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Lest we forget

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Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar


It is enheartening that another weighty, indeed, a really weighty voice has joined that of former Vice-President Abubakar Atiku who has not minced word on the urgent imperative to restructure the country. From Kaduna to Ife, from Ife to Lagos and from Lagos to Abuja and back, and then off to the East, Atiku has been the northern star, crisscrossing the country courageously saying what needs to be said at this hour and that is the country has no choice but to restructure for her to witness a new dawn. His unassailable argument is that there is too much concentration of power at the centre for Nigeria to make any meaningful progress—politically, socially and economically. Bola Ige once said that the President of Nigeria was the most powerful man in the world. He would know. He had been in the corridors of power long enough to not just have a sensing but to know. He had been Governor of Oyo State; he had been Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. He was General Adeyinka Adebayo’s Commissioner for Agriculture; he had been student leader; he waved his flag of a presidential ambition and had sat long at the feet of Chief Awolowo, the unmatched fighter of Nigerian federalism, to learn and share in the sage’s vision of a Nigeria that would work.

The really weighty voice is former President Ibrahim Babangida’s. His first intervention in the restructuring debate was when, in 2010, he called for the establishment of state police, arguing that the fears of their being misused by the governors were exaggerated. I made reference to this on this page in March. In his words: “If we have repeatedly done certain things and not getting the desired results, we need to change tactics and approach, and renew our commitment. For example, restructuring has become a national appeal as we speak whose time has come.” On the state police, he had this to say: “We cannot be detained by those fears and allow civilization to leave us behind.” The most profound of his statement this time was: “The talk to have the country restructured means that Nigerians are agreed on our unity in diversity; but that we should strengthen our structures to make the union more functional based on our comparative advantages.” It is in this vein Atiku has been speaking. He has been assuring his listeners that restructuring the country is what will engender the unity of the country and give it solidity through loyalty. How true the observation that the most difficult for us human beings to grasp is that which is simplest. A great many in the land have been unable to see that in diversities lie beauty and strength. A family that allows each of the children to unfold his talents and abilities and flourish, none standing in the way of the other, is the stronger and happier one.

It is to be hoped that once the fouled-up atmosphere clears, the Acting President, Professor Osinbajo will get the Buhari Administration to give serious thought to the issue of a restructured Nigeria. In his meetings with leaders from the North and South-East, he did say: “I firmly believe that we ought to address these agitations and proclamations urgently and decisively. Burying our heads in the sand and expecting the storms to blow over of their own accord is not an option.” If he is thinking in the line of restructuring, we already have a good document which the Senate has called for, the 2014 National Conference Report. The Executive itself should work collaboratively with the National Assembly to distill the gems in it. If it is studied objectively it would be found it meets to a large extent the yearnings of all parts of the country.

As I reflected on the Report during the week it occurred to me we should remind ourselves of the eminent and great minds that produced the document. Step forward, Honourable Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, retired Chief Justice of Nigeria. He was chairman; to follow suit, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, a cerebral and resourceful fellow and former Minister of External Affairs, deputy chairman; and Dr. (Mrs.) Valerie Azinge, secretary. Dr. Akilu Indabawa was assistant secretary, conference proceedings. Professor Mahmood Yakubu, assistant secretary, finance and administration and Mr. James Akpandem, assistant secretary, media and communications. The delegates were 492 eminent persons, a majority with track records of great achievements, knowledgeable, experienced and broadminded, and men and women of undoubted patriotism. They were drawn from all classes, all states and from practically all fields, all professions and nearly all institutions. The delegates formed themselves into 20 committees to facilitate their assignment.

Lest we forget, the Conference boasted of elder statesmen, retired Army, Navy, Air Force officers; retired police officers, retired state security and NIA officers; traditional rulers; representatives of labour, NLC and TUC; organised private sector; women groups; students; youth organisations; representatives of private sector employers; market women associations; representatives of International Federation of Women Lawyers; Ditto, representatives of women journalists; women in management, business and public services; political party representatives . APC did not send representatives, but their state governments did. Each state of the Federation sent three delegates; representatives of religious leaders—Muslims and Christians were all there. So were those of civil society organisations; representatives of Nigerians in the diaspora; representatives of Senators’ Forum as well as House of Representative Forum. Former governors were represented by six from their club, so were the Association of former Speakers. National Academies sent representation; the Judiciary was represented by Hon. Justice George Oguntade; Hon. Justice F.F.Tabai; Hon. Justice Abdullahi Mustapha; Hon. Justice Adamu Bello; Hon. Justice Veronica Ngozi Ume and Hon. Justice Baba Alkali Ba’aba.

Just take a cursory look at some other eminent personalities at the Conference in case we forget.On the elder statesmen’s list were Dr. Tunji Braithwaite; Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Chief Richard Akinjide; Chief Olu Falae; Erelu Olusola Obada; Chief Afe Babalola; General Ike Nwachukwu; Iyom Josephine Anenih; Senator Jim Nwobodo; Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN); Senator Azu Agboti; Chief Peter Odili; King Alfred Diete Spiff; Chief K. Edwin Clark; Chief Nduese Essien; Senator ( Mrs.) Daisy Danjuma; Prof. Evara Ejemot Esu (OFR); Alhaji Abdulahi Ohoimah; Mr. Dogara Mark Ogbole; Professor Jerry Gana; Gen. Jonathan Temlong; Prof. Jubril Aminu; Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Muazu; Arch. Ibrahim Bunu; Amb. Yerima Abdullahi; Mr. John Mamman; Alhaji Umaru Musa Zendan; Prof. Mohammed Jumari; Malam Tanko Yakassai; Alhaji Adamu Waziri; Justice Usman Mohammed Argungu; Prof. Sambo Jinadu; Ishia Aliyu Gusau and General A. B. Mamman.

From the Retired Army, Navy & Air Force Officers Association of Nigeria were Majo-General Alex Mshelbwala; Gen. Zamani Lekwot; Rear Admiral C. S. Ehanmo; Brig.- Gen. D. O. Idada-Ikponmwen; Group Captain Ohadomere and Gen. Raji Rasaki. The Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria featured Rtd AIG R.O. Osanaiye; Rtd AIG Mamman Misau; Rtd AIG Bashiru Albasu; Rtd CP Nicholas Nkemdeme; Barrister J.I. Ebinum, Rtd DCP and Barrister Samuel Adetuyi, Rtd CP. From the Retired State Security and NIA officers came Chief Jeremiah Okwuonu, Chief A. K. Horsefall; Mr.Iliya Danga; Chief Babatunde Ala; Amb. B. M. Sani and Amb. J. K.Shinkaiye.

From the rank of traditional rulers came as delegates HRH Alhaji (Dr.) Zayyam Abdullahi, Emir of Yauri; HRH Alhaji (Dr.) Nuhu Mohammed Sanusi, Emir of Dutse; HRH Dr. Muhammadu Barkindo Mustapha, CFR, Lamido of Adamawa; HRH Alhaji Abdullahi Ibn Muhammad Askirama 111, Emir of Askira; HRH Hon. Justice Alhaji Sulu Gambari, CFR, Emir of Ilorin; HRH Elder Jacob Gyang Buba, Gbong Gwom, Jos; HRM Michael Gbadebo Adedeji, JP, CON, Ariyowonye Lim Owooye of Okemesi; HRM Oba Arc. Aderemi A. Adedapo, Alayemore of Ido Osun; (co-ordinator); HRH Eze (Dr.) Cletus I. Illomuanya, Obi of Obinugwu; HRH Dr. Edmund Daukuro, FNSE, Amanyamabo of Nembe Kingdom; HRH Eze Elder Agom Eze, OON; HRH Chief Nosakhare Iskhure, Chief Priest of Benin Kingdom; and HRM Ismail Danlami Mohammed, Sarki of Karshi. Retired Civil Servants delegates were Engr. Ebele O. Okeke; Dr. Edet A. Ekerendu; Mr. Akin Arikawe; Chief Robert Audu; Ammuna Lawan Ali and Dr. H.U. Sanusi.

The Nigerian Labour Congress had the following delegates: Abdulwahed Ibrahim Omar; Chris Uyot; Kiri Mohammed Shaibu; Joe Ajaero; Promise Adewusi; Issa Aremu; Lucy Offiong; Ayuba Wabba; Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson; Emma Ugboaja; Ibrahim Khaleel and Michael Olukoya. Trade Union Congress: Bobboi Bala Kaigama; Barrister Musa Lawal; Mrs. Dinatu Asibi Assani; Olusanya Oyekan; Sunday Olusoji Salako; Olakunle Olanrewaju Olaitan; Peter Esele; Augustine Etafo; Maryam Jumai Bello; Hassan Salihu Anka; Bede Opara and Aliyu Musa. From the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) came Chief R. U. Uche and Malam Mahmud Othman. The Manufacturer Association of Nigeria had Chief Kola Jamodu, OFR and Alhaji Ali Madugu, mni. Nigeria Chambers of Commerce boasted of Alhaji Mohammed B. Abubakar, MON and Chief Bassey E. O. Edem, MFR. From the Nigerian Economic Summit Group were Mr. Bukar Kyari and Mr. Frank Nweke. From the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) came Chief (Mrs.) Nkechi Okemini Mba; Mrs. Remi Kuku; Mrs. Love Ezema; Dr. (Mrs.) Patricia Ogbonnaya; Chief (Mrs. ) Temitope Ajayi; Chief (Mrs.) Anthonia Balogun; Hajia Ramatu Usman, mni; Mrs. Princess Rabi Ibrahim; Chief (Mrs.) Hannatu Lohor; Mrs. Safiya Ibrahim Ogo; Hajiya Miriam S. Mohammed and Princess Hadiza Ibrahim. Market Women association sent Mrs. Sheila Tamuno Abiye; Hajiya Alina Usuma; Hajiya Marvyatu Iliasu; Mrs. Sarah Benjamin; Mrs. Felicia Sanni and Mrs. Ifeanyinwa Ezenwa. International Federation of Women Lawyers featured Ms. Hanwa Evelyn Shekarau and Mrs. Ezenwa Okoroafor. Women in Management, Business and Public Services (WINBIZ) had Mrs. Ifeoma Idigbe and Hajiya Bola Shagaya in attendance. Political Parties had the following: Chief Chris Ejike Uche and Dr. Sager Auwal Maidoya (APGA); Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja and Hon. Muhammad Lawal Nalado (Accord Party); Chief (Barr.) Dan Nwanyanwu and Comrade A. A. Salam ( Baraden Paiko) and Dr. Ahmadu Ali and Rtd Commodore Olabode George (PDP) as delegates representing their respective parties.

The Geo-Political / Cultural and Ethnic Nationality Groups had formidable representation at the Conference. Those who could not get onto the train were nominated by their state governments or even by the Federal Government such that most of those who needed to participate at the Conference were there. The South-West Zone was represented by Sir Olaniwun Ajayi; Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, former Chairman of The Punch; Pastor Tunde Bakare; Barr. Niyi Akintola, SAN; Chief Supo Shonibare; Senator Femi Okunrounmu; Dr. Amos Akingba; Senator Kofo Bucknor-Akerele; Dr. Adetokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu; Yinka Odumakin; Senator Anthony Adefuye; Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa; Hon. Salvador Adegoke Moshood and Gani Adams, OPC National Coordinator. From South South we had Okon Osung; Idongest Nkanga, a well known retired Naval chief; Ray Ekpu, a distinguished columnist and former President of Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria; Amb. Lawrence Ekpebu, OFR; Prof. Kimse Okoko; highly regarded Rtd Gen.Paul Omu; Ntufam (Dr.) Josephat Okey; Hon. Orok Otu Duke; Chief Joshua B. Fomudo; Chief Paul Enechi; Sen. Yisa Braimoh; Barr. Chris Agbonmwanegbe; Chief Sergeant Awuse and Dr. Silas Eneyo. South-East had Gary Enwo-Igariwey; Chief Onyeama Ugochukwu; Prof.I.C. Madubuike; Chief Chukwu Wachukwu; Dr. Sam Egwu; Dr. Clement Mgbada; Prof. Nnenna Oti; Dr. Goddy Uwazurike; Dr. Dozie Ikedife; HRH Igwe (Amb.) L.O.C. Agubuzu; Amb. Fidel Ayogu; Chief Uzoma Nwosu Iheme and Prof. Chinedu Nwajiuba. From North-East were Amb. Hassan Adamu; Dr. Sale Dauda; Barr. Chris Abongaby; Kashim Ndjida; Dr. Daniel Madu; Malam Mohammed Ibrahim; Hon. Mohammed Umara Kumaila; Paul Bassi; Amb. Ibrahim Mai Sule; Dr. Abdu Bulama and Amb. Adamu Aliyu. The strong team from North- West had on the delegation former IGP Ibrahim Coomassie; Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, Gen. Tanko Ayuba; Alhaji Magaji Dambatta; Sen. Mohammed Kabiru Dansadau; Amb. Yaro Yusuf Mamman; Bilkisu Magoro; Sen. Bello Maitama Yusuf and Rtd AVM Mutari Mohammed. Delegates from North-Central boasted of Gen. Jeremiah Useni; former Federal Attorney General and Justice Minister Bayo Ojo; Prof. Iyorchaia Ayu; Prof. Onje Gewyedo; Prof. John Uko; Dr. Shem Nuhu Zagbayi; Senator Gbemi Saraki; Mr. Anthony Sani; Sen. Ibrahim Mantu; Elder Bulus Dareng; Dr. Phillip O. Salawu and Alhaji Akwe Doma.

The club of former governors had Chief Olusegun Osoba; Chief Achike Udenwa; Obong Victor Attah; Alhaji Saidu Barda and Amb. Fidelis Tapgun at the conference. Newspaper publishers were represented by Nduka Obaigbena, President of Newspaper Proprietors Association and Malam Kabir Yusuf, Chairman/ Publisher of Daily Trust.

The numerical strength of the Civil Society Organizations at the Conference was high with iconic figures such as Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, and leader of Civil Society Organization and Femi Falana, SAN, in attendance. There were Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, Mahmood Aminu of Public Interest Lawyers League; Joe Okei-Odumakin of Women Arise for Change, Wale Okuniyi, PRONACO; Bisi Olateru Olagbegi, Women Consortium to mention just a few from a strength of 24. From the Professional Bodies came Okeywali, SAN, of Nigeria Bar Association; Engr. Adefemi Kila, Nigerian Society of Engineers; Dr. Osahon Enabulele, Nigerian Medical Association; and Senator Felix Bajomo, FCA, of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, again to mention just a few. Prof. Oyewale Tomori from Academy of Engineering; Prof. U. M.O. Ivowi from Nigerian Academy of Letters and Prof. Munzali Jibril from Academy of Letters were there. Notable among the Federal Government delegation were Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Prof. Anya O. Anya; his Excellency Adamu Aliero, a former governor; Atedo Peterside erstwhile chairman of IBTC; Dame Virgi Etiaba, former deputy governor of Anambra State; Annkio Briggs; Ibrahim D. Waziri and Prof. Olawale Albert. Among state delegates were Ken Nnamani, former Senate President; Prof. Akin Oyebode, a professor of law at Unilag and former Vice-chancellor; Bishop Ajakaiye; former IGP Mohammed Gambo Jimeta; Gen. Geoffrey Ejiga; Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a former governor; Prof. Dora Akunyili who requires no introduction; G. G. Darah, professor of oral literature and former chief of staff in Delta; Dr. Junaid Muhammed representing Kano and Fola Adeola, senior founding partner, Guaranty Trust Bank.

Can the views of the eminent persons listed in the foregoing encapsulated in the document commonly referred to as 2014 National Conference Report, just be dismissed and thrown out of the window? Me think not. Acting President Osinbajo should get the Buhari Administration to get down to business. That is the only way his admonition for our longed for oneness as a country would not ring hollow. He has done well so far, moving swiftly to douse the frightening tension in the land by addressing strategic stakeholders across the land. What we have heard from him, understandably, is getting commitment from every part for a united Nigeria. It is the form but not yet the content. The content, as major voices are now pointing out from various parts of the country, lies in restructuring.


In this article:
Abubakar Atiku

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