Restructuring vs secession: Battle for Nigeria’s soul -By Azuka Onwuka

Filed under: National Issues |

Azuka Onwuka

 

With the Ibadan Declaration of last week by the Yoruba, it has become clearer that something big is about to happen in Nigeria. The voice of those who want to change the status quo in Nigeria is getting louder, while the voice of those opposing it is getting weaker. Even those who had kept quiet because of apathy or indecision have woken up and begun to talk. Many people seem to have suddenly realised that if they do not take an action now, something unpredictable and unpalatable may happen in Nigeria in future. And they will be filled with regret that they took no action when the storm was brewing.

In the words of Dr Kunle Olajide, the convener of the Ibadan Summit: “The ship of the Nigerian State is floundering. It is in fact heading towards a titanic rock and Nigerians from all parts of the country must rise up to halt the drift. All Nigerians must speak up. Silence cannot be golden at these times and silence in this time is crime against humanity.

“In a heterogeneous country like Nigeria, nation-building is an unending process of negotiation. Our elders in Yorubaland, motivated by a burning desire to save the sinking ship of Nigeria State, put the planning committee of this summit together to arrange this historic event.”

Reports show that the turnout of participants at the Adamasimgba Stadium where the summit held was huge and cut across religious and political affiliations, which underscored the importance placed on the summit. The voices that spoke in favour of restructuring drowned those that spoke in favour of outright secession.

Some people have argued that the renewed agitations for the independence of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria by the Indigenous People of Biafra, led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, have woken up many Nigerians. Rather than being intimidated or swayed by the threats, ridicule and counselling from different quarters, Kanu and IPOB seem to be getting stronger and bolder and more determined in their pursuit of the independence of Biafra.

In the Niger Delta and South-West, there are groups that are also talking about the secession of the Niger Delta as well as the Oduduwa Republic. There is also a group from the old Midwestern region asking for the independence of that region from Nigeria. Even though many may dismiss these groups as unserious, those who draw parallels between events note that IPOB started in such a seemingly unserious manner.

The initial quit notice from a coalition of Arewa youths to the Igbo in the North (which was later called off) and the counter quit notice from some Niger Delta groups to Northerners and Yoruba in the Niger Delta to leave before October 1 also increased tension in the country.

But most importantly, there is the fear that the clash between agitation for secession and the opposition to it may snowball into something dangerous and uncontrollable. To stem the tide, therefore, moderates have found their voice and intervened by asking for the restructuring of Nigeria to achieve something similar to the 1963 Constitution, to allow the regions or states to have a greater degree of autonomy and control over their resources and affairs, thereby making Nigeria a true federal state. This is seen as a middle ground between the calls for secession and the calls for the maintenance of the status quo.

At the South-West summit in Ibadan, the leaders of the Ohanaeze and the South-South were in attendance to watch proceedings and to show solidarity. It also showed that the three zones of the South have shown their support for the restructuring of the nation. The comments made by prominent leaders of the North-Central (or the Middle Belt) in the past show that they also want Nigeria to be restructured. The opposition to restructuring comes mainly from the North-East and North-West, even though there are key individuals like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former governors of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and Col Abubakar Umar (retd.), who have supported the call for the restructuring of Nigeria.

However, the main reason the call for the restructuring of Nigeria is still meeting a brick wall is because the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, and his party, the All Progressives Congress, which campaigned and won the 2015 election with restructuring as the number one point on their manifesto, have shown that they are no longer in support of the restructuring of the nation. Many see this as a betrayal of trust and a dent on their integrity. Their words and actions show that they are just biding their time on the issue of restructuring as the 2019 election date approaches. The only reason why they mention restructuring occasionally in their speeches is because it has become a key issue in Nigeria, seen as the only thing that can save Nigeria from its march on the path to uncertainty.

If President Buhari were in full support of restructuring, the APC leaders would have been emboldened to talk about it, and it would have been executed or kick-started before the second year anniversary of his inauguration in May this year. Because Buhari’s body language shows that he does not want Nigeria to be restructured, leaders of the APC do not talk about restructuring, to avoid being branded “enemies” of the President. Even Atiku who talks about it openly has been labelled an “opportunist” who wants to worm his way into the hearts of Nigeria in his bid to win the 2019 presidency, although he had been talking about the need to restructure Nigeria as far back as 2012 when he delivered the keynote speech at Leadership Newspaper Summit.

Ironically, those who oppose restructuring call those who support restructuring “troublemakers”, “sore losers”, “enemies of the country”, “disgruntled elements”, while they see themselves as true patriots who love Nigeria and want her to live in peace. But in reality, the enemies of the country are those who oppose all attempts to restructure Nigeria, free it from stagnation and save it from the unpredictable future that may occur if the forces of secession become dominant from all parts of the country. Those who are calling for restructuring and true federalism are the true patriots who want Nigeria to develop by making its component parts competitive and hungry for success. They are the people who want to reduce or eliminate the anger and frustration fuelling the different agitations in Nigeria. They are the people who want to reduce or eliminate the bloodshed and conflicts that have plagued Nigeria for decades. They want people to channel their energy to fruitful ventures that will boost the fortune of the nation rather than use it against their compatriots in the name of religion or ethnicity. They are the people who want Nigeria to stop sharing money from the sale of petroleum every month, which promotes laziness, unproductivity and embezzlement that impoverish the nation; they want Nigeria to rather tap the ingenuity and diligence inherent in Nigerians.

There are those who continue to oppose restructuring with the excuse that all Nigeria needs is good leaders and good governance. What they fail to explain is why Nigeria continues to have people who run private organisations successfully but suddenly become “bad leaders” once they hold a political office in Nigeria, especially at the national level. Why was Nigeria making huge progress in the 1950s and early 1960s when petroleum was not the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy but began to deteriorate in 1966 when the federal structure was dropped for a more centralised structure? Why has it been difficult for those “good leaders” to emerge after over 50 years of both military and civilian regimes?

The wind blowing over Nigeria is not healthy. If the opponents of restructuring continue to oppose it with all the excuses they can manufacture, they may end up being the architects of the destruction of the nation they claim to love so much.

Follow me on Twitter @BrandAzuka

 

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