…But be prepared for the consequence, he warns
From JACOB EDI, Abuja
Right from the first republic till the present, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma has played notable roles in the political intrigues of the last five decades. Within the period, he has received accolades from his friends and earned the condemnation of his adversaries.
As an administrator and politician, Ciroma’s experience traverses almost all the sectors in Nigeria. A former Governor of the Central Bank and minister of several ministries at different times and a northern apologist in this interview with JACOB EDI declared pointedly that “no one is afraid of restructuring.” He stated this while responding to growing agitation for the restructuring of the country.
Talks about restructuring has reverberated since the inception of the Buhari administration especially with the emmergence of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), all calling for restructuring of the Nigerian state. While admitting that people have the right to self-determination, Ciroma declared, “anybody that wants to go can go but should be ready to face the consequence.” He spoke further on this and much more.
You are one of the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party. Since its defeat in the last general election, the party has become a ghost of itself and in crisis. Are you happy with the state of your party?
Well, everybody is aware that the PDP has been in trouble since it lost the elections in 2015 and they have internal squabbles and the leadership is being claimed by different people. They had some kind of convention in Port Harcourt which eventually, everybody agreed didn’t succeed and recently again, they organised another convention in Port Harcourt which also didn’t sail through. How it is going to end nobody can tell. But at least they are trying to solve their problems.
Some people believe that the former governor of Borno State, Alhaji Ali Modu Sherrif, who is also haggling for the chairmanship of the party was brought to destroy the PDP alleging he is an agent of the ruling APC and he was invited to make sure the PDP is not organised before 2019. Do you agree?
I don’t know, I have not spoken to him and he has not spoken to me and I cannot tell whether he came to destroy PDP or they brought him to destroy PDP, I don’t know.
But the way things are going in PDP, do you see them taking over power in 2019?
There are certain things which only soothsayers can tell; none of us is a soothsayer, we cannot tell what will happen in 2019. Human beings act in the light of their experiences and things may change between now and then. And so it is not fair to ask anybody to predict what is going to happen in PDP or the politics of Nigeria at that time. Only people who are participating that try to solve their problem, those who want to become leaders and those who push others; so it is something that you cannot tell. But all we know is that they are trying to solve their problems.
Aren’t you playing any role in the resolution of the crisis currently bedevilling your party?
PDP was set up by people like me and others and we believe that we set up the philosophy and other processes that will guide the party to succeed and it succeeded. So what happens next will determine whether they kept to this philosophy or not. And in any case, every party, no matter how good it is, after so many years it must have some problems and that is what PDP has and they are trying to solve the problems.
In retrospect, why do you think PDP lost power?
I can tell you that PDP lost power because they departed from the principles which were laid down. PDP was a party set up to ensure that every part of this country is involved, everyone is involved, that no part of the country is left out, that the military cannot just come back and take power and that was how it succeeded in 1999.
You were against former President Jonathan coming back to power, you wanted a northerner to take power; fortunately or unfortunately, there is a northerner in power but not within your party, are you happy now?
The point I was trying to make was that PDP did a number of things which made people lose confidence; there are people like me who felt that the party radically departed from its principles and therefore, lost the confidence of many of its supporters. Any party in power will always do things which some people will say are good while some are not good and eventually they will lose if the bad things overcome the good things.
The APC has its leader elected the President of this country because of the troubles that are in PDP, it appears that it doesn’t even exist for the time being; we will only know what real APC is when PDP resolves its problems.
Away from party difference and sentiments arising therefrom, would you say the current President is doing well especially with the hue and cry by Nigerians right now?
The truth is that leadership involves dealing with problems and the problems are numerous. So far, President Buhari is one person that I believe everybody trust, I believe that people know that he is not going to take public money and put it in his pocket, he is not that kind of person. People know that he is surrounded by people who he has appointed to certain positions; they have not individually performed to deal with the problems which affect this country.
Take power for example, he gave one ministry to deal with power, housing and works. The person he appointed as minister, I think people have respect for him but the power situation has not improved. So no matter, if you have confidence in him, if the problem given to him is not solved you would begin to wonder.
The President who gave him that position is affected by the failure of the minister to produce result, so that leaves Buhari with the problem of corruption. This country is a difficult thing to deal with, there are many people who are against corruption verbally but in practice if you put them in position where they can get bribe, you will still see them taking bribe.
So, the problem of bribery and corruption, they depend on individuals who are able to hold that position and resist and you cannot tell who can do that unless you put him in that position. So, Buhari has a problem and he needs to bring more people to deal with these problems that are affecting the country.
The economy is a problem. People want him to have a team that will deal with the problems. But even myself I find it difficult to understand the role of the Minster of Economic affairs that is Sen. Udo Udoma, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, I don’t quite understand what role they are playing dealing with this problem. The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has certain problems and a lot of people are complaining.
So, in certain areas, success has not been guaranteed but he has got the time to deal with problems he has tried to solve but has not succeeded. The one thing that I told you is that everybody is confident about what Buhari will not do. Buhari is not going to be corrupt. He is not going to take public money, he is not going to allow people who take public money to hold big positions but he needs time to deal with these things.
But there are people in his government who may not pass integrity test, what do you make of that?
Well, he needs time to deal with the consequences of what they do now. Some of you judge them by the past, some of you have to judge them from now and we hope that they will act the way the President is thinking so that the ordinary people can benefit from the government.
Could it be that President Buhari has mortgaged his conscience and he cannot quite deal with some of these people?
Don’t ask me that question because I cannot answer. I don’t know.
You should be a happy man now with a President from the region of your choice, even though he is a member of another party?
I have said repeatedly before the elections that I as a party man who was involved in politics, who was there to deal with the problems that affect this country, I really didn’t care a hoot where the President came from. What I wanted to see is a competent person being the president and competently dealing with the problems of this country. To be honest with you, I believe that President Jonathan was not competent, I believe that President Buhari is very honest but he has not been able yet to deal with the economic problems of this country.
So leadership is a big problem and we have to give time. In fact, before you elect somebody president, you should always have been able to test him over a period how he has lived his life, how he has conducted himself and so on. So far, President Buhari, you can still say he is a honest person but he has not been able to deal with the economic problems of Nigeria.
With regards to the Presidents’ ability to have got it right thus far, what advice will you give to him?
I am 82 years old and in 1961, 62, 63 I worked for the Saudarna directly and what I learnt from the Saudarna was that a leader if he has problems he calls and puts together a number of competent people, honest people who can give him advice on how to solve the problems. A leader does not sit and wait for people to come and give him advice; a good person knows that he does not know the problem of the leader, it is the leader who tells them what his problems are and then ask them to help him support or solve the problems.
So far, I won’t go to Buhari to tell him how to solve the problems. I know the problems of the country but I don’t know what his problems are. So my advice to him is to put together what problems he has and ask competent people to advice him.
What are the problems of this country?
Now I am an old man and I have been involved in the civil service, I have been involved in the newspaper industry, I have been involved in the textile industry, I have been the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, I have been Minister of Finance, I have been Minister of Agriculture, I have been Minister of Industry. So my knowledge covers wide areas and I know a large number of problems for now.
For now, we have got the financial monetary problem the governor of the Central Bank has to deal with. I know we have the problems of refineries and how to deal with the supply of petroleum and other things. And so there are many of them and even if he picks one or two to seek advice on, he would probably get solutions that would affect others as well.
From what you are saying, it may appear that the President is not consulting?
I feel he needs more consultation.
If President Buhari calls you today as an elder statesman who has seen it all to advice him, will you oblige him?
Of course I have to. My duty is to Nigeria not to Buhari.
Let’s talk about the unity of this country. Do you, in all honesty think Nigeria is still one?
Nigeria has done well, we are one country, we quarrel sometimes, we have insurgencies and other security problems but when the British came we were different bits of countries. When the British left, they left us as one country and we are still one country. So, we are doing well in my view. We are learning how to live with one another and I know that Nigerians like to keep their country as one, no matter what complaints people have, they still want Nigeria together but every country has her problems.
Europe has problems, England is still having problems with Europe, and Europeans are still having problems with immigrants from Eastern Europe, from the Middle East, from Africa. America is having the problem of black people, which everybody thought they have solved but black and white problem is arising. If you go to Latin America, they are still having criticism of corruption and how they mismanaged oil money and things like that. If you go to other countries they are still fighting in the bush. So, don’t think that it is Nigeria alone that has problems, Nigeria has survived up till now and to me, Nigeria so far has succeeded; so what is your complaint?
With the vibes coming from Niger Delta Avengers and other pockets of insurgency around the country, do you still think Nigeria can remain as one country?
Why not? The Avengers know what problems they have, they are articulating the problems and sometimes they do it violently. Boko haram also did theirs violently, now they are talking about Fulani-farmers dealing with the problem violently; but we have always had these problems and we have survived and I believe when you have problems, then you should direct your mind at the problem and find solutions.
Should government negotiate with some of these groups? I mean the Boko Haram, the Avengers and any such group, because some people believe that government should not negotiate with them. Do you think that it is appropriate for government to negotiate with them?
Government belongs to everybody, it is for the benefit of everybody and every problem has a way of dealing with itself. Sometimes, it is wise to negotiate, sometimes it is weakness to negotiate. You always have to pick which way is going to solve your problem.
In the circumstance that we are in today, which option is best?
I am not the government but if I am the government I would know what to do.
If you are to advise, what would you advise should be done because human lives are being lost, people are being killed everyday?
You are only a journalist asking me, if Buhari asks me I will tell him but you, what is the use of talking to you. There is no point talking to you. If you have an idea, you go and talk to Buhari.
Some people have called for what they call restructuring, to negotiate rules of engagement of the Nigerian state but each time the issue comes up, the North seems not to be comfortable with that concept, do you know their understanding of this concept? Is the north scared of restructuring?
Me, I don’t care about restructuring, I don’t fear restructuring. What I know as an educated man is that human beings, no matter where they are, as long as they are more than one person, there will be problems of how to live together and Nigerians have been learning how to live together since the British brought them together as one unit.
The problem varies from time-to-time and if you want to survive, you must know how to solve your problems; there is nothing fixed, there is nothing permanent, and the problems keep changing. So, Nigerians, to me, have done well.
Some months ago, some people were saying ‘kai Buhari, leave us with our corruption’ because they thought the alterative they have under corruption was better than under Buhari but it is not true. Every age has got its problems and you have to learn how to solve problems; if you don’t learn how to solve problems, you will die.
It does appear that you are not in support of any form of separation between the entities that became Nigeria; but the Britons that fused the nation together just got tired of the European Union and pulled out. So if any part of Nigeria wants to pull out, why shouldn’t they?
Any part of Nigeria that feels tired of Nigeria; that believes that Nigeria is not going to solve its problems and the alternative is to break away, break away is only one option. If you try to break away, somebody else is going to try to prevent you and the result may be bloody or it may succeed. So you haven’t got ready-made problems or ready-made solutions; anybody who wants to break, let him break. Didn’t it happen before, wasn’t there a civil war? What happened?
The Federal Government, not British government, the Federal Government of Nigeria went to war with some parts of the country attempting to break away and some part of the country attempting to stop the break away and in the end, Gen. Gowon said no victor, no vanquished.
Next time, the people who want to break away may succeed, it may be good for them or it may be good for all of us but so far, we cannot foretell the consequences of any part breaking away, that is the problem. When you don’t know the consequences of what is coming, you try to find solutions, sometimes in a violent way and sometimes through negotiation.
What I understand from what you have said is that anybody who wants to break away can do so but they should be prepared for the consequences?
Yes, we all have got to be prepared for the consequences.
Ordinarily, shouldn’t people have right to self-determination?
Everyone has right to self determination, it means I have a problem and I want to solve the problem… I am the one to solve it, if I want to follow that path to solve the problem, who are you to tell me not to take that way? But if I decide to take that way, how can I predict how you are going to act? That is why I tell you that you are always trying to solve problems and because you fear the consequences of what will happen. Has every country in the world got oil? Not every country has oil. Some have more problems than those who hasº, so what is it?
What is it that has kept you in the PDP unlike some of your contemporaries who tore their membership cards?
You know everything you do is based on your experience and knowledge. My political experience arose from NPN, we formed NPN and it was the biggest party in Nigeria and President Shagari became the president and we enlarged our views and we said we want a party that will win elections in Nigeria; the military came and drove us away after we won the election. We were in Kirikiri prison, UPN people, NPN and other party people, we were in Kirikiri and we realised that the military who brought us here also wanted power like we had, and now we are in prison, what is your problem with me and you?
We realised that politicians if they wanted the country to be run on electoral, democratic basis they had to come together and act together and that was actually the beginning of PDP. So, when we came out, we started consulting and decided the progressive and non-progressive to act together and that was how PDP was formed.
And what are the philosophies of the PDP? We agreed that the party we are going to form should treat every citizen fairly, justly and that our duty was to bring about improvement in the condition of the ordinary Nigerian and that you can only do when you have confidence of people in every part of the country, so that the Army cannot come back and drive politicians away from power and take control.
Be fair and just, improve the economic condition of the ordinary people, ensure that every part of the country is involved, that the party should have the confidence of people everywhere. When the elections took place in 1999, for the first time in Nigeria, one party won elections in a majority of the country; this is the basis for PDP.
So what happened? At what point did the party leadership miss it?
The PDP wanted to be fair to every part of the country and mostly, it is we the people from the North who are ahead in the formation of PDP and we put Obasanjo as the presidential candidate and he won. He was to do four years as President, he tried to prolong it and he got us to a meeting, all of us and agreed that a President can do two terms so we approved two terms for him. And towards the end of the two terms, he tried to extend and we refused. We said we agreed on North/South rotation. The president came from the South and the next one from the North.
So, Obasanjo finished and he wanted to continue but we said no. We stood by the principle of the party and he looked around and chose Yar’adua to succeed him.
Wasn’t that okay since you wanted a President from the North?
Yar’adua was the governor of Katsina State then but everybody knew he was not well but we refused to oppose.
…You’re living in the past, Southern leaders blast Ciroma
From GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka, PAUL OSUYI, Asaba, JEFF AMECHI AGBODO, Onitsha, GEORGE ONYEJIUWA, Owerri, Femi Foleranmi, Yenagoa and Tony John, Port Harcourt
Former Finance minister, Mallam Adamu Ciroma has come under severe attacks from his southern counterparts who accused him of living in the past over his claim that the North is not afraid of restructuring, warning that any part of the country that wants to secede can go as long as they are prepared to face the consequences.
Reacting to Ciroma’s view, a former President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr Dozie Ikedife said that “we know him and their mindset, but they must know that nobody is a slave to the other in this country and that it takes two to tango. If two people agree to cooperate, they will, but if they do not agree to cooperate, nobody has the right to force cooperation on the other, nobody.”
According to him “Nobody has the right to dictate to the other person that he must either be with me or I kill you. That amounts to unacceptable threat. We are still in democracy and freedom of association is still part of it. The Nigerian structure of today was not made by God, after all the amalgamation was crafted in the United Kingdom in December 1913 and came into effect in January 1914. I am satisfied by my investigation that nobody from any part of this country was consulted.
“It is high time we take a serious, dispassionate look at the whole thing, if people say they don’t want a thing, then you can’t force it down their throats, you have no right to do that. It is like you are taking a supercilious position that you force people into an arrangement, or into an agreement or marriage they don’t want neither would they want to sustain a marriage in which they are no more comfortable.
“If you want to be fair-minded, you must respect the opinion of all players in the game. When people say that they want self-determination, they want separation from Nigeria, no other person has the right to force the people to stay on, nobody.
“And for Nigeria to continue existing, there must be a proper negotiated arrangement in which all the parties are happy, if any party is not happy, then it will not hold. Let no group play God to others or think that they are gods, let no group think they must lord it over the others. This attitude will not help the situation at all.
“Those people talking of self-determination in Nigeria are not talking about war or fighting wars. There is a legal framework that will allow them self- determination without fighting anybody or even exchange of bad words.
“United Kingdom opted out of European Union just recently, no fighting, no abuses, Scotland wanted to leave United Kingdom, they went on a referendum, no fighting, no abuses, no exchange of bad words. War is not the answer to many issues including self-determination or separation.”
In his own reaction, Niger Delta activist, Rev. David Ugolor said that Nigeria can only remain united and an indivisible entity if the principles of equity, justice fairness and meritocracy are upheld above primordial sentiments.
Ugolor who is the Executive Director of African Network for Economic and Environmental Justice (ANEEJ) said Nigeria can no longer be run on the grips of iron, insisting that Ciroma must be living in the past.
“If it is true that he (Ciroma) made that statement, then he is living in the past because of his age. He thinks that Nigeria can still be run on the grips of iron. Nigeria can only remain united on the basis of equity, justice, meritocracy and fairness.
“If you remove these principles, Nigeria cannot be one, that is the truth. Nigeria can no longer be run on the basis of the size of geographical landmass when the northern part used to lord it over those of us in the minority south.
“The world in being run today on the basis of sound ideas, and Nigeria should not be exception. And ideas are generated as a result of education. So I expect him to be advocating for sound education so that the nation can move forward as a united entity,” he said.
On the justification of the call for secession by some militant groups who have threatened to declare an independent Republic of Niger Delta, Ugolor said the platform for such calls were not legitimate as they are not speaking for the entire Niger Delta region.
He said they were speaking for themselves, and have used the opportunity to enrich themselves while the region they claim to represent is still wallowing in abject poverty, criminal neglect, marginalization and environmental degradation.
“If you look into the trajectory of the conflicts in the region, one tribe has continued to be dominant. They have been speaking, and they are not speaking for Urhobo nation neither are they speaking for Oghara people, my ancestral home.
“They have been speaking to enrich themselves. As such, MEND or Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) are not legitimate platforms to speak for the entire region. They have been compromised and their people are worse for it.
“But the only legitimate demand is the call for restructuring. It is only restructuring that will make it possible that the resources of the region will be used for the development of the region including addressing the effects of oil exploration and exploitation,” he added.
The Traditional Prime Minister of Awkuzu and a Colonel in the defunct Biafran Army, Chief Michael Ozua Okoye also condemned Ciroma, saying his comment showed “they have discussed and agreed upon it in one of their meetings in the North”, adding that the Ciroma did not speak like an elder statesman who should preach peace for the country.
Okoye who is also Traditional Prime Minister of Ndigbo (Ononwu Ndigbo) said that the statement was a mere threat capable of dividing the country the more. He restated that Biafra will be achieved, not with violence but dialogue.
According to him, “that statement is misleading and not good for an elder statesman like Ciroma who witnessed the civil war. The question is, if any region or tribe wants to secede then it means shedding of blood, is it what Ciroma is saying? That, the only solution or means of seceding from Nigeria is through war? It is not true, one can leave Nigeria through dialogue and I still maintain that we cannot afford to fight another war, we are going to get Biafra at God’s own time without any blood wasted again.
“Anybody that witnessed Nigeria/Biafran civil war will tell you, let it not happen again because so many people died‑. The war was not easy for both sides, many Biafrans were killed likewise Nigerians. Is Ciroma now saying this so that any tribe or region that wants to leave the country would be threatened not to do so due to fear of civil war? No, it is a mere threat which is uncalled for and should not have come out from the mouth of an elderly man.
“I believe in non-violent agitation of Biafra just like Uwazurike started the crusade and went to prison and Nnamdi Kanu had started his own and was arrested and government refused to release him after courts have granted him bail, they should continue with non-violent approach and round table discussion and God will one day give us Biafra without another fight.
“Let the will of God be done in achieving our Biafra, if it is the will of God we shall surely get it without bloodshed. The Nigeria/Biafra civil war was declared ‘no victor, no vanquished’ and Ciroma cannot say that either Nigeria or Biafra won at the end of the war. So any tribe or region that wants to go should follow due process and dialogue to achieve its aim not necessarily through war.
“Look at it now, it is not only Biafra demanding for secession, the Niger Delta militants are also calling for their own state over which I am advising them to go to a round table to settle it, not by force or through war. If at the end of the day we agree to remain in one country then we will continue to be managing after all USA still remains one country as big as they are but we have to go to a round table to discuss the way forward and not by force anymore.”
Also reacting to Ciroma’s view, president of World Igbo Institute, Chief Benjamin Duru described the statement by the elder statesman as out of tune with the current political reality, saying that the suffocating political, social and economic situation in the country is at the root of the present agitation.
He stated that people are no longer comfortable with the present state of affairs and that it is their inalienable right to seek for self determination, warning that what happened during the Biafra/ Nigeria civil war would not be the case this time around as the country is now more fractured than ever before.
“My reaction to the unguarded statement of Mallam Adamu Ciroma is that he is talking arrant nonsense and not in tune with the current political reality in the country. The country is not being governed as it should be which has given rise to the political, social and economic suffocation at the root of the current disaffection among the ethnic nationalities in the country”, he added.
…Gani Adams, Ijaw leaders spit fire
National Coordinator and Leader of the pan Yoruba socio cultural group, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams described Ciroma as a lone ranger, whose voice did not represent the popular view in the north, which, according to him supported the need for restructuring.
He observed that notable northern leaders including former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd); former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Alhaji Balarabe Musa and Col. Abubakar Umar had spoken in strong support of the need for restructuring as panacea to the economic quagmire the nation had found itself and reduce inter ethnic discontent, tension, conflicts and strife militating against the unity and progress of the country.
“There is no doubt that Adamu Ciroma has been a beneficiary of centralist and unitary governments since the 60s. He is not of our generation and it’s only people like that, that can think that we can continue to patch Nigeria, the way it has been done so far. Anybody that loves Nigeria and does not want this country to stop existing knows that the only way to get the nation on sound economic footing, make the state viable and check local or regional security threats is to devolve power to the regions.
“It is the only way to make the states economically self-reliant, not by depending on the central government. Even the president said recently that 28 states could not pay salaries. It does not make sense to take resources from your zone first to the centre, before you take a share of it back again to develop your area. Restructuring will also stop the agitation by the Niger Delta, the Middle Belt etc, who are angry to see their resources used to develop other zones while they wallow in squalor. It will help the North East to stop Boko Haram, because they can have their own local police to deal with insurgency etc”, he stated.
Gani Adams, who was a member of the 2014 Constitutional Conference that canvassed regional autonomy said Ciroma’s views reflected the parochial mindset of the old breed afraid of the exertion required to stand on their own, but preferred to continue to depend on the whole, adding: “As an elder statesman, one expects him to proffer solutions to Nigeria’s problems and not maintainingb a rigid position because of selfish or sectional interests.”
The OPC leader said Nigerians should ignore the provocation in the subtle threat by Ciroma that the North would resist restructuring, saying: “When the crisis comes, someone like Ciroma will be the first to dust his passport and flee the country.” Also reacting, the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland and former Chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning, Senator Lekan Balogun, dismissed Ciroma’s statements as “absolute balderdash.”
He described the former Finance Minister as a pseudo federalist faulting his perceived pretensions to preserving the federal structure, when in actual fact, he was merely trying to impose and perpetuate unitary system. His words: “What people like him may not be aware of is that, what sort of restructuring the country requires is a choice of the people. Now, confederal arrangement seems the popular choice in Nigeria and therefore, in a democracy, nobody can impose his own agenda. It’s people with his type of reasoning that provoked the civil war. And if care is not taken, it may provoke yet another. I hope he doesn’t have it his way. We are tired of fighting ourselves in Nigeria. The country is moving more towards unity and progression. People like him should not divide us”
Speaking in the same vein, President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Alatubo Charles Harry called on Ciroma and other elder statesmen in the country to temper their words to avoid provoking the youths, who are highly temperamental, as a result of the unhealthy economic situation.
The INC president expressed disappointment and surprise that an elder statesman like Ciroma could make the statement credited to him, saying that it would be bad that elders, who are being looked up to, to direct the people could make statements capable of heating up the polity.
He said: “I am intrigued by the statement from the elder statesman, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma. He is a man we hold in high esteem. I am a bit surprised that it is an anomy of vituperative statement coming from an elder statesman at this time in the history of Nigeria.
“We had expected as youths to come into our own, that our elders would become positive purveyors of peace and tranquility in the system. We had expected that their words should be words that are solemn and tend towards making issues douse than heighten them.
“I don’t know the context in which he made the statement. But, the statement appears in itself to be a threat. I do not believe that it is in the purview of elder statesman at his age and time to make threat.
“It is true that the INC is a tutelage body of the Ijaw people and to the best of my knowledge, we, in the INC and Ijaw nation in particular are not in a position to talk about secession, or disintegration of Nigeria. For now, we believe that the Nigerian experience, the Nigerian nation can be made to work. We believe that with sincerity, equity and justice, the Nigerian question can be answered. We believe very solemnly that Nigeria is a workable entity if given the right conditions by the leadership in place.
“What we cannot do with is, we cannot with the fact that some people for whatever reason, unknown to us and, may be, for which we cannot comprehend, do not want to see the handwriting on the wall. A lot of people have made statements that the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria is sacrosanct. But, others are saying that Nigeria needs to be restructured.
“That is the position of Ijaw National Congress. We, as the leadership of Ijaw nation, believe that there is fundamental defect in what put us together as a country, called Nigeria. And we believe that defect can be ameliorated through two angles.
“One is through structural defect that has seen people marginalized and gerrymandered into different states. The problem is not just with the Ijaws. The Ijaws are balkanized into six states. But, the Tivs of Middle Belt are marginalized into six states too. What we are saying, like we want to go back into what the venerated Obafemi Awolowo said as far back as in 1958; he said until and unless the ethnic nations of Nigeria come together without precondition to determine a basis for union, there shall be no peace.
“What we are saying is, restructuring does not take anything from the Nigerian context. Restructuring only says, let people come together in units that they can identify with, that can give them two the prime issues of a people controlling their own destiny.
“The first, being self-determination; if I cannot determine my future and that of my heritage and posterity, then, I am a slave. We cannot have slavery through other means in Nigeria. There is internal colonialism going on in Nigeria that is unacceptable and that will continue to cause friction. So, the internal structure in Nigeria needs to be ameliorated”.
The spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC), Eric Omare in his own reaction said no amount of intimidation from Northern political leaders would dissuade discussions about the restructuring of the country in line with fairness and justice.