The controversy over whether or not to restructure the country continued at the weekend with two elder statesmen, Malam Tanko Yakassai and Chief Bisi Akande as well as former Nigerian Ambassador to China, Olusola Onadipe expressing divergent positions on the matter.
The persistence of the calls for restructuring requires a decisive move by all the citizens to resolve the issue amicably instead of allowing it to breed ethnic suspicion and hostility.
In an interview with The Guardian, Yakassai said the north was uncomfortable with the idea of restructuring the country.
“We are suspicious that the motive is to deprive the north in two important areas – representation at the National Assembly which is on the basis of population, and because there are more states in the north than in the south, when it comes to revenue allocation on the basis of equality of states and local governments, the north is bound to benefit more.
“The idea behind the agitation for restructuring is to demolish those two advantages that are naturally due to the north in terms of representation and revenue sharing. What is disturbing is that those behind it are unable to come out with a blueprint on what restructuring means to Nigeria. Anybody who is hiding his motive on an issue that would affect Nigerians has something bad up his sleeves.
“Nobody has told us the benefit we would derive from it. What we are saying is that it is not that the north is afraid, but why should people be inconsistent? This is the reason northerners who know what they are doing and who know the background of the agitation are not comfortable with the call for the restructuring of Nigeria,” the politician said.
Yakassai, who is a founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), shed light on why the north is also uncomfortable with those agitating for restructuring.
“Those of us who were privileged to see through the transformation of Nigeria from a colonial territory to an independent nation, and who are aware of the history of the political development of the country, are surprised at the inconsistency on the part of those who are agitating for the restructuring because the agitation for the creation of more states in Nigeria was by and large supported by some political figures from the South West.
“The Action Group (AG) as a party representing substantial number of people from the South West supported the agitation for the creation of Middle Belt in the north and the creation of the COWA state movement (Calabar – Ogoja – Rivers State movement) and they, at the same time, opposed the agitation for the creation of the Mid-West State which was at the time part of western Nigeria. The leaders of the south-west at the time were supporting the dismemberment of the north and the east, but were opposed to the creation of a state from their own area of control.
“So people started to wonder why they were supporting splitting of other areas and you are not prepared for the split of your own area. That was the beginning of the suspicion. They campaigned and argued that the north was too big to be allowed to continue as it were because it was made up of two-thirds of the land mass in Nigeria and more than 50 per cent of the population and therefore people could see the justification of the argument for the creation of states from the north,” Yakassai said.
But Ambassador Onadipe challenged leaders across the six geo-political zones to summon courage and accept the reality that restructuring is the way out of the socio-economic challenges and others confronting the nation.
Onadipe was of the view that the federal system of government currently being practised in the country would continue to hold it and the people down economically unless power is devolved to the states and then to the local governments, “the sources of economic activities.”
“What is the business of federal and state governments in primary school education? We have been giving the Federal Government so many responsibilities and at the end of the day, nothing to show for it. There is too much power at the centre, power of appointments and others,” he said.
The former envoy, who is a member of the Ijebu Professional Excellence Foundation (IPEF), spoke at the weekend during the 2017 Annual Merit Award ceremony of the group.
Onadipe suggested “leadership with foresight” as another ingredient the country needs to overcome her sundry challenges, particularly in the area of the economy.
According to him, leaders are supposed to break grounds, think for the masses, educate them and understand the fabrics of the economy, the political situation and forge ways to make life meaningful to the people.
He lamented that citizens and residents of some countries, less endowed than Nigeria enjoy better social services from their respective governments.
His words: “If there is no restructuring, this country is not moving anywhere, but some people are saying over their dead bodies would there be restructuring.
“I don’t understand that kind of talk. Are we making progress now, how many years after independent? It is unfortunate.”
Similarly, Akande, a former interim chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), attributed the current national woes to deficiency in the constitution.
The APC leader spoke at the weekend at the 2017 Distinguished Role Model Award of The Wings Schools in Iwo, Osun State in honour of the late Ben Adisa Akinola, an educationist cum administrator.
Akande who was the chairman of the event noted the inadequacies in the 1999 Constitution and said the document had created unwarranted challenges not only to the country but its federating components. “The constitution that can move Nigeria forward is the one that recognises the culture of the people in relation to their occupation.”
The former governor of Osun State noted that no nation is practising federalism in which all or larger percentage of existing power is concentrated on a single hand .
He noted that until the constitution is reviewed to conform to the nation’s needs, the country would remain stagnant.
According to him, power must be properly distributed and devolved from the central to the federating units as being practised in other countries.
Akande said: “ The Nigeria’s constitution (1999) now constitutes a major obstacle to peace. Those who wrote the constitution did not realise that political domination and subjugation breed revolts, community disharmony and national insecurity. The bad constitution of 1999 has now begun to stimulate demand for ethnic self-determination and economic security otherwise being called ‘resource control’ or ‘restructuring.’ Whatever name you call it, community disharmony is a burden on national security and it is dangerous for economic development and peace.
“What we are saying, for instance, is that the constitution which (according to 1999 census) gave Lagos State (with 5,725,153 population) 20 local governments, also gave Kano State (with 5,810,494 population) 44 local governments. The same constitution, which gave Anambra (with 2, 796,510 population) 21 local governments, also gave Jigawa (with 2, 875,559 population) 27 local governments.
“Such constitutional provisions seem unjust to some federating components, especially in terms of equal opportunity to access the national revenue allocations. Such agitations may not be healthy for community harmony and national security to influence the change for the better,” he stated.