By Andrew Essien, Abuja
The duo of Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, have renewed their calls on the imperative of restructuring of the country.
While Atiku warned that with the world gradually moving away from oil, Nigeria is equally at the risk of extinction of it fails to restructure, Bishop Kukuh pointed that restructuring would provide opportunity for Nigeria to renew the vow that brought it together as a country.
Speaking at the unveiling of the book “We Can’t All Be Wrong” (Nigeria and the Restructuring Debate) by Dr Ethelbert Okere, in Abuja yesterday, Bishop Kukah likened the clamour for the restructuring of the country to husbands and wives periodically renewing their marriage vows to evaluate the challenges the marriage is facing.
The clergy, who insisted that democracy, being a marketplace of ideas, must therefore accept various positions if a move towards an inclusive society is to be achieved, in usual jovial manner regretted Atiku’s absence, noting that he would have come hard on him for starting the whole debate about restructuring.
“Our culture is hostile to all the ingredients of democracy. So, it is understandable that when you come out of a culture of ‘rankandede’ let me put it that way with due respect, it is difficult for us to appreciate what is a vital component of democracy-‘voice’
“What we are doing is what we wanted to do when the military was out of power. But there are some people in Nigeria who believe that they can not only moderate what we have to say but what we think is not in giving with the spirit of democracy
“So, no matter how wide our spirit may be, democracy is a market place for ideas. We should not actually be at a point which people say they are for or against restructuring. In keeping with the spirit or why we are where we are, we are only doing what we are legitimately entitled. But I think that Nigerians think the only right we can expressed is a right through the ballot box. Even that right is in jeopardy, we can vote but we can’t choose.
“I find it striking when people come to renew their vow, they are doing it in order to confirm and also appreciate what life has been. They would accept the scars, the would accept the injuries, they would accept their tears, but they would also know that the fact that they are still physically together is something to thank God for.
“For me that is the metaphor to accommodating what we called restructuring. And those who feel threatened by the possible break up of Nigeria, it means that they are the ones we should actually be worried about because they actually may have had no emotional commitment to this country.
“They just want to use us for something because it is feeding them and it is keeping them healthy. I think the rest of us want to renew our commitment. There are mistakes that we have made, let us be courageous to correct those mistakes. For me, this is what the conversation is all about. We are citizens of free country, we must be, we should be free to say things that we strengthen our bond of unity.
“There is an aspect of restructuring debate that I find both amusing and disturbing at the same time. The part is the feeling of some that is about winning or losing a debate or about power play. When you hear some speak they sound as though they are saying “I am in power so you can say whatever you like and I won’t accept you position.
“Some have even linked the restructuring debate to the 2019 elections. That is very unfortunate. Our country and the issue being canvassed in the restructuring debate are bigger and more important than one election cycle,” he noted.
Similarly, former Vice President Atiku, represented by Oladimeji Fabiyi, said:”I support restructuring for three main things. It will help to devolve powers to state governments, allowing the federal government to focus on a few nationally critical was and become more efficient and lean. This will then reduce the focus on the federal government and federal power. It will bring us more in line with federal systems that actually work well. And it will result in greater sense of justice, and peace and unity
“Restructuring will result in financially more viable federating units (stars or zones), with greater autonomy which will allow them to develop at their own paces,address peculiar local issues, and unleash their potentials, thus helping the country to reach its potentials. Competitive federalism or healthy competition among our federating units will return to our polity.
“It will help to reposition the country economically as oil loses significance as an energy source for the world and the revenue source for our country. Our current structure has been sustained by oil revenues. We can’t afford to wait till oil become insignificant before we reposition our country,” he warned.
Those in attendance include Chief Ayo Adebayo, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, former governor of Imo state, Dr Ihedi Ohakim, former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Prof Chidi Uwazurike, Amb Eddy Onuoha, Leo Stan Eke among others.
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