Tempers flared on Wednesday when socio-political organisations assessed the state of the nation in the 60 years of its independence from the colonial bondage.
Groups such as the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; Afenifere and the Middle Belt Forum, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, described federalism as it currently being practised in Nigeria as fraudulent and called for genuine restructuring of the country.
The apex northern group, the Arewa Consultative Forum, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Kaduna, dismissed the call for restructuring, saying it was not well defined by its proponents. The gropu said the North could not be intimidated.
The ACF also said the North preferred a referendum to determine Nigeria’s continued existence, adding that various parts of the country could go their different ways if its existence was no more desirable.
But the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan, urged Nigerians to use the opportunity of the ongoing constitution review to suggest ways the country could get true federalism.
Lawan, in his special message to Nigerians on the 60th independence anniversary of the country, said, “On our part as the legislature, we will continue to provide true representation to the Nigerian people and to strive to make their government work for them.
“In this regard, the ninth National Assembly is committed to having another look at our constitution. This is with a view to making it a document of the Nigerian people. Fellow Nigerians should take advantage of this opportunity by taking active part in the constitution review process.
“The overall objective of the periodic amendments of our laws is to make them keep pace with the changes that each epoch requires, strengthen the bond that keeps us together and to cement peace and progress in our beloved country.”
Also in his message, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, said the Senate would be fair to all, in constitution review.
He said, “Indeed, part of our collective efforts towards evolving democratic growth and national development is reflected in the work of the Senate’s Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution which I chair.
“The committee has received memoranda from all sections of Nigeria and sustained vigorous interests as well as participation in our plans for a constitution amendment that will enable us all to further improve our nation’s prospects for peace and progress, unity.”
But the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, in separate interviews with The PUNCH by its Secretary General, Sehinde Arogbofa and its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, dismissed the ongoing constitution review by the National Assembly.
Arogbofa said rather than embarking on another constitution review, which he described as a waste of time and resources, the regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) should look at the report of the 2014 national conference, which it abandoned.
He opposed a bloody revolution in the country, but warned that a part of the country could not continue to treat other parts as third class citizens.
He said, “We are not asking for war, but those who are treating other parts of the country as third class citizens are the people pushing us towards a precipice. We will continue to use our intelligence to fight the fight. Nobody will carry any weapon for war.”
Also, Odumakin faulted Nigeria’s federal structure. “What we are doing is the unitary rule that we fraudulently call federalism.”
In a statement on Wednesday Odumakin said Afenifere was insisting on the restructuring of Nigeria into true federalism to avoid the agitation for separation.
Odumakin, in a statement titled, ‘Nigeria at 60: Nigeria not at ease,’ said, “As Nigeria celebrates its 60th anniversary in the midst of divisions, tensions and underdevelopment, Afenifere is worried that the country has yet to find its bearing at 60.
“Only few weeks back, former President Olusegun Obasanjo observed that the country was drifting towards state failure which was fully backed by Prof. Wole Soyinka.
“Even the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, on the eve of the anniversary, declared that the cracks on the wall of Nigeria could lead to its break-up. Unfortunately, the country lacks a leadership that could mend the cracks.
“On a daily basis, all the steps being taken by our governments are mostly the ones that could deepen the cracks.
“It is not surprising that the country is filled with separatist feelings at 60. Afenifere is convinced that Nigeria can still be salvaged if the right thing is done. The country must restructure immediately into true federalism lest it gives all the necessary enablement to separatist forces.”
Fraudulent federalism drawing Nigeria backward – Says Ohanaeze
The acting Secretary General and National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Chief Uche Achi-Okpaga who spoke to one of our correspondents, said the fraudulent practice of federalism in Nigeria was the cause of the nation’s backwardness and lack of development.
He stated, “If you are talking about federalism, it is a colletion or agreement that exists among federating units and in the case of Nigeria, the federating units have to do with the Federal Government and the 36 states, and the Federal Capital Territory as is captured in the constitution.
“But here, the Federal Government lords it over states and the Federal Capital Territory. Virtually everything is onthe Exclusive List and you are still calling it a federation.
“What has a federation got to do with education? What has it got to do with agriculture? What has it got to do with water resources among others.
“The federation should concern itself with foreign affairs. It has to do with the economy; it has to do with some specific issues that should be handled by the Federal Government but here everything is taken over by the Federal Government.
“Even on the Concurrent List, the states and the local governments are virtually out and you are still calling it a federation. It is faulty and fraudulent.”
Faulting the quota system in the country, the Ohanaeze secretary general said federal character was not practised.
He stated, “We are not observing federal character in Nigeria. It is just in principle. In practice, it doesn’t exist. Do you know that appointments are no longer advertised? Check lucrative agencies and parastatals, you can hardly see them advertised. Nigeria Ports Authority; when last did you hear them advertise for jobs? But they employ every time. The only one you see is the police recruitment. Customs only advertise for junior officers and in the course of recruitment, people just go and lose their lives.
“At the top echelons, you can’t hear them recruit. You can’t see the adverts because one particular section of the country will fill the empty positions with the people from their area and the problem will continue.”
But the ACF secretary general said although the group was not afraid of restructuring, its proponents had not properly defined it.
Aliyu stated, “The North is not actually afraid of restructuring. What we want is that ‘let’s define what is it that we want. If we want to be in Nigeria and if we don’t want to be in Nigeria, let’s sit down and agree.”
North wants referendum on Nigeria’s existence – Arewa secretary
According to him, the North is looking at all options and is leaving all options open. He stated, “We can restructure. We can become a confederation. We can devolve powers. We can have state police and all that we want. But I can tell you that the thinking of the North now is that we should actually have a referendum, if we want Nigeria or not. If we want Nigeria, then, we must sit down and see how Nigeria will work.
“If we need the country, let’s sit down and decide that we need the country first. Then we can now sit down and decide on how our country can work for all of us. If we decide that we don’t want the country as it is, then, I mean, countries have gone apart, Czechoslovakia and quite a number of other countries, including the Sudan, had gone apart. We don’t want to go to war.”
“The North is not going to be intimidated again to accept anything. We have to sit down and resolve whether we want this federation or this country as it is.”
Monolithic North now destroyed, Muslim, Fulani see it as theirs – M’Belt Forum
On its part, the Middle Belt Forum lamented the plight of its people within the Northern region saying that what used to be regarded as “One North” had been “completely” destroyed
The National President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Porgu, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Jos on Wednesday blamed the situation on the attitudes of Muslims and their Fulani kinsmen in the region.
He accused them of seeing the monolithic North as their own and engaging in actions detrimental to the collective interests of other natives within the region including the people of the Middle Belt.
Porgu said, “In the 60 years existence of Nigeria, the people of Middle Belt have sacrificed a lot to keep Nigeria and the North together and that is why people like Gen. T. Y. Danjuma (retd) even had to arrest Gen Aguiyi Ironsi because of the North.
“Unfortunately, those who took away Ironsi from him killed him, but it was in the interest of one Nigeria and the spirit of ‘the North is all our own’ that he did all those things .But today, if you ask General Danjuma to do what he did, I doubt if he would do it because that monolithic North does not exist again.
“Although Nigeria is still existing and we want it to continue to exist, the North is never the North again.
“Rather, what defines the North presently are nepotism, tribalism and religiosity. Our Muslim brothers, not all of them, but those of them of Fulani extraction see the North as their own and they do whatever they like with impunity. Unfortunately again, we have Boko Haram, militia herdsmen and all manner of banditry, all originating from the north. And this is not the kind of the North anybody thought we could have 60 years of our independence.