By Sola Ebiseni
LAST week, we started discussions on issues which make restructuring the sine qua non for peaceful coexistence and continuity of Nigeria as a corporate entityof the Nigerian polity. Let me pause here to join millions of other Nigerians to commiserate with the family of Ahmed Gulak, a learned gentleman and suave politician, who was reported brutally murdered on Saturday night on his way to the Sam Mbakwe International Airport in Owerri. It cannot be over-emphasised that insecurity in our country has reached a frightening proportion of which the Buhari administration has lost control and yet be held accountable for its obduracy in the face of glaring incompetence.
Incidentally, our discussion last week, on this page, centred on national security and we made no bone about the need to restructure our security apparatus to reflect the federal character in terms of its spread among the constituent nationalities so naturally arranged within the geopolitical zones and the states created therefrom. We were specific on the military and concluded that the arrangements carefully crafted by the late Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu and agreed upon by Nigerian stakeholders at Aburi Ghana, as the last effort to prevent the bloody civil war, remains the best for Nigeria. Hence, we adopted the phrase coined and made popular by the Ikemba himself that: “On Aburi, we stand”.
In truth did Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, reasoned that change is the only constant phenomenon in nature. Nothing is permanent, he said, except change. The President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Professor Obiozor, twice at two powerful conferences in Abuja on Sunday May 30 and yesterday Monday May 31, had faulted those who arrogantly opined that Nigeria unity is not negotiable. In contrast, he declared that Nigeria is a product of intensive negotiations and its continued corporate existence a subject of sustained negotiations. He declared that Nigeria belongs to all of us and nobody or group owns the country.
Dr. Pogu Bitrus, National President of the Middle Belt Forum was on the same page with the leader of the Ndigbo and further gave the definition of the Middle Belt as consisting of states as Nasarawa, Plateau, Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, the Federal Capital Territory, Southern Kaduna, Southern Bauchi, Southern Kebbi, Southern Gombe, Southern Yobe and Southern Borno. Dr. Bitrus who himself is from the famous Chibok in Borno State said these Middle Belt nationalities were never conquered either by the Uthman Dan Fodio jihad in the North West or by the Kanem Bornu Empire in the North East, but mischievously subsumed under some of those strange cultures by the British colonialists who discovered that the Northern part would not have had enough population for a region. President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU, Honourable Jonathan Asake, informed the two Conferences that the ethnic nationalities of Southern Kaduna constitute 12 of the 23 local governments of the State and with 26,000 square kilometres is of larger territory than Kano State of 22,000 square kilometres.
The Afenifere representing the Yoruba people of Nigeria, including the six South Western states and delegates from the Yoruba of Kogi who constitute Kogi West Senatorial District and Kwara State, was led to the Conferences by our Acting Leader, the indefatigable Chief Ayo Adebanjo; the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, representing the ethnic nationalities in the six states of the South-South region were led both by the irrepressible Chief Edwin Clark who doubles as the Leader of the SMBLF and National Chairman, Emmanuel Ibok Essien. President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ambassador George Obiozor led the Igbo ethnic nationality world wide.
The two gatherings of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum which met on Sunday at the Sheraton Hotel thus accounted for about 80% of Nigeria in both population and territory. The other Conference on Monday at Transcorp Hilton had the SMBLF fully in attendance and many other Nigerians from the other parts of both the North West and North East outside the Middle Belt extraction.
The consensus at both Conferences is that Nigeria be restructured before 2023, using both the 1963 Constitution and the Reports of the 2014 National Conference as benchmark and that the Presidency should shift or rotate to the Southern part of Nigeria in 2023. The Conferences supported the Resolution of the Southern Governors banning open grazing of cattle and strongly urged the Federal Government to see to the issue of insecurity in the country without which election in 2023 will not be feasible .
In paragraph 1.2.5 on page 12 to 14 of its Main Report, the 2014 National Conference states that: “In the 1930s and up to the end of Second World War, Nigerian nationalists continued their agitation for a national dialogue for the political restructuring of the country. The advocates of a national dialogue argued that the act of amalgamation was not a federal idea but that there were strong integrative factors of inter-group relations that favoured the division of the country into a number of units that could develop into components of a future federation.
“The nationalists argued that a federal system would enhance national unity and integration of the component parts of the country, and agitated for the inclusion of the Northern Provinces in the Legislative Council. While the colonial government did not convene a national conference, prior to the introduction of a new constitution, nevertheless the country was divided into three regions in 1939 – the Northern, Western and Eastern Regions. This was a fundamental and major step in restructuring…The outcome of the 1953 Constitutional Conference and the resumed Lagos Conference in 1954 established the Federal (Lyttleton) Constitution of 1954.
“Federalism had been advocated at the 1950 Ibadan General Conference on constitution review but was rejected. After the 1953 crisis, federalism was adopted as the solution to the political problems of the country”.
Last week, we said the retaliatory coup of July 1966, led by Northern military officers, was partly traceable to the promulgation of the Unification Decree No 34 of May 24, 1966 by then Head of State, Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi, which essentially abolished the federal system. The Northern political class and their military boys had insisted on federalism as agreed at Independence such that the abrogation of the Unification Decree was the first official declaration of Yakubu Gowon who was made the Head of State sequel to the assassination of Ironsi Ironsi. Who then are those resisting federalism and restructuring today?
The answer may be found in several injustices in the 1999 unitary constitution purporting to be Federal. Part of the justice is in the number of local governments allocated to each state and geopolitical zones or regions of the country of which the South East is the worst hit. Check the following statistics, the fuller analysis of which we defer till next week on this page.
For no reason given, the South East is short-changed in the number of states. The region was awarded five states as against North East 6; North Central 6; South West 6; South South 6; and North West 7. Under the 1979 Constitution, in the list of local governments contained in the First Schedule thereof, the former Imo State (now Imo and Abia) had twenty-one ( 21) Councils. Kano (now Kano and Jigawa), 20. Under the present 1999 Constitution, the same old Imo now has a total of 44 (Abia 17, Imo 27). In contrast, the old Kano which had less than old Imo now has a total of 71 (Jigawa 27; Kano 44), a little less than the five states of the South East which altogether have 95 councils.
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