“My understanding of restructuring is that of a united, big, strong Nigeria that is fair and equitable to all its citizens.”
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has extended the frontiers of the restructuring debate, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari has lost a golden opportunity to become a great statesman by vehemently rejecting the All Progressives Congress’s position on the restructuring of the country. He noted that it was a major tragedy for the country and its leadership as the president dumped the report of his party’s committee led by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, on restructuring and devolution of power, into the trashcan. Governor Dickson, who spoke in Abuja at the weekend on the topic: “Federalism, Restructuring and Nation-building” at the public presentation of “We are all Biafrans,” a book authored by veteran journalist and rights activist, Mr Chido Onumah, restated his position that his relentless advocacy for the restructuring of Nigeria is not about dismemberment or balkanising of the country, but a call for major constitutional reforms. His Special Adviser on Public Affairs, Mr Daniel Alabrah, who stated this in a statement, disclosed that the governor averred that there has been no serious commitment to the process of comprehensive constitutional reform in the country.
“There is no way we can go forward as a country without going back to address the faulty structure that we are currently operating. I, therefore, call for leadership responsibility by the president. He has to use the power, influence and authority of his office to mobilise our country to do the restructuring that is possible. I regret to say that I feel disappointed that the president did not rise to the occasion. It is a tragedy for our country and also a major tragedy for his own leadership.
“I, however, congratulate and commend the APC committee on restructuring and devolution of power led by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, for the work it did. The committee’s report was very clear on the roadmap to restructure the country. Whenever I see anything good, I support and encourage it. Our interest is greater Nigeria. I don’t care which platform you belong to. Just do what is right and you have my support.
“It is, however, unfortunate that there was no follow up and it is really regrettable that the president did not utilise the lifeline that his own party offered him for the purposes of statesmanship. The president threw away that wonderful and golden opportunity.” Governor Dickson also said that inasmuch as he agrees with the metaphor of Biafra used in the book as representing the issues and challenges that confront the country, he was opposed to the geographical connotation, adding that he does not believe in it.
His words: “This country belongs to all of us. I don’t believe in the geographical expression of Biafra. I will rather we join forces to fight for a new Nigeria, a Nigeria for equal citizens, a Nigeria for the big and the small, for the weak and the strong. That is the critical challenge facing us rather than the idea of balkanising. Nobody owns this country more than you and I. I will never leave this country for any other person and we are going to slug it out here together. This is to underscore the point that I do not believe in the geographical concept of Biafra.” He, however, explained that “we are all Biafrans as far as we are concerned about the issues of inequity and injustice.
“If the concept of Biafra is used as a constant reminder of the challenges and contradictions of our nation, then it is right to say we are all Biafrans because we are all concerned about those contradictions and challenges. But I disagree with the concept of Biafra connoting a particular geographical location of our country that wants to be separate from the rest of Nigeria. I don’t agree with that Biafra and I am not a part of that Biafra.
“My understanding of restructuring is that of a united, big, strong Nigeria that is fair and equitable to all its citizens. A Nigeria that can be showcased as the greatest African nation. A Nigeria that our forefathers negotiated and spent a lot of time discussing, agreeing and disagreeing about. The Nigeria that symbolises the hope of the black race. That is the Nigeria that I believe in, a Nigeria of equal citizenship. This country belongs to all of us. I don’t believe in the geographical expression of Biafra.”