One of the President Muhammadu Buhari and APC party manifestos to Nigerians during the campaign was restructuring and devolution of power to the bottom a promise yet to see the light of the day. Prominent Nigerians yesterday converged at the NAF conference centre Abuja to discuss the way forward, prominent amongst whom were, Former President Goodluck Jonathan, Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Audu Ogbe, the immediate past President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo; a Chieftain of the Afenifere, a Yoruba Socio-cultural group, Chief Ayo Adebajo, for INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, amongst others.
The group made the call at the 18th Daily Trust Dialogue with the theme titled, ‘Restructuring in Nigeria: Why? How? When?’
According to the group, present Nigeria is not working in the interest of common citizen of the country and therefore the direction has to change.
However, the Special Assistant to President Buhari o Media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu while speaking to newsmen said that it is only the National Assembly that is empowered to restructure the country, and therefore advised those clamouring for restructuring to approach the National Assembly.
Similarly, the National Assembly (Senate) spokesperson, Ajibola Bashiru described the words restructuring as a mere slogan.
Bashiru called on the advocate of the slogan, who earlier submitted memoranda to the Senate on Constitutional Review to go back and put heads together with their National Assembly members and agree on what type of restructuring they are clamouring for.
Chief Nwodo while speaking during the conference said, “We must restructure to revamp our agriculture. When I speak of restructuring, some of my northern Nigerian friends have suggested to me that I do not want the North to partake in the oil revenue of Nigeria.
Nwodo continued, “Well, I have just outlined the indisputable fact that oil is a fast-drying resource for earning foreign exchange. The truth is that the reliable source of revenue now is agriculture. He sighted example that, “The Netherlands is today the largest exporter of food in the world. Its cross-sectional area is about half the size of Niger State. It is the world’s largest exporter of potatoes. Its revenue from vegetables and dairy contributes more than $100bn annually to its economy. The secret is education, better-mechanised farming, growth of green farm technology, drone monitoring systems and land reclamation by the building of dams.
Nwodo also opined that restructuring would also fix the security problems that are currently bedevilling us.
He explained that “We must restructure to reduce insecurity in our country. While I was working on this speech on Monday, 18 January 2021, I paused to read the news for the day. I saw the following headlines: Bandits kill octogenarian, 14 others in Zamfara, Kaduna attacks.
He revealed that in just one day, “Cops arrest Police Sergeant for robbery in Port Harcourt; Robbers kill 22-year-old IT prodigy in Lagos; Gunmen hack Catholic priest to death, kidnap brother in Niger State, Bandits abduct 17 persons in Niger State, all these in one day.”
Speaking about state Police, the elder statesman postulated that in modern philosophy for security is local policing.
He posited that we must restructure before the next General election, saying that the level of disenchantment and dissatisfaction amongst citizen has hit the roof, it is evident Nigerians are agitating.
He proposed that that restructure in Nigeria, we need a constitutional conference of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria. The current National Assembly forum for the amendment grants recognition of the overthrow of our democratic norms by the enthronement of a military constitution by which they are composed.”
In his remarks, Adebanjo said that the 1999 constitution which was imposed on Nigerians by a Military Ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and was a fraud and needed to be discarded and replaced with the Nigerians interest.
He opined that for any meaningful discussion to be genuine, the said constitution has to be discarded and replaced with a people generated constitution in the mould of the 1960-1963 constitution.
In his opinion, the former INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega after explaining factors that culminated for the agitation for restructuring, he highlighted bad governance and the failure of the status co to address the socio-economic problem of the country.
Jega stated, “After a critical evaluation of the benefits versus the costs of each of these notions of restructuring, I believe that the starting point of desirable and serious, even realistic, restructuring is equitable redistribution of power and resources from the Federal Government to the sub-national governments.
According to him, dismantling the current states’ structure and reconfiguring the states into pre-1966 regions, or into six geo-political regions or even into 12 states of 1976/7 is unrealistic.
In his contribution, former President Goodluck Jonathan opined that what exactly Nigerians want now is a national dialogue in other to understand ourselves first, saying the level of mutual suspicious amongst religious and ethnicity is too pronounced.
Jonathan said, “My conviction is that discussion on restructuring will not help except we restructure our minds because some of the challenging issues at the national level still exist at the state and local levels
“For instance, in some states, it is not easy for some persons to win an election because of the area they come from. The language they speak or their religious belief.
He sighted example that “Take a look at how local government elections are conducted at the state level. Why is it very difficult for an opposition party to win a chairmanship or councillorship seat in a state, despite the fact that the same party probably secured seats in the state Assembly and National Assembly elections, organised by a federal election management body?.
N’Assembly, not Buhari, is empowered to restructure Nigeria –Presidency
Mallam Garba Shehu called on those calling for the restructuring to approach the National Assembly as they are the body empowered by law to do that.
He urged those clamouring for restructuring to take advantage of the ongoing constitutional amendment in the National Assembly to make their position.
Shehu said, “Our position on the call for restructuring has not changed.
“People are calling it restructuring, the ruling party, APC, and the government call it devolution.
“Whichever name you call it, the government is not opposed to it. What we are saying is that the parliament is the body empowered by law to effect any change in the nation’s structure.
“The process of constitution review is ongoing in the National Assembly now. We advise proponents of restructuring to approach the parliament and take advantage of the opportunity that ongoing process offers.”Restructuring a slogan, we need details –Senate
The Senate in its view explained that the National Assembly could not initiate the process of restructuring the country because the concept meant different things to the various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
The National; Assembly called on the propagators of the move to make their position clear on what they mean. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and public affairs stated that the fears that the type of restructuring that some people were advocating might not be part of the amendment if they had not submitted any memorandum to the panel before the deadline for the submission elapsed last year.
He said, “We expect anybody who has a memorandum regarding restructuring which they want to be included in the constitutional amendments that the Senate is doing, to have submitted it through his representative in the National Assembly by now.
However, the Ohanaeze has thrown their weight behind the federal government the proponents of the restructuring should approach the National Assembly.
The socio-cultural group through its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Alex Ogbonnia opined that “Restructuring cannot take effect without having legislative authority. It is just a way of saying that we must go through the legislature which of course is the right thing to do.”