Restructuring: What North Wants
The seeming slow pace at arriving at a common position on the issue of restructuring by the north like the other regions have done is deliberate as northerners by their culture are patient and not given to showmanship
From Andrew Agbese & Hafsat Mustapha, (Kaduna) Yusha’u A. Ibrahim (Kano)
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State was in Kaduna on Thursday as part of his schedule as chairman of the Northern Committee on Restructuring to kick-start the process aimed at arriving at a common position for the entire northern region on restructuring.
The North is the only region that is yet to take a position on the now vexed issue of restructuring as both the South-east and the Southwest have worked out a position in that regard.
However, the northern governors recently set up a committee headed by the Sokoto governor to harmonize the positions of traditional rulers, groups and other stakeholders in that regard.
Other groups like the Arewa Research and Development Project, ARDP, also called for a conference on the matter which would involve the governors, groups, leaders of thought and other intellectuals towards having a common stand.
The ARDP convener, Dr. Usman Bugaje, says the resolution of the conference would form part of what the state governors would be working on as the governors are involved in every stage of the conference.
Though the process is on-going, Tambuwal gave a hint of what may be the guiding principle towards taking a common stand as he says the northern region remains committed to the unity of Nigeria.
He said, “we agreed that a technical committee be set up to work on the previous documents, conferences and position papers and then come back to us within three weeks.
“Thereafter, every state will conduct public hearing and we will be meeting on 24th October 2017 by the grace of God to review all that. So by the end of October, God willing, we shall be able to get back to the larger body of the northern governors forum and northern traditional leaders and Council.”
He said all the issues that are going to be brought up by the technical committee that has been constituted by the committee will be critically looked into so that they can be subjected to a very robust database debate across the North and the outcome of that will be presented to northern governors and traditional rulers.
He said, “there is a process going on in the country for engagement and I am sure the federal government is willing to listen to all these agitations”.
Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who was at the meeting, also supported the idea of dialogue.
“I believe in the conversation. We have just looked into three main items that stood out clearly. The first is that we have heard our commitment to the unity of the country and we are going to have a regional conversation to express the pressing issue that have been raised.
“The second point is that, we have to look into constitutional reform of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is important because it will help us to answer questions like what exactly is the division of power of state, what exactly should be the role of local government and whether there should be an opportunity for different states to discuss issues around fiscal responsibility, sharing of revenue and all that can be discussed. And not just sharing of revenue but whether entire revenue of the government should be used for payment of salaries, constitution amendment on issue of national minimum wage”, he said.
As the north moves towards adopting a common position, some stakeholders bare their minds on the issues that should be of paramount concern to the region.
Bugaje: Northern idea of restructuring far different from other regions’
Convener of the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), Dr. Usman Bugaje said the view of the north on restructuring of the country would be far different from what the other regions are proposing as the north will not accept any suggestion to return to six regions.
He said the ARDP is organizing a conference to harmonise the position of northerners which would involve the state governors, traditional rulers, public policy groups and other stakeholders.
The convener said northerners also differ from the other regions because they view it as wrong for any state to be referred to as oil producing in Nigeria since all the mineral resources belong to the Nigerian State.
Dr. Bugaje said the seeming slow pace at arriving at a common position on the issue of restructuring by the north like the other regions have done is deliberate as northerners by their culture are patient and not given to showmanship.
He said while the north is also not comfortable with the current structure as there are areas that it would want amended in the Constitution, they do not tally with the position of the other parts of the country.
“Generally speaking, the factor that drives the quest for restructuring is the dissatisfaction with governance in Nigeria. I’m not quite sure of the solution the people are giving, but clearly, the clamour is driven by our inability to deliver on development,” he said.
Bugaje said this is because the federating units have evolved from the center and the relationship between the centre and the federating units has so far been evolving through various constitutional amendments.
“When we hear groups in different parts of the country talking about restructuring, they come with demands as if they are in a position to force others and I think that might have come from the kind of military regimes that we have seen before that influenced our psyche.
“I think as citizens, if you have a genuine concern about how things are going and you want offer a solution, you come to the table with a solution and arguments that support that particular suggestions so that you can persuade fellow citizens and make them appreciate it”, he said.
Why it is difficult for North to make stand on restructuring – Tanko Yakasai
A Special Political Adviser to the former President Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari, Alhaji Salihu Tanko Yakasai, has said that it will be difficult for the North to take a stand on the on-going agitation for restructuring of Nigeria because the agitators have not given details of what they really mean by restructuring. Speaking to Daily Trust on
Sunday, Yakasai said, “I think it is improper for the North to take a position on this matter without knowing what the entire agitation for restructuring means. The North must know what the agitators want before it makes its proposal to either support or counter it.
He stated that the North could make a mistake by taking any stand on the issue without knowing what the agitators are looking for.
Yakasai added that he prefers the return of the1963 Constitution instead of supporting the restructuring which he does not know what it actually means.
He said, “what the northerners have adopted in Ibadan meeting with some Yoruba leaders gave birth to 1963 constitution and it contains four regions; the north, the west, mid-west and the east. But now they are proposing six regions which contradicts what was obtainable in the 1963 constitution. So, if we are going back to 1963 constitution fine, we should go back to it straight and I have no quarrel with anybody who wants this change.”
However, he opined that the North and in fact anybody who wants to take a stand on restructuring must know what it means.
“It will be suicidal to decide on something that you don’t know because restructuring today has not been spelt out and making any commitment on something that you don’t know, is very dangerous.
“The governors and traditional rulers are Nigerians and they could take whatever decision they consider a reflection of their own feelings but that would not be binding on any region. So, to me every common man in northern Nigeria has the right to accept what they proposed or to reject it.”
On the way forward, Yakasai said, “there is a proposal from the South-west by some Yoruba leaders who are advocating for us to go back to the 1963 constitution. I know what 1963 constitution contains and I am okay with it. We stood by this constitution from 1963 to 1966. Every Nigerian accepted it and it worked for Nigerians for three years.”
He, however, said that the agitators for the current restructuring should bring out their blueprint for Nigeria, detailing what they mean by it and how Nigeria should look.
“I should know what will happen to me, to my children and my grandchildren when Nigeria is restructured before taking a position on the issue. How Nigeria is going to look like and how it will be demarcated? What will happen to us and the coming generations after the country is restructured? These are some of the fundamental questions that need answers from the agitators.
“So, I am advising the northern people to have a clear picture of the whole thing before taking any position otherwise they may take a wrong one,” he said.
Dr. Usman Bugaje
Alhaji Salihu Tanko Yakasai