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Buhari, restructuring and the voice of reason

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President Muhammadu Buhari PHOTO: BAYO OMOBORIOWO


Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari may not know that what he fears or detests most, restructuring (of the federation) is actually what he needs most to make history as a leader. It is amazing that the president who boasted the other day that he would not be in jail after leaving office is still not aware that wherever two or more are gathered now, (notably in the South) in the name of democracy and Nigeria, 2019 presidential election and restructuring are quite likely to be the talking points.

It is curious that the president, who received a comprehensive report on restructuring since January 25, this year as part of their manifesto, continues to denigrate this great political weapon of progress called restructuring.It is also a mystery that the president’s party men and allies are not telling him that he is already presiding over a country largely divided by religion, ethnicity and unprecedented parochialism in the power house. It is unsettling too that the president is not aware that most people from other parts of the country are aware that he can muster enough support instruments of power to return himself to power without popular support.

Does the president know that the spate of killings, especially in the Middle Belt region has cast him in the mould of a callous leader who condones ethnic cleansing in the most complex, most complicated federation in global context? Is the president aware that most reasonable people are no longer naïve and so believe that the opposition elements in the country at the moment are too disorganised, dysfunctional to confront him at the moment and so the APC can actually win the presidential election and lose the country?

Does the presidentknow at the moment that the Western Nigeria sophisticated power elite are waiting patiently for his (president’s) political arrowheads to come over for ‘Project 2019’ election campaign strategy and stratagem for President Buhari’s Second Term? More important is this: does the president know that specifically, the Christendom, (the worldwide community of Christians) and their allies are fully persuaded that there are some hidden agenda the president allegedly supports to wipe out Christianity from the North and indeed (from) Nigeria? Is the president aware that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as a man of God in the presidency, is already in trouble with his kinsmen in Western Nigeria and in the household of (his) faith – for remaining in office after all the atrocitiesBoko HaramandFulani herdsmen have committed against Christians in the country?

Does the president believe in some perception report that the plaudits obtained on the healing of some wounds of the 25-year-old June 12 saga are enough to make Western Nigeria to join the PMB’s four-more-years bandwagon? Are the president and the ruling party, the APC aware that in the West at the moment, they are persuaded that: “escalating systematic violence in Nigeria, Fulani militias and Boko Haram are threatening the future of one of Africa’s great countries and indeed the most populous black nation on earth”?

Are those in office and power in Abuja preparing for re-election aware that there is no doubt (by people) in all the southern states and Middle Belt that what is happening, with 117 attacks in central Nigeria by Fulani herdsmen in the first quarter of 2018, death tolls in the four months, purely from herder militia violence standing at 1,082, is purely a religious jihad in disguise?

Are the big men in Abuja conscious of the fact that most people now believe that what is happening with state sponsored cattle colonies all over the country, mysterious federal water resources control bill amidst sectarian violence, is a recrudescence and escalation of a long history of disputes between nomadic herders and farming communities right across the Sahel, over land, grazing and scarce resources?

Are they aware that people are no longer naïve about the battle for the soul of Nigeria? Is the president aware that people are now saying openly in most southern and central parts of the country that he is seeking a second term to use the national security and intelligence structure dominated by Muslims to round off Islamisation of the country?

Why has the president been consistent in his arrogance and insolence about this national-question thing called restructuring of the country to reflect true federalism?
Do public information and reputation managers of the government and the governing partyknow why the president, the vice president and the party are speaking in tongues about restructuring, which is an integral part of their manifesto and on which they have had a good report and a bill?

Are the big men gambling with Nigeria’s destiny in Abuja aware that people are now asking why we should continue to be unequally yoked together as a country? Do they know that some people from a part of the same country mobilise funds to kill cows when their old ones die and are now surprised that in 21st century of the same country, when people kill or steal cows, it is the people that should be killed? Do they know that most people from the south are no longer afraid to ask the most sensitive question: whether we would like to be together? Answers to these questions are no longer blowing in the wind, really. Reason?

Most of the aforementioned questions, among other issues, dominated discussion points at a very successful colloquium on the matter of the moment, restructuring at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, (NIIA), Lagos last Thursday. The new non-governmental organisers are called VOICE OF REASON (VOR). The well- organised colloquiumis first in its VOR Leadership Series with a theme: Restructuring: A panacea for justice and peace in Nigeria.

Chaired by Dr. Sonny Kuku, a member of the triumvirate of the EKO Hospital fame, the debate was illuminating. The publicised Roll of Honour records 84 solid South West faces most of whom can be regarded as public intellectuals and power elite. The convener and arrowhead is innovation impresario, Prince Goke Omisore. The speakers and discussants who turned up included Olisa Agankoba,(SAN), Anne KioBriggs, a Niger Delta Affairs activist, Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, a youth affairs activist, Dr. Abduljelil Tafawa Balewa, Tony Nnadi, a lawyer and activist, Col. Tony Nyiam (Rtd), an enthusiast since Gideon Orkar failed coup.Don’t get it twisted, it was indeed a colloquium after the technical presentation on the VOR Draft of the Constitutional Framework for a Multi-National Society, by Dr. Akin Fapohunda, founder of Aflon Digital Institute, Abuja,which followed the introduction of the new group by the convener and coordinator, Prince Goke Omisore.

According to the convener, “the Voice of Reason (VOR) is a group of eminent Nigerians of Yoruba descent, who are accomplished professionals – some retired, drawn from a wide cross-section of private career, business and public service backgrounds…VOR focuses on public good issues within the strategic context of effective, good results-oriented governance of Nigeria in general, and of Yoruba in particular….”I was there to get the ‘inside stuff’ on restructuring from the group, which parades some of the brightest and the best in Western Nigeria. There are so many deliverables from the very interactive colloquium on what the country needs but curiously the leadership detests:restructuring. One of the most significant points, which many contributors reiterated well at the event is that it is more important to restructure the country than getting even a new president who will continue to run a federal republic of the Nigerian army that has not idea about nation building, let alone developing the economy.

The youth ambassador and speaker, Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji was blunt from the title of her talking points she delivered extempore. Titled, “They are all criminals”,a derivative from the AmericanEmily Baxter’s“We are all criminals”the Youth Arise Network promoter berated even the Yoruba power elite who are always well-dressed and often noticeable in most world capitals but have been complacent in recent time in the fierce battle for restructuring.

Her point that the not-too-young-to-run beneficiaries are actually the ones who should be in the struggle for restructuring and should have been well mobilised for the colloquium was well taken by the audience. According to her, most of the young ones are too impatient and disorganised to understand what the elders are saying about the benefits of a restructured federation.

Participants including veteran journalists and activists, Chief TolaAdeniyi of Abba Saheed/ Till Death Do Us Part fame, Mr. Ray Ekpu, of Newswatch, Mr. Odia Ofeimun, a notable editorialist and former President of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), and a host of respected professors such as Professor Kolawole Ogundowole of the University of Lagos, etc made useful suggestions to the debate on the expediency of restructuring the federation the Class of 1966 destroyed with a decree issued by the then General Aguiyi Ironsi whose regime established unitarism that the military rule has sustained even in the present constitution.

The influential participants and speakers would like most of the elite and the representatives of the people in parliaments all over the country to deepen their understanding that we need a new constitution that will spell out how we should run this unhealthy federation. They said the present setup, which encourages underdevelopment from the centre the governors run to every month to share revenue from the federation account, needs an urgent overhaul.

Specifically, Olisa Agbakoba, would like all the activists and promoters of restructuring to raise the bar of discussion to a level whereby our compatriots in the North understand us too on the colour of restructuring. According to him, we need to clarify some conceptual confusion about, the status and state of the 2014 amalgamation when we are talking about a new constitution. His words: “We miss the discussion point when we overemphasise the constitution…a constitution is a product of political arrangements. At this time, everything revolves around Abuja. The creative of Nigeria is trapped in a pyramid where somebody at the top signs everything energy… Nigeria is already a failed state in this regard…We should first ask: do we want to be together? How do we want to be together?…We have to be conceptually clear if we want to be together…”

It was well taken at the NIIA dialogue last Thursday that, “restructuring debate offends the North” and so going forward, “the language of advocacy and opinion/editorial writing should be accommodating”.

Big Niger Delta Lady, Anne Kio Briggs, would like the nation to be wary of the old and new bogeymen we variously call, “the cabal”, ‘the oppressor’ and now “terrorists” and “our political leaders who are becoming armed robbers”. She is unhappy that the Niger Deltans are quiet at this time.

The son of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Dr. Abduljelil Adegbenga, was cynosure of all eyes as he declared that “I am Fulani from Bauchi and my mother hails from Ogbomoso in Oyo state”. The physician who trained abroad spoke extensively on Nigeria as a potential world power. “Nigeria has the greatest nuclear facility in the world and the samples are in Sheda in Abuja’, he declared. But Dr.Balewa who speaks impeccable Yoruba said the biggest trouble with Nigeria is: “we keep electing illiterates all the time”.


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Muhammadu Buhari‎
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