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Restructure now or implode, Dickson, Bakare, Afenifere warn

By Seye Olumide (Lagos), Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Adamu Abuh, Segun Olaniyi, Terhemba Daka (Abuja), Julius Osahon (Yenagoa) and Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri)
02 October 2017   |   4:35 am
Mixed reactions yesterday trailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day broadcast, especially as regards the call for the restructuring of the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari (middle); Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen.Tukur Buratai (second right ); Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima (right); Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari (left) and others during the President’s visit to wounded soldiers in Maiduguri …yesterday. PHOTO: NAN

• Others laud president’s stand • Buhari celebrates with troops in Borno
Mixed reactions yesterday trailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day broadcast, especially as regards the call for the restructuring of the country.

In the speech, the president said “Recent calls on re-structuring, quite proper in a legitimate debate,” have “let in highly irresponsible groups to call for dismemberment of the country. We cannot and we will not allow such advocacy.”

But Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, who insisted on restructuring, lamented that some leaders misconstrue the issue to mean secession. He warned that in its absence, there might be an implosion.

He described those calling for restructuring as the ‘’true patriots of Nigeria.’’ According to him, the current political structure of the country is not sustainable.

The governor spoke yesterday in an interview with newsmen shortly after a special thanksgiving service to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the creation of Bayelsa State and 57th independence anniversary of Nigeria at the King of Glory Chapel at the Government House.

“My view is that there is an urgent national imperative for us to review the country. Maybe some people have problems with the word restructuring, but we have to reexamine our nation’s foundation and see how we can make necessary adjustments that will promote a more stable and prosperous Nigeria.

‘’The structure of the country as it is now is not sustainable. Very often, a number of our leaders misconstrue the call for restructuring to mean secession, no, those calling for restructuring are the patriots of Nigeria because we want to lay a foundation for a Nigeria that will last for the next 50, 100 and 200 years and beyond.

‘’Those people forget that in the next 10 to 20 years, the country will be one of the most populous on the face of the earth. You can’t have that kind of high density human population, arguing every day and every time about the injustices and imbalances, there will be an implosion.”

Dickson said the best thing for Nigerians now is to have a consensus. “If there is any problem at all, it is how do we go about it? Not whether we should attempt restructuring or review or not. That, to me, is taken for granted and I am happy President Buhari said he was not opposed to restructuring.’’

Similarly, the Serving Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, disagreed with Buhari that recent calls for restructuring have provoked irresponsible agitations for the dismemberment of the country.

Bakare, who spoke on the state of the nation, yesterday said contrary to the views of the president, “it is the refusal to consider the need to address the issue that is causing crisis.”

The cleric also disagreed with the President’s position that the government is keeping up the momentum of dialogue with stakeholders in the Niger Delta to keep the peace.

“It is like the president has reduced the call for restructuring to naira and kobo by focusing on the area (Niger Delta that produces the oil) that lays the golden egg as if other areas calling for restructuring have no voice.”

Bakare, who was the running mate to Buhari in the 2011 presidential election under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), said while he agreed that no responsible leader would encourage the dismemberment of Nigeria, the president’s statement could further infuriate other leaders who were genuinely advocating restructuring for true federalism, equity, fairness and justice in the system.

Bakare said: “The clamour for restructuring some years ago was the exclusive lingo of pro-democracy groups like the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO), and The Patriots. The leading individual voices in this call emerged mainly from the southern part of the country.

“However, in more recent times, leaders from the northern part of the country have increasingly lent their voices to this call. From former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who has aired this opinion since around 2012, to a former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, and, most surprisingly, former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babanginda, the call for restructuring appears to be reaching a tipping point.”

He added that despite the fact that the restructuring of the polity was implied in the manifesto of the APC, the government had, for a long time, been silent on the matter. He added that after much evasion, the APC, two months ago, eventually constituted a 10-member committee headed by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the current Governor of Kaduna State, to address the increased agitations for restructuring.

According to the cleric, what restructuring means is to change the way an entity is organised or arranged.

Also, the Nigeria National Summit Group (NNSG) said it was a pity that, yet again, the presidency misread the tone in the land and the world, saying “this is a democracy and our president should not continue standing on the wrong side of history.”

In his reaction, the Secretary-General of NNSG, Mr. Tony Uranta said: “It is evident that he still lacks a real connection with the people; he is still unaware that we are not in the 1980s anymore; that he still doesn’t realise that guns are not the solution to every challenge besetting today’s Nigeria; and that force has never triumphed over ideology in all of history.”

The group wondered if Buhari’s advisers are not really leading him off the mark, and have not let him see how, by opposing restructuring, for example, he is setting himself up to lead a failed Nigeria, even when the majority of Nigerians and the country’s foreign friends are telling him that his only hope for gaining total support is by his acceptance to restructure Nigeria.

According to Uranta, it is because the president is not pro-restructuring that secessionist agitations are gaining ground, not the other way around as his speech indicated.

On its part, the Yoruba socio cultural group, Afenifere said the earlier the government embraces restructuring, the better.

The spokesman of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, in a phone interview yesterday said the refusal of the government to heed the call to restructure was responsible for the rising agitations and not the call for restructuring.

However, elder statesman, Malam Tanko Yakassai and the National Vice Chairman (South South) of the APC, Hilliard Eta, applauded the president’s position on restructuring.

Yakassai said he was impressed with Buhari for choosing not to take sides with either the antagonists or the protagonists of restructuring.

According to Yakassai, there is little the president can do on the issue as the power to restructure the country is vested in the National Assembly in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

Eta who underlined the need to restructure the country described the president’s speech as a great one.
“Like the president said, the call is legitimate but the issue must not be hijacked by secessionists. I am strongly in support of the president’s position that the country must not be dismembered. I stand for the indivisibility of Nigeria just like our president said in his speech.”

Meanwhile, President Buhari who said in his independence anniversary broadcast that Nigerians should be grateful to the armed forces for their efforts in ensuring that the Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast are defeated later yesterday joined the service chiefs to boost the morale of the frontline troops fighting insurgency in the northeast .

A statement signed by Air Force spokesman, Air Commodore Olatokunbo Adesanya in Maiduguri said the president’s aircraft landed at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) 105 Composite Group, where he was received by the Borno State governor, other top government officials and the service chiefs, including the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

Adesanya said after the brief reception at the NAF Base, President Buhari was airlifted with a NAF Agusta 109 Light Utility Helicopter to the venue of the independence anniversary celebrations in Maimalari Barracks.

While addressing the frontline personnel, the president expressed the nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices being made by members of the armed forces, adding that without their efforts, the relative peace being enjoyed by Nigerians would not have been possible.

He commended them and promised that the nation would not spare expenses in ensuring the welfare of military personnel as well as enhancing their capacity.

Buhari took the time to personally interact with some of the personnel, especially those who have been wounded in action.

According to the statement, the NAF added colour to the occasion with aerial displays by its aircraft, which are involved in the ongoing counterterrorism operations.