Prominent groups and personalities on Sunday took a swipe at President Muhammadu Buhari for describing as ignorant, advocates of restructuring of the country. The pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) strongly took exception to the comment of the president, saying it was an affront to the popular wish of Nigerians.
Represented by the Executive Secretary of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu, at the launching of the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation held at Congo Conference Hotel in Zaria at the weekend, President Buhari maintained that advocates of restructuring were ignorant of the processes for the amendment of the constitution.
He further noted that having been vested with power through an election, no one holding elective office would cede powers to those not entrusted with the mandate to govern the people.
While reacting, the Secretary General of Afenifere, Chief Sola Ebiseni, noted that majority from all geopolitical zones of the country supported the call for the restructuring. The Afenifere secretary said it was unfortunate that the position of the Federal Government or even the president would have to be deduced from some officials.
Ebiseni noted that majority from all geopolitical zones of the country supported the call for the restructuring of the country and expressed concerns over some government officials going against restructuring of the country.
“From what I read in the papers, the fellow to whom this statement is credited is one Executive Secretary, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu, who presides over the sharing of the revenue of the federation to which his state probably contributes nothing. How else can he impress his principal than tell him what would soothe his sectional and sectarian ego?
“The elected governors of the constituent states of the federation, the leaders of the entrenched federating ethnic nationalities, former leaders, presidents and knowledgeable personalities are all calling for the restructuring of the political architecture to reinvent the foundational federal principles of the polity and here you find an opportunistic official heading an office which had no place in a true federal state, talking down on the nation.
“It is my submission that the statement could not be the opinion of General Buhari, who is already seeking restructuring the current land use under the 1999 Constitution to reopen grazing routes under a law made pursuant to the 1963 constitution.
“We are at a critical stage where children, particularly in states with the highest population of children out of school in the world, can no longer go to school at all for fear of being kidnapped for ransom.
“State governments are demanding the powers to establish State Police to deal with insecurity and prominent traditional rulers, especially emirs, have called on their people to rise in their own defence and some uninformed government officials are threatening us with war if we seek restructuring or self-determination. It is so nauseating.
“In any event, restructuring of the political architecture of the country in the interest of the people, their security and general wellbeing is not going to be at the pleasure of the President or the whims and caprices of his uncouth officials,” the Afenifere secretary declared.
Similarly, the national chairman of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Senator Emmanuel Ibokessien, insisted that only restructuring would address the complex challenges threatening the unity of the country.
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune on Sunday, in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Ibokessien, retorted: “What is it that we are ignorant about: restructuring?” He explained that only true federalism anchored on devolution of powers to the component states remains the sure way towards reinventing Nigeria for the common good of all.
“The position of PANDEF is that Nigeria must be restructured along the path of true federalism.
“Powers must be devolved to states and resources controlled with percentage shared to the centre. Anything outside that is a total misnomer because, as I always say, if we fail to restructure now, Nigeria will restructure itself later,” he stated.
He likened restructuring to pus, which if not burst in good time, would burst itself for the content to forcefully spill out. Responding to a message, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Ghali Na’Abba, was not comfortable with the view expressed by the president.
Waxing philosophically, Na’Abba said: “From time to time, we sweep our rooms because they get dirty. So, it is with social systems.”
Threats can’t stop genuine agitations – Middle Belt Forum
Piqued by the outburst of the President, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) stated that the president appeared misguided on the issue of restructuring. The president of the forum, Dr Bitrus Pogu said no amount of threats will stop genuine agitations and what was right for the country.
“Mr President’s threat cannot stop what is right; many things are wrong in this country. The government is becoming more and more autocratic. Things that are supposed to be handled by states are being by the federal government. There’s confusion everywhere. The directive by the president on the cattle routes, which were done by the colonial and the Northern regional government is another confusion we are talking about. If there’s anyone that is confused, I think he is the one not those clamouring for restructuring and devolution of power.
“Those clamouring for the restructuring of the country, devolution of power which is part of the component of restructuring, are people who love Nigeria; people who want the country to work; people who want agitation for secession to stop; who want transparency in governance; people who want electoral processes devoid of rigging.
“If he thinks people who are advocating for restructuring are confused, I think he is the one that is confused because Nigeria cannot remain the same. The way it is now can lead to its dismemberment,” he claimed.
He averred that the way forward on the issue of restructuring was dialogue and discussion with various stakeholders in the country.
“Without restructuring and devolution of power, also without good governance where everybody will have a sense of belonging, all the agitations in the country will not stop and Mr. President may end up supervising the disintegration of Nigeria,” he warned.
Also, the leader of the South Peoples Assembly (SPA) and former provost marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brig-Gen. Idada Ikponmwen (retd) said the opposition of President Buhari to restructuring was worrisome and showed that the government was insincere and unserious. He said that the president’s stance was against the belief of most Nigerians that the only way out of the present quagmire was restructuring.
Ikponmwen argued that though former President Goodluck Jonathan appeared to have failed to implement the 2014 National Conference report for some personal reasons, successive governments ought not to have thrown the baby away with the bath water, as there are a lot of recommendations therein that would solve Nigeria’s problem if implemented.
He said that the attitude of Buhari to the derivative principle does not augur well for the unity of the country as the people of the resource-rich but impoverished Niger Delta region were being denied access to their God-given resources. The ex-provost marshal noted that injustice in the South-South, particularly in Niger Delta area, was glaring as the government turns a blind eye on the people of Jigawa and Zamfara who are allowed to mine their gold and sell to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while the same government sat on the oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta.
He insisted: “That is simply an unjustifiable dichotomy amounting to grave injustice which no well-meaning government should encourage. Having said all that, the main point I am driving home is that there are so many things that are inhibiting good governance, security and egalitarian society in Nigeria.”
Yakassai backs Buhari, says president has no power to change constitution
However, elder statesman, Mallam Tanko Yakassai, backed the president on the latter’s opposition to restructuring, saying Buhari was right on his submission.
He said: “I have never seen any country where elected people surrendered their mandate. Those who believe in restructuring and have been agitating for it, I have been saying that they should come out with their blue print. We have over 200 ethnic groups, so who will do the restructuring? Only the elected people have the mandate.
“The president himself has no mandate on his own to change the constitution; it is only the national and state Houses Assembly. Those in elective offices had contested elections and won. So, anybody who wants the Constitution changed should use the National Assembly; the only other way is through military coup but military interventions never moved Nigeria forward.”
Also commenting, a former general secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Z. Sani said Buhari “merely echoed what many of us have been saying, to wit, that 1999 Constitution is a clone of that of 1979 that was democratically sired. The elder statesman said since the country had been restructured many times be it geopolitically, by way of a form of government and through economic models, what was needed as a panacea was a cultural renaissance for positive social order.
Source: Nigerian Tribune