From the Eastside by Felix Oguejiofor

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Restructuring isn’t Southern, it’s Nigerian

The North is not afraid of any “sensible and meaningful arrangement, provided it guarantees justice, equity, fairness and the unity of all Nigerians.”

With the aboveself-asserting statement, the Northern Senators Forum (NSF) rose from a two-day retreat in Katsina, the Katsina State capital, recently, with a declaration of qualified support for the restructuring of Nigeria. NSF’s retreat came barely three weeks after that of Southern Senators Forum (SSF) took place in Calabar, the Cross

River State capital. At the Calabar event, Southern Senators affirmed restructuring as the only sustainable solution to the current separatist agitationsthreatening the very existence of the country as a corporate entity.They specifically called for the adoption of the 2014 National Conference Report as a guide for the restructuring effort.

The parallel positions adopted by Senators from both divides are instructive. Earlier in July this year, the Senate, in what was described as“a major upset for the clamour for restructuring,”had, in a committee of the whole house,rejected the Constitution Alteration Bill seeking the devolution of some powers from the Exclusive List in the 1999 Constitution to the Concurrent List.

Had the Bill sailed through, it would have given more powers to the States.What the Calabar and Katsina declarations mean,therefore, is that the Senate’s “rejection” of restructuring in July was, in reality, a Northern affair.

Restructuring? Just what is it, really? Part of the argumentagainst it is that it is,in the context of Nigeria,ill-defined. The North, in particular, misconstrues restructuring as a ploy by its “Southern” promoters to divide the country whose unity the Northern establishment, led by President Buhari,is loathe to negotiate with anyone or group.

At the Calabar, retreat, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, AbubakarMalami, for instance, stridently argued that “the 1999 constitution is framed in a way that promotes ‘national unity and proper representation’.” In a speech entitled Provisions for National Unity in the 1999 Constitution: An Appraisal, Malami further argued that “the underlying philosophy of the 1999 constitution is that it is built around a democratic system,” adding that

“the duty of the armed forces is to preserve the territorial integrity of the country hence the president was right when …he said that Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable because it is consistent with the constitution.” Meaning: Nigeria is good as it is.

So, Northern Senatorswere only acting in synch with their zone’s well-choreographed position on this delicate national issue whenthey averred at Katsina that the North would only support any “sensible and meaningful arrangementthat guarantees justice, equity, fairness and the ‘unity’ of all Nigerians.”

But, as a countless number of prominent citizens have said, restructuring is not, in any way, the same as disintegration.Rather, it issimply a conscious effort geared towards re-engineering Nigeria’s political structure so as to make the system a lot nimbler. For, even to those opposed to restructuring, one thing is clearly non-debatable,

I am sure: the power the central government of Nigeria wields as a federating unit is rather overarching, if not immoral. Abuja practically runs every aspect of our lives. From primary school buildings and enrollment to local council creation and funding, Big Brother determineseverything from his watchtower. Consider these: this is the only country in the world where local communities have no rights over mineral deposits in their lands but are constantly dispossessed, through a dubious law, of the wealth from their God-given natural resources by a central authority that would scarcely leave even a morsel behind for such communities to survive on.

This is the only country in the world where effective governance is determined by how much money a tier of government collects as share from a central purse to which that tier contributes virtually nothing. This is the only country in the world where sharable revenue is parceled out in the ratio of 60 per cent to a distant, aloof, even wasteful, central government (less than 10 per cent of the population) and 40 per cent to States and local governments, which cater to the needs of over 90 per cent of the population.This is the only country in the world, which claims to run a federal system but regales in its unitary police system, asdeputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremaduobserved at the Calabar retreat.

There are many other examples of what is wrong with the Nigerian federalism and why restructuring is imperative. The point must, thus, be emphasized that what we have now is certainly not sustainable (and it is not in anybody’s interest), so we must necessarily restructure Nigeria. As Ekweremadu, again,noted at the Calabar event, the country has a great chance of bettering its lot“if each region maximally explores its inherent resources; we should not fear to restructure and we should not restructure in fear.”

And Northern Senators must not abdicate their responsibility by simply sitting on the fence and waiting for others to fashion out a restructuring template that would be acceptable to them (Northern Senators). After all, restructuring is not desired any more by Southerners than it is good for the North as a path to its self-rediscovery as Nigeria’s economic powerhouse

if its enormous agricultural resources are properly harnessed. So, I repeat, Northern Senatorsdon’t have the luxury to sit back and wait to be convinced of the need for restructuring, or for a “sensible and meaningful arrangement, which guarantees justice, equity, fairness and the unity of all Nigerians,” to be put in place first by others before they would support restructuring. Rather, they should join in midwifing the New Nigeria of everyone’s dream, by supporting, and directly participating in, all the processes leading to a restructured Nigeria.

Free transport offer to Ndi Enugu:Not quite dignifying Christmas gesture

Enugu State boasts a dynamic governor at the moment—no doubt about that. Governor IfeanyiUgwuanyi is calm and collected, quiet, frugal, humane but brutally efficient. In the South East, he and the Ebonyi State governor, EngrUmahiare the leading lights of the lot. While Governor Willey Obiano of AnambraState matches them in terms of prompt payment of workers’ salaries and allowances, Umahi and Ugwaunyi best AkpokuedikeAguleriin delivery of ‘infrastructure dividends’.

There would appear to be a quiet, not to say healthy, competition between Ugwuanyi and Umahi over who builds more roads and bridges, builds or rehabilitates more water works, empowers more people at the grassroots, equips more schools or hospitals or builds more new ones; indeed, over who delivers more democracy dividends to the greatest number of people in all parts of their states at a time of great recession when most other States are neck deep in months of unpaid salaries and other contractual obligations.

But, I find two recent decisions taken by twoof them not good enough.I oppose the seeming deification (or, if you will, godification) of Buhari by Umahi. The recent red-carpet reception for Buhari by Umahiin Abakalikicame in utter mockery of the Igbo sense of self-worth that Buhari has hurt so badly through his oppressive, high-handed actions that have only spread anger, misery and frustration in the Igbo country. No, you cannot organize a Dubar for a man whose orders caused the death of hundreds of Igbo youth, especially when that man has not shown any remorse for his actions, as Buhari has not and will never.

You cannot be friends with a man who appears to harbour nothing but disdain for you and your kind, who equatesyour quest for equity, justice and fair play for your region to treasonand routinely visits you with so much violence as punishment.

IT is for the same lack of respect for the beneficiary in that action that I equally oppose Governor Ugwuanyi’s decision to bus home for Christmas, Enugu indigenes from different parts of the country. It is not dignifying at all; in fact, it is demeaning. Any indigene of the State living in any other part of the country who desires to visit home for Christmas should be able to do so by him or herself without let or hindrance from the State government. Whoever cannot afford it should stay back where he or she is and prepare for next year.

It would have been different if there were an emergency situation in the country requiring people to run back to their home States for safety. Under such a situation, the Ugwaunyi gesture would have been truly magnanimous. But, there is no such emergency, so what’s the point?

Besides the indignity of it all, it is even risky. How are we sure that an all-Enugu-indigene fleet of buses returning from Jos, Abuja, Kano, Lagos and the like would not bea target of terror attack? We may bind and cage the spirit of accident but what if one,God forbid, still occurs involving one or two of those buses in spite of our prayers?

Now, this is what I think: if the governor wants to celebrate Christmas for his people, he should jolly well bus rice and turkey to the communities, not bus people, ready or not, home from across the country. That is carrying populism too far, in my view.

Nwodo, restructuring and IPOB

I make bold to say that no other President-General of OhanaezeNdigboin recent memory has articulated the existential challenges facing Ndigbo in contemporary Nigeria as well as Chief NniaNwodo has done. Personable, deep and eloquent, Nwodo, an economist and lawyer, has carried the message of emancipation of Ndigbo from the shackles of oppression and persecution by the Nigerian establishment to practically all corners of the globe. His speech at Chatham House, London, where, in September this year, he outlined the Igbo idea of restructuring of Nigeria, for example, was well received.

Although he has maintained his preference for restructuring as a superior argument to separation, he has also said countless times that the constant massacre, by Nigerian troops, of unarmed, non-violent Igbo youth agitating for Biafra is a crime against humanity. So, at what point did the highly respected Ohanaeze PG discover that IPOB pro-independence agitation amounts to invitation to war?

Nwodo’s speech in Lagos last week could have been drafted by AngoAbdullahi! That swashbuckling scion of the conservative northern establishment believes that any social rights crusade the north considersantithetical to its interest can only be resolved by war. Which, then, is to say that the call for restructuring is also an invitation to war because the North is against it!

NniaNwodo’s equation of peaceful pro-Biafra agitations to invitation to war in his otherwise very competent speech at the National stadium, Lagos, last week was, in my view, unnecessary.

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