Noble Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, former Governor Adams Oshiomhiole, the Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay, among others were guest at a recent Annual Lecture in Benin in search of solutions to the nation’s woes. PATRICK OCHOGA writes on the divergent views that emerged from the high-powered gathering
There is no gainsaying that the nation is faced with imminent threat of disintegration more than ever before since its amalgamation in 1914, when the Northern and Southern protectorates were merged into what is today known as Nigeria.
In the North, the activities of killer herdsmen on one hand and the on-going war against Boko Haram insurgency remain a sad history of the nation’s quest for peace, stability and prosperity.
In the Southern part of the country, there is a mounting agitation by the Independent People of Biafra, (IPOB) who are calling for the Independent State of biafra.
The secessionist call as led by Nnamdi Kanu has equally paved way for other region within the zone to commence a demand for an independent nation to be carved out of from the Nigerian state.
Some of the major problems posing danger to the unity of the country informed successive administration to convene a National Conference at different times to find solution to agitations of imbalance.
However, recommendations of such confab had been dumped in the archives even in the face of mounting agitations from various regions.
In the search for solution to the visible sign for a breakaway, stakeholders under differ platform have continue to brainstorm and fashion out solutions aimed at fostering the unity restoring a sense belonging among all the component that constituted the Nigeria nation.
No doubt the seeming ill –feeling across the land may have informed the topic “Nigeria State in the Aftermath of the Centenary: Prospect For its Indivisibility” as the theme by the Organizers of the 2017 Professor Wole Soyinka 20th Annual Lecture recently held in Benin City, pen-ultimate week.
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, former Governor Anambra State, Chukwu Emeka Ezeife, at the lecture made attempts to answer questions about the knotty issue of restructuring the nation.
Governor Obaseki who was the chairman of the occasion, said Nigeria’s unity was non-negotiable and maintained that it was possible to make Nigeria great and prosperous again.
Obaseki said that having the right leadership at all levels of government and the different aspects of life was the panacea to the recurring problem of the clamour for self-determination in the country.
“The question of whether Nigeria has come to stay is a non-issue, the real issue is what sort of country should we create for ourselves?” He queried.
He explained that his administration was making concerted efforts to provide good leadership for Edo people and make positive impact in the lives of the youths to enable them take charge of their future.
He commended the organisers of the lecture, noting that the topic was apt and timely, considering the agitations across the country.
Also, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole argued that the nation’s problem is not structural issues but hinge majorly on leadership, attitude and character questions and these must be tackled with deserved urgency as no structure would deliver if the character and attitudes remain the same with the power elites.
Oshiomhole said the emphasis should not be restructuring rather attention must be how to make Nigeria project work, saying that there is no one part of the country that is doing the other favour because not one needs Nigeria more than the other.
He insisted that if there is anything at all to restructure, it must be the character and attitude of leaders for a guaranteed peace and sanity in the polity.
Prof. Sagay on his part, harped on the imperative of making sure that states, and not the federal government, determine the minimum wage payable to their workers and not stifling the states as civil servants who beg for their monthly pay of what is due to them from the center.
Sagay, who is the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, condemned in very strong terms the position of the workers umbrella body, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that the issue of minimum wage should remain in the exclusive list.
He described as shocking the position of the trade union, however made a call for true federalism to be substituted for the present “suffocating unitary constitution.”
He stated that, “The current unitary system is suffocating and is preventing the states from enjoying individual autonomy and development. There is stifling uniformity, without unity. States are stunted in growth and are perpetually dependent on the federal government’s feeding bottle. This has to stop if Nigeria is to ever develop.”
According to the Law Professor, “For the NLC, the federal government should continue to determine for States, what minimum wage they should pay to their employees. And yet, it is a basic and fundamental aspect of federalism; that no federating units should dictate to or interfere into the areas of governance of others.”
“A state, no matter how meager it’s resources, has to accept the dictates of the federal government on this critical issue of its own internal governance. This trade union opposition to federalism is the most shocking all those resisting the re-introduction of true federalism in accordance with our pre-independence concord.”
“The fathers of Nigerian trade unionism were great nationalist and progressives. The later day successors are ready to sacrifice the interest of this country for their own narrow and short term selfish interests. Chief Michael Imoudu would disown this anti-federalism position, if he were still alive,” he said
While describing the 1999 constitution as essentially the same as a unitary constitution masquerading as federal constitution, he explained that “this has created the present stagnant, crisis ridden and disfunctional geographical entity called modern Nigeria.”
In addition, he said the present constitution has made the federal government becomes the “center of a titanic and destructive struggle for control,” adding that under this arrangement, the states indolence and parasitic tendencies had follow, resulting in an unproductive and underdeveloped country.
“In our present condition of tight unitarism, any act of misgovernance in Abuja reverberates throughout the country. In order words, if Abuja sneezes, the whole country catches cold. In a real federation, federal government colds begin and end in that government. Nigeria’s federating units, whether states or zones, need breathing space from an overbearing federal government, he added.
“In order words, it is imperative that we return to the 1963 constitution, modified to suit our present circumstance, if we are to co-exist in a stable, crisis free and fast developing Nigeria. For Nigeria is a country of many nations which had existed independently long before the arrival of the all-conquering colonial power,” he stated
While former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Ezeife called for one united Nigeria built on equity, justice and fair play.
He also cautioned proponents Biafra Republic and northern protagonists under the guise of Arewa Youth with the quit notice on the Igbo, to retrace their steps in the interest of peace and corporate of all and a break up would not do the country and her people any good.
Ezeife said, “Nigeria is at the brink of extinction, Nigeria will cease to exist if we did not restructure. It is not joke; only those who are joking are saying-the unity of Nigeria is indissoluble; that is nonsense. Anybody who knows, know that the clock is ticking violently now because we have something called aggrieved Nigeria.”
Continuing he added “The country must have been created to be the rallying point of all black Africans. Nigeria is designed for greatness by God, which attracted the British who manipulated it to the nation underdeveloped. Nigeria needs God’s intervention and this is time to restructure. Unless we restructure, we will not make progress. God doesn’t make mistake”
Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta state urged the body to intensify massive sensitization of youths on the need to embrace peace and shun violence in all its ramifications.
Okowa who also lauded the initiative of the association, lamented the hazards caused by ugly upsurge of cultism and drug abuse as well as other social vices within the institutions of leanring and the larger society but assured that the state has taken steps to nip the incidents in the bud.