Restructuring as Southwest agenda
The clamour for restructuring of the Nigerian federation has become a hot issue the President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) could no longer afford to overlook despite their initial opposition to it.
Buhari and the APC have refused to show commitment to the demand of restructuring the country since his assumption of office until recently when the leadership of the party set up a committee headed by the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam El-Rufai to look at the definition of the subject and how it could affect the country.
Interestingly, the agitations for the returning the country to true federalism and devolution of powers have become so intense and it is definitely going to be one of the major factors that would determine where the pendulum would swing in the 2019 presidential election.
Realizing the intricacy of the subject matter, leaders from the southern part of Nigeria are not relenting on their demand pinion that the country should be restructured as they are also making it one of the factors that would determine where their loyalty would swing in the next presidential election.
Last week Thursday, prominent Yoruba leaders including politicians and professionals with support from the South-South, Southeast, some parts of the North Central and the Middle belt, set the pace and also urged other geo-political zones to follow similar direction.
The Southwest leaders gathered at Ibadan, capital of the old Western Region to reiterate their desire to restructure the administrative system of Nigeria. The Ibadan meeting has since been yielding results as other geo-political zones are getting set to organise similar regional summits to impress it on the ruling party to restructure Nigeria.
As critical as the subject has become in the nation, some known northerners, who were once uninterested in the subject like the former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the rest are beginning to take a second look at it. But whether they meant it for political reason of not is another issue.
In a paper presented at the Ibadan summit, a former Nigerian ambassador to the Netherlands, Mrs. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu said the philosophy, which his father, Chief Obafemi Awolowo used to develop the Western Region during his days was made possible under the First Republic Constitution unlike what we have in place today.
She noted that some of the elements that were pivotal to her father’s outstanding premiership from 1952 to 1959 include “a vision for development that was clear, unequivocal and sagacious; a legendary diligence and commitment to service and the good of all; a fantastic team which, in his own words, was ‘unexcelled’ and, ‘of which any head of government anywhere in the world would be proud’ and, crucially, for the purpose of this gathering, the constitutional provisions that guaranteed the powers that were required to actualise his vision, as well as access to the resources without which it would have been impossible to prosecute the ground-breaking projects that set the Western Region apart from the rest.”
Awolowo-Dosunmu also dismissed the fear of those relating the call for restructuring to disintegration of Nigeria, saying that his father in one of his books had predicted as it is happening today under the 1999 Constitution, that a unitary constitution will not work in circumstances which warrant a federal constitution “this is the reason Nigeria is not moving, growing and it needs to be restructured.”
Quoting her father, she said, “If federalism had not disrupted the unity of those other countries which have operated this type of constitution for decades it cannot by itself impair or ruin the unity of our own country.”
The former envoy added that unity through federation was one of the slogans proclaimed by the Action Group in 1951. So, Chief Awolowoọ was an unrepentant federalist, but he was never a separatist. Neither are we.”
One of the chieftains of Yoruba Socio-cultural organisation, Pa Ayo Adebanjo in separate encounter with The Guardian said what the agitation for restructuring is all about was merely to reverse what the military destroyed in the 1966 coup.
According to him, “Nigeria was structured at independence on federalism-based First Republic Constitution where the regions have their autonomy and were developing at their pace until the military intervention in 1996, which unified the system. The structure was de-structured but what we are asking for is the ‘restructure’ of what was destroyed. This will in no means affect the unity of the country as some people were thinking.”
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