In this report, AZA MSUE examines the renewed clamour for restructuring ahead of the 2019 general elections. The conversation has shifted to the northern part of the country for lobby of political leaders
Recently, Bayelsa State governor Henry Seriake Dickson visited Kaduna State governor Nasir el-Rufai in Kaduna in what he said was in line with his resolve to deepen the clamour for the restructuring of the country. El-Rufai is the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s committee on true federalism which made far reaching recommendations on how to re-organise the country. Some of the stakeholders in the northern region have given terms.
Many Nigerians have intensified calls for the restructuring of the country before the 2019 general elections, arguing that the only way to put the country on the path of peace, prosperity and stability is to return it to fiscal federalism and devolve power to the federating units through restructuring.
Though, some of the anti-restructuring voices feared that it might break up the country, the advocates of restructuring believed that a restructured Nigeria would resolve various agitations across the country which if not look into could threaten the stability and unity of the nation.
Agitations from the South-East, South-South, South-West and the Middle Belt are taking the centre stage in the daily national discourse.
It is noted that, restructuring means different things to Nigerians. Those in the forefront term restructuring as the reorganisation of the nation that will usher in true federalism, devolution of power and resource control.
But in democratic setting, restructuring can only be achieved through fundamental constitutional reforms which some parts of the 1999 constitution will be expunged and replaced with new amendments.
Sensing the growing calls for restructuring, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), constituted a committee on true federalism headed by El-rufai which had submitted its report and recommendations to the party leadership.
The Northern States Governors Forum, following the APC also constituted its own restructuring committee chaired by Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, to come out with the position of the region.
Just recently, Dickson took his consultation to the North as he held a closed-door meeting with governor el-Rufai in Kaduna and expected to meet with other governors and leaders of northern extraction across party lines.
Dickson explained that the aim of the consultation was to get the buy-in of the governors and leaders on the restructuring of the Nigeria.
A statement signed by hisChief Press Secretary, Francis Ottah Agbo, said the Governor’s consultation would be concluded in June before the 2019 political atmosphere heats up: “In fulfilment of Governor Dickson’s resolve to dialogue with the leaders and governors of northern extraction, he has, from Sunday, 20 May, commenced his visits to northern governors and leaders of the region to further consult and dialogue with them with the view to getting their buy-in on the restructuring of Nigeria.
“Consequently, the governor has visited the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai on Sunday in Government House, Kaduna, and held closed door meeting with him. The dialogue with the governors and leaders will be concluded in June before the 2019 political activities heat up.”
Speaking with journalists after meeting Governor el-Rufai in Government House, Kaduna, Governor Dickson, hinted that the support of the Northern Region was indispensable to the achievement of a truly federal and restructured Nigeria.
Dickson, however, urged the political leaders in the South and the North to pull down the barriers of mistrust, misunderstanding and even miscommunication against the unity of the country.
Dickson maintained that it was indeed important for political leaders irrespective of their political parties to work together for the realization of a restructured, stable, united and great country.
Dickson said:”Few minutes ago, I commended governor el-Rufai’s commitment and courage for new Nigerian project. By Restructuring we are talking about fundamental constitutional reforms, reforms of restructuring of our country to bring about a fairer and more stable and sustainable Nigeria and all of these within the context of united, indivisible Federal republic of Nigeria. There is nothing human that is perfect. Nation building is work in progress and is actually not something that will be finished by one leader, party or one government, or even by one generation. It is from one generation to another generation. Our leaders, our founding fathers gave of us this country but we cannot claim that the present structure of this country is perfect.”
Dickson added: “No nation is perfect, nation building therefore is continues work in progress and that is great work and contributions of Governor El-Rufai’s committee even though the committee of a political party and yet the recommendations are far reaching and number of us across party lines believe that we need to advance the conversations. If you ask me what is restructuring? Restructuring simply means constitutional reforms, constitutional amendments, federalism or now we say devolution of power.
“I want to use this opportunity to assure those that may not have properly understood the concept of restructuring that restructuring is not evil and portends no evil, no doom for Nigeria and that is why I support the great work the governor has done and I m here to commend him and partner” Dickson said.
The Bayelsa governor added,“As you know, you and I have had very productive, fruitful discussions about the future of our country, we agreed that across party lines, leaders of our country need to come together, to reason together, work together for the good of our country.
“And that is why I am here to discuss issues on restructuring of our country as a united stable and prosperous nation where all Nigerians can have a sense of belonging, a nation founded on fairness and justice, a nation that can aspire to be one of the greatest on the face of the earth and we have the potentials.
“I want to make this very clear that the northern part of Nigeria is not just essential to this new vision, the buy in the north is critical, it is indispensable in bringing about this new Nigeria.
“And that is why I have called on political leaders in my region and in other parts of this country to break down the barriers of misunderstanding and mistrust and sometimes miscommunications, and we can only do so when leaders continue to meet as we have done,”Dickson said.
Also speaking with journalists, Governor El Rufai, observed that there were some aspects of the Nigerian Federalism in need of improvement as was contained in the report of the APC Committee on restructuring.
El Rufai said the ruling party had set up a technical committee on the Implementation of the key recommendations of the committee which he said had been working.
El-Rufai said he was optimistic that the technical committee would soon present its report to the party so that the recommendations could be sent to the Federal Government.
“We must all work together; put all hands on deck to make the country better. For me the federation requires some rebalancing, and the work of our APC Committee on true Federalism reflected the consensus among our party leaders.
“And the APC National Executive Committee has adopted our report and set up a technical committee on implementation which is working. I hope the technical committee will soon report to the party so that the party will send the recommendations to the government.
“But I do think that there are aspects of our federation that needs to be improved and those have been reflected in our reports,” el-Rufai said.
However, the Coalition of Northern socio-political groups, welcomed restructuring but warned that those who would be in the structural reforms driving seat should be within the 18 to 60 years bracket.
The coalition recommended the immediate setting up of a multi-purpose committee in the North with the mandate to embark on a massive campaign for the enlightenment and sensitisation of all northerners in preparation for the national debate on restructuring.
In a five-page communiqué signed by their spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, leaders of all leading Northern youth groups, civil society organisations, student bodies, professional societies, trade and women associations at a summit convened by the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), explained that: “For the avoidance of doubt, the North fully supports the restructuring of the country and shall be prepared to represent itself in any debate on the issue.
“The North shall however not settle for any restructuring plan that falls short of a total, comprehensive and holistic reordering that should first and foremost include the peaceful, democratic and civil determination of the people or groups of people that truly and sincerely wish to remain part of the Nigerian federation.
The communiqué further stated that, “The seeming endorsement by some northern leaders of a brand of restructuring that clearly places the region at a disadvantage is unacceptable and must be discountenanced.
“Any reorganisation process that fails to involve the discussion of the limits and extents of all the federating components with regards to available space and resources shall not be acceptable to the North.
“And that older generation Nigerians above age 70 must not take up more than 15 per cent of the delegate composition to the proposed national dialogue on restructuring.
“It is important to note here that those who fall within the above definition of old generation Nigerians have in the past participated in debates that gave birth to the current national arrangement that is largely acknowledged as having failed our national aspirations.
“Nigerians of between the ages of 18 to 60 should therefore competently compose 85 per cent of the delegation to the new debate process for the reorganisation of the country.
“This is in recognition of the reality that Nigerians within this age bracket are growing worried that the nation has not fared well by being on the same political and economic lanes for 58 years (1960-date), resulting in no meaningful developmental impact.
“This shall therefore eventually form the cornerstone for a platform for Nigeria to deliberate, decide, design, and develop a roadmap for an ultimate generational power transition.”
The group insisted that “the recommendations by both the committees set up by the northern state governors and the All Progressives Congress (APC) be discredited and abandoned. Specifically, the summit reviewed the distractions facing the North in the form of multiple and varied threats and the options that are available to the region as it prepares to engage other sections of the country in the restructuring debate.
“The summit particularly noted that in spite of the intensity of the clamour for restructuring from other parts of the country, the North appears not yet able to approach the issue with the required determination and to properly take a collective and definite stand.
“It also critically examined the various attempts being made by external forces at totally undermining its economic and social fabrics, by encouraging rampant poverty, pervasive corruption and social problems like armed robbery, kidnapping, prostitution, drug and substance abuse.
“Resulting from this is an instigated mutual distrust that is giving rise to widespread security challenges that are yet to be holistically addressed.
“The summit as well recognised that without proper preparation, the North stands the risk of continuing to bear the brunt from the fallout of renewed agitations for secession and the recent clamour for restructuring.
“Consequently, the summit agreed that the discordant tunes coming out of the North suggest that it is too overwhelmed to even comprehend the true import of the brand of restructuring being called for, and its likely implication on the nation at large, to northerners in particular and to the younger generation most especially.”
The communiqué added: “The group frowns at the mistake about to be committed by the present crop of northern political leaders in accepting a proposal that could mortgage the region’s collective interest and its future but suggested that in their place, a new all-encompassing process that will ensure the accurate representation of all interests be constituted.
“It is time they formed a rallying point from which younger Nigerians can make a strong demand for a new political order, to usher in a generational power shift, as reparation for past marginalisation in the nation’s political leadership.” the coalition explained.
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