Political and traditional leaders in the South-south said yesterday in Port Harcourt that the federal government must address the issue of restructuring of the federation if it is serious about its profession of change. The leaders declared this at a summit organised by the Project Nigeria Movement.
The summit came two days after the All Progressives Congress Committee on True Federalism made far-reaching recommendations for the devolution of powers to states and general restructuring of the country. Chairman of the committee and Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai had said on Thursday in Abuja while presenting its report to the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led APC National Working Committee that the panel approved resource control and state police, among other significant changes, which had long been on the front burner.
The ruling APC had campaigned on the platform of change in 2015 and boldly promised in its manifesto to restructure the country towards true federalism and greater autonomy for the federating units. But since coming to power, President Muhammadu Buhari has consistently discountenanced the idea of restructuring. Buhari has maintained that the problem with Nigeria is in the process of its governance rather than the country’s structure. So when the ruling party came out with its recommendations for radical change, the report was greeted with mix feelings of relief and surprise.
But the South-south leaders’ summit said if Buhari’s APC government was serious about its promise of change, it must have to start with the fundamentals – restructuring the country.
Conveners of the summit included former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah; former president of Ijaw National Congress, Professor Kimse Okoko; former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; Chief Idu Amaidhe; Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN); and OCJ Okocha (SAN).
In his address, chairman of the summit and first military governor of the old Rivers State, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, noted that the problem of Nigeria started when the military modified the country’s constitution of 1960 and replaced it with the 1979 Constitution, which gave enormous powers to then President Shehu Shagari. Diete-Spiff said Nigeria needed a constitution that would be written by the people to favour their interests, adding that it is time to overhaul the entire system.
He urged Buhari to listen to calls from different ethnic nationalities of the country for restructuring if he was actually interested in changing the country for good.
According to the Amayanabo (King) of Twon-Brass, Bayelsa State, restructuring is what would demonstrate Buhari’s sincere commitment to change. He said, “I am all ears to hear how the people will convince the powers that be on restructuring. Change begins with restructuring.”
In his own contribution, Attah said what the South-south was demanding was a return to a Nigeria that works for all. He stated, “Restructuring must not, therefore, be seen as a demand for a previously unknown Nigeria. What we demand is a return to a Nigeria that we have had before, a Nigeria that worked for human progress and development.
“I feel pained when I hear people say they will not be intimidated by the demand for restructuring. Restructuring is not meant to intimidate anybody. It is meant to re-establish us as a fair, just and productive nation.”
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike yesterday called on Nigerians to disregard the report of the APC committee on restructuring, saying the party is not sincere about the recommendations. Wike said the report was strategically designed to deceive Nigerians ahead of another general election.
The governor, who spoke through the Head of Service, Mr. Godwins Rufus, said, “We should not be confused by the report of Governor El Rufai’s committee on restructuring of the country. This coming close to the election shows it is a trick by the APC.
“They are trying to mislead Nigerians that a party that has disappointed Nigerians will turn around to accept restructuring of the nation.”
He stated that restructuring of the country could not be achieved by the APC-led federal government, saying restructuring is what would bring the development that Nigeria craves.