Eminent Nigerians, including a former Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme; Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; and a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, on Sunday in Enugu, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure Nigeria.
Others, who lent their voices to the call during the 17th Annual Convention of the Igbo Youth Movement, included former governors of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Peter Obi, and Niger Delta activist, Ankio Briggs.
The theme of the convention was ‘Still in search of true federalism’.
The eminent Nigerians noted that it was time to restructure the country in line with the principle of “true federalism”.
Speakers at the event equally canvassed the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference.
They argued that agitations for secession by a few nationalities in the country would reduce if the national conference report was implemented.
Ekwueme, in his address, stressed that it was time for Nigeria to revert to the basic principles and arrangements left behind by the country’s founding fathers.
Going down memory lane, Ekwueme observed that his incarceration by the military in 1984 at Kirikiri prisons afforded him the opportunity to reflect deeply on Nigeria’s problems.
According to him, he came to the conclusion that a six geo-political zonal structure was the solution to the ills plaguing Nigeria.
Ekwueme added, “The six-geopolitical zonal structure will take care of minorities in both the North and the South.
“It was on the basis of that (balancing interest of minority and majority) that I came to the conclusion that we should have six regions or geo-political zones as you call them as of the 1994 constitutional conference – three in the North and three in the South.
“From the south, you have the South-West, the Yoruba; you have the South-East, the Igbo; and then you have two minority groups, Mid-West and COR (Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers) as South-South.
“In the North, you have the North-West, which is Hausa/Fulani; then the North-Central, Middle Belt, which is the aggregation of minorities, and then in the North-East again, minorities predominated by Kanuris in Borno and Yobe and then other minority groups.”
Ekwueme argued that what Nigeria negotiated and agreed on with the British colonial authorities before independence in 1960 was a regional government arrangement, where each of the federating units had a constitution, which was annexed to the Republican Constitution of 1963.
According to him, the Republican Constitution provided a sharing formula, which allocated 50 per cent to the regions, 30 per cent to a distributable pool and 20 per cent to the centre.
“There is a need for us to return to the basics from what we inherited from our founding fathers,” Ekwueme said.
Adebanjo, who equally went down memory lane to trace the origin of federalism in Nigeria to the pre and post colonial constitutional conferences, insisted that Nigeria must be restructured to correct what he described as the damage done to the country’s constitution by the military.
He noted that the regional structure, upon which federalism was anchored, generated rivalry among the regions as they were competitive in initiating various developmental projects in their areas of influence.
“The autonomy the regions enjoyed under the federal constitution gave each region the liberty to develop at its own pace according to its priority,” he said.
Restructuring will also put a stop to various forms of insurgency and uprising currently witnessed in the country, including those of the Niger Delta Avengers, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra and the Indigenous People of Biafra, among others, according to Adebanjo.
He added, “It is my strong view that restructuring will put a stop to the various acts of uprising in the country today, be it Niger Delta Avengers, MASSOB, IPOB or the mew agitation for the state of Biafra.
“This will require a change of our constitution to allow for the restructuring of the country under a truly federal system.
“Then, and only then can we have peace in the country; without which, there can be no progress.”
On his part, Gana said Nigeria’s founding fathers were right by agreeing to a federal structure, which he described as the best governance structure to guarantee peace, equity and justice.
Briggs, in the same vein, stressed that true and fiscal federalism must be truthful and justifiable.
The activist restated support for resource control by the states.
She added that while she would not want Nigeria to break up, Briggs argued that Nigeria’s disintegration would be inevitable if the country continued on the current path.
Obi, who also canvassed restructuring on the basis of fiscal federalism, spoke of a need to urgently address the high cost of governance in the country.
The former governor stated that any governor who said he could not pay workers’ salaries should give way for other persons with better ideas.
Obi, said, “With an immediate restructuring, we would have solved Nigeria’s problems. That will bring equity and justice to the country.”
Ezeife, who received the award of ‘Igbo Peoples General’ at the event, insisted on the implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference, particularly the recommendation for additional 18 states, to make for a 54-state structure.
“The 54-state structure will address some inequalities created by the military,” he added.
Ezeife said only “true federalism” would save Nigeria from an imminent break-up.
He said the current agitations by the NDA, the MASSOB and the IPOB among others, would persist unless there was an immediate restructuring of the country.
The ex-Anambra State governor said, “We do not need to debate on this matter again. The days of debates are over. What is needed now is for the President to embark on the immediate restructuring of Nigeria in line with the principle of true federalism.
“If that happens quickly, then we would have been saved from all these crises and killings being witnessed in the country today.
“I came out from prison with the idea of six geo-political zonal structures, which I pushed for in a national conference much later and it became a convention, and has taken care of minorities in the south and north.”
Detained IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was given the award of ‘Liberator’ by the IYM at the event.
IYM founder, Mr. Eliot Uko, argued that restructuring would end the ongoing agitations for secession by some separatist groups that were emerging in the country.
In a related development, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has asked the Federal Government to recognise and honour the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola, by enthroning true federalism in the country.
Ambode, who spoke on Sunday at an event organised by the state’s Office of Civic Engagement to mark the 23rd anniversary of the June 12 presidential election, said Nigeria owed the late Abiola a duty to entrench true democracy in the system and practised it the right way.
While speaking on the theme ‘Democracy and inclusiveness: basis for good governance’, Ambode, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello, lamented that there was no true federalism in the country.
He said, “What we owe Nigeria today is nothing but true federalism and for us to be able to achieve true federalism, we have to work hard for it.
“We still have a long way to go. If you want to live by Abiola’s memory; if you want to honour him; we owe him a duty to ensure that we install viable democracy. Viable democracy can only be installed if we have true federalism, which we are presently not practising.”
The governor added that the federating units of the country must be allowed to develop at their own pace, saying it was important for the country to address the wrongs of the past.