‘Nigerians should move from mouthing to acting restructuring’
Ever since the days of military regime in Nigeria, there have been persistent calls for the restructuring of the country for better co-existence, growth and development. It was on the basis of these calls and quest for the restructuring that groups like Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and other progressive bodies across the country were formed.
Since the country’s return to democratic governance in 1999 and the attendant 1999 Constitution foisted by the military, the call for the restructuring of the country has persisted. It has recently gained momentum, following the pockets of agitations, unrests, and killings in different parts of the country, which many believed are capable of spelling doom on the country if nothing is done urgently.
Though many advocates of restructuring appear to be in a fix on how it can be achieved without destroying the democratic setting, some have insisted that the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report was the way forward. Others including the Presidency appeared opposed to the idea with President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent disclosure in an interview that he has not read and may not read the report.
Some argue that restructuring the country can be achieved through the amendment of the 1999 Constitution, if the executive and members of National Assembly were patriotic and nationalistic.
Unfortunately since 1999, the country’s Constitution has been amended on several occasions with billions of public funds spent, and outcome unreflective of the desired restructuring.
However, many Nigerians believe that with the recent commencement of another round of constitutional amendments by the Senate, it was another opportunity for a push for the country’s restructuring. This is despite the criticisms and condemnations that have continued to trail the lawmakers’ proposed items for amendments, which included life pension for the lawmakers, immunity for the principal officers, withdrawal of presidential assent and others.
Speaking to The Guardian on the commencement of the constitutional amendments, and possibility of achieving the country’s restructuring, former president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Dozie Ikedife said that the unfortunate thing was that Nigerians were not ready and serious about restructuring the country.
He said, “Before now, we have had ample opportunities to restructure the country. Such opportunities presented itself in days of NADECO and Afenifere struggle, but we bungled it for selfish reasons. Such opportunities presented itself again recently with the Boko Haram insurgency, Niger-Delta militancy, Biafra agitations and the Senate’s move to amend the constitution. But from the way things are going, it appears we will miss this opportunity again. It is high time we move from mouthing restructuring to acting restructuring.
“For anybody to say that the Nigerian structure is indivisible is an overstatement. Are the saying that Nigerian marriage was made in Heaven? There is no quantum of patriotism among Nigerians.”
When asked if the country’s problem is bad leadership or restructuring, he said: “Both are major problems facing the country today, but with the restructuring, the powers of leaders will be reduced drastically especially at the centre. This will engender responsible, responsive and accountable leadership and followership.”
In his own remarks, former labour leader and elder statesman, Mr. Frank Kokori is of the opinion that what impeded the country’s restructuring was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government.
According to him, “Part of the agenda of the NADECO was to restructure the country. But unfortunately the military hurriedly arranged our democratic governance in 1999. To make matters worse, they equally facilitated the emergence of one of their own, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the president of the country.
“The call to restructure the country is being sponsored by the PDP politicians that have held the country down for years. They should give the present government chance because it inherited a lot of challenges.”
To a PDP chieftain and former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, it was up to the Federal Government to restructure the country. “But unfortunately for us the so-called progressives who were championing the call before now, who are now in APC government, have chosen to play the ostrich.
“Where are the so-called progressives? Why are they keeping quiet today in their comfort zone? They should not repeat the mistake of the past government by not pushing for restructuring of the country now. History will not be kind to them, if they miss this golden opportunity like the PDP.”
On the possibility of restructuring the country through constitutional amendment, the former lawmaker said that it was possible, but doubt if the lawmakers would do it because they would be affected.
“The restructuring can be achieved through proclamation that will lead to referendum. If there is anytime that the country is ripe for restructuring, it is now. The signs are obvious that all is not well with the country now and the only way out of the situation is to restructure the country in line with the people’s desires,” he stated.