Restructuring of Nigeria dominated yesterday speeches of eminent citizens at the 17th convention of the Igbo Youths Movement (IYM) in Enugu.
All the speakers, including former Vice-President, Alex Ekwueme, former governor of old Anambra State Chukwuemeka Ezeife and a former National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to embark on restructuring of Nigeria in line with the principles of true federalism.
Also at the occasion were former Minister of Information Prof. Jerry Gana; former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, renowned author Arthur Nwankwo and Niger Delta activist and protagonist of resource control, Ms Annkio Briggs.
Speaker after speaker advised Buhari to implement the National Conference report of 2014 as a first step towards restructuring Nigeria.
The leaders, who spoke on the theme of the convention, “Still in search of true federalism”, noted that the current protests and demand for separation by various groups as well as other socio-economic crises could be reduced by half if the national confab’s report was implemented.
In Ekwueme’s view every disappointment is a blessing. His incarceration in 1984 at Kirikiri prison by the military afforded him the opportunity to reflect deeply on Nigeria’s problems, he said.
According to him, he came out with the idea of six geo-political zonal structure, which he pushed for at a national conference much later and it became a convention, and has taken care of minorities in the South and the North.
Ekwueme stated that what Nigeria negotiated for and agreed with the colonial masters before independence was a regional government where each has a constitution, annexed to the Republican constitution of 1963.
According to him, the Republican Constitution then provided 50 per cent revenue sharing formula for the regions, 30 per cent to a distributable pool, and 20 per cent for the centre.
“There is need for us to return to the basics from what we inherited from our founding fathers,” he said.
Adebanjo, who traced the origin of federalism in Nigeria to various pre-and post colonial constitutional conferences, insisted that Nigeria must be restructured to correct the humongous damage done to the nation’s constitution by the military and to stop various acts of uprising, including those of Niger Delta Avengers, MASSOB and IPOB.
Gana said the nation’s founding fathers were right by agreeing to a federal structure, which he described as the best for peace, equity and justice.
The guest speaker and former Information Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana, said that the key solution to Nigeria’s problem was through true federalism and devolution of powers to states.
“True fiscal federalism is the only form of association that will allow peace and stability in the country and each region should be allowed to manage its resources the way they want it,” Gana said.
He noted that the formula for allocating revenue made the Federal Government to get richer while the states operated like beggars.
“States should be allowed to manage its resources to enable them govern their people the way they want and allocate some percentage to the Federal Government.
“Government should not be far from the people and the federating unit should be made strong to meet the needs of the people,” he said.
Gana recommended continuous dialogue and the implementation of the resolutions of national confab by the government as the only means the recent agitation and other national demand could be handled.
Briggs, who received the award of “Amazon of Truth” by IYM, said true and fiscal federalism must be truthful and justifiable. She believed in resource control, she said, adding that as much as she does not think that Nigeria must break, she believes that if the nation continues on the current path, disintegration would be inevitable.
Former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi supported restructuring of the country on the basis of fiscal federalism, but he warned while that was being addressed, there was need to urgently address the high cost of governance. Any governor who says he can’t pay workers’ salaries, Obi said, should give way for other persons with better ideas.
Ezeife who also received award of “Igbo Peoples General” stated that the 2014 national conference report recommended additional 18 states to make for a 48 state-structure to address some inequalities created by the military.