigeria where we respect each others faith and freedom of worship”
Jamatul Nasir Islam (JNI) represented by Bashir Dahiru Bauchi, said, “The North has always contributed to the Nigerian project even before the coming of the colonial masters. So the region should see itself as a big brother.
“We are better as the united Nigeria than going our separate ways. Nigeria is held in high esteem in the world politics, but it will be devour by the world powers if broken into pieces”.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai, represented by his deputy, Bala Bantex said, “We should be bothered about poverty, illiteracy and insecurity in our region. We should strive to reverse this trend”.