Restructuring: Nigeria’s co-existence hanging in the balance – Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere

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Two foremost regional sociocultural groups, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere have restated their calls for restructuring of the country to engender its development.

President-General of Ohanaeze, Chief John Nnia Nwodo and Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo made the fresh calls during a video conference organised by Governance Index, tagged, “Coronavirus Pandemic: is it time to reevaluate the political structure of the country.”

Nwodo said, “We have never made constitution for Nigeria; it was given to us by the Armed Forces Ruling Council of the military government, which was not elected. The composition of its legislative body was not chosen by any parameter known to anyone.

“They wrote the constitution and abandoned the agreement our forefathers had with British when we got independence, for a regional based government in which every region has its security, its own economic development, with each exercising sovereignty over its resources and paid taxes to Federal Government to run common services for the federation, but today it is no longer the case.

“Boko Haram has completely paralysed our military and rendered them incapable of fulfilling their constitutional obligation to defend our sovereignty. There is mutual distrust between the South and North, I mean far North, excluding Middle Belt.

“Working through your farms in any part of Southern Nigeria or the Middle Belt has become a very frightening phenomenon. Our children who take up self-determination exercises without carrying arms are called terrorist organisation, but herdsmen who are on rampage, who loot, kill, and rape are treated with kids gloves, while their leaders threaten us in the social media.

“98 per cent of heads of security personnel in the South East are non-indigenes. As a consequence, there is poor security in the region. Some of us that were trained in Europe and America, we know that in global parlance, local policing is the basis for any territory security.

“You have to know your territory, you have to speak the language, but if you post people to our area who do not know the terrain of the place, cannot speak the language, the situation is threatening the very fabric of our nation.

“That is why I am very happy to be part of Southern and Middle Belt Forum, which is saying we don’t have a very valid constitution in Nigeria. We have got to restructure this federation and return to a constitution that is top notch, a constitution made by the people, validated by a plebiscite, and voted for by the people.”

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Adebanjo agreed with Nwodo’s call for restructuring.

He said, “The present constitution is an imposed constitution by the Muslim military in the North. Nobody contributed to it. Even General Abdulsalami said he did not know what is in the constitution before he swore in former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“I will say without any hesitation we are all deceiving ourselves. President Buhari is not interested in keeping this country together, that is why we are having this problem, that is why we are putting square pegs in round holes, and that is why we tell him to keep to the constitution by the appointments he is making, but he said no, ‘I can only work with people I have confidence in’, which is against the federal character principle that the whole country is talking about. Buhari simply turns deaf ears to the agitation for restructuring that has been on for over five years.

“Buhari ignored the recommendations of the 2014 constitutional conference, he ignored the manifesto of his own party, and even ignored the recommendations of his own party, that is why I say we are not practising democracy in this country.
“There is no sincerity on the part of the far North in putting this country together.”

He said the present arrangement of having 774 local government areas was fraudulent as nothing in the 1999 constitution stipulated it. He added that the arrangement only stood because the north had more LGAs than the south.

Adebanjo emphasised that the independent constitution stipulated autonomy of the federating units.

According to him, former Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo rode on this autonomy to achieve a lot for the region especially in the areas of education and health services.

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