The Federal Government should make haste to heed the patriotic call of 17 southern governors to rescue Nigeria from total collapse. The governors, who recently met in Asaba, the Delta State capital, offered some solutions to the government amid rising insecurity in the country. Top on their agenda are the convocation of a national dialogue, restructuring the country, ban on open grazing in the Southern parts of the country and the creation of state police.
The governors expressed displeasure with the frightening state of insecurity in the country and noted that “the progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian federation to berth evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions, which legitimately advance commitment to and practice of true federalism.”
The concern of the Southern Governors’ Forum is understandable. There have been tensions in different parts of the country arising from kidnapping, banditry and wanton killings of innocent people. Some ethnic champions have also been making incendiary comments which threaten the peace and unity of the country.
Rightly, the governors traced the major cause of the problems to criminal herdsmen, who launch attacks on innocent travellers and farmers in different parts of the country. This is why they banned open grazing in the South, explaining that development and population growth had put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations in the South.
Nevertheless, the governors insisted on our continuity as one nation. They want the unity of the country to be on the basis of justice, equity, oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among the peoples of Nigeria. They also expressed the urgent need to respect federal character in appointments into Federal Government agencies, including security agencies, to reflect the diversity of Nigeria. Not only have they presented these issues to President Muhammadu Buhari for his attention and implementation, they also called on him to address Nigerians on the spate of insecurity across the nation.
It is reassuring that the Federal Government is taking some steps to reverse this ugly trend of insecurity. In a space of two weeks, for instance, the President presided over three emergency security meetings and later approved new security measures for the South East and South South geo-political zones. Details of the measures were not made public. It is not certain, though, why the government did not announce similar measures for other zones especially the North, which is the hotbed of insurgency and banditry.
In any case, we welcome the recommendations of the southern governors. They are in line with the recent views of some groups and eminent Nigerians. Such personalities as Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye; the emeritus Catholic Bishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, had canvassed for the restructuring of Nigeria. Socio-cultural groups, like the Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Northern Elders Forum, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum and many others had similarly done the same thing.
It is unfortunate that the presidency had dismissed the calls for restructuring, describing them as unwarranted and unpatriotic. This is despite the fact that restructuring was part of what the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), promised Nigerians before the general election of 2015. Government should drop its hard stand and listen to Nigerians. It should review and make public the report of the Nasir el-Rufai’s committee on restructuring, which it set up some time ago.
It is imperative to note that our current constitution is not a true representation of the wishes of many Nigerians. As it is currently, power is so much concentrated at the centre. There is nothing stopping the devolution of more powers to the constituent states or regions as it is obtainable in the United Kingdom where the Scott, the Welsh and the Irish have regional autonomy.
We had a constitutional conference between 1994 and 1995. This resulted in the 1995 draft constitution. The 2014 national conference expanded the discussion and produced a far-reaching document that addressed ways to ensure a peaceful nation. Rather than embark on another wasteful expedition in the name of a national dialogue, the Federal Government should review the recommendations of the 2014 confab, with a view to adapting and implementing them.
It is in the greater interest of Nigeria and the world that the country remains united and peaceful. We fought a bloody civil war between 1967 and 1970. If the current state of affairs results in another civil war, it will have spiral and devastating effects on the West African sub-region and in the entire world. Thus, the world should show special interest in resolving the Nigerian national question.
This is the time Nigerian leaders must rise to save the country and make it remain as one united entity. It is the time to demonstrate leadership by example. We call on all stakeholders, including members of the National Assembly and former heads of state to also intervene to ensure that Nigeria is saved for posterity.