Without restructuring Nigeria cannot move forward — Adams
OTUNBA Gani Adams is the national coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and a Yoruba cultural ambassador. He spoke on why Federal Government must succumb to agitation for restructuring and argued against deployment of soldiers.
What is your view on restructuring Nigeria?
We have got to a situation now, where without restructuring Nigeria, we cannot move forward. The agitation for restructuring began since 1989 through the late Alao Aka Bashorun. Moreover, you can still recall the situation that made former president Goodluck Jonathan to organise a national conference. That parley brought about 633 recommendations for this country to move forward. A reasonable and committed government will have to listen to the people’s wishes.
There is a Yoruba adage that says, when a child falls, he looks at his front, but when an adult falls, he looks back. What we are saying is that, we need to look at where we are coming from to understand how we found ourselves in the present situation. What did our leaders agree to in 1960? There was a constitution that bound us together at independence. This constitution reflected regionalism, and it was done together with our leaders and colonial masters.
But Nigerians wrote the 1963 constitution without the influence of colonial masters. That is our Republican Constitution. From then till now, apart from recommendations of the 1995 and 1996 conferences, guarded and tailored by the military government, which culminated in the 1999 constitution, there has not been anything concrete in this regard. The truth is that since 1963, there has not been a constitution we can call that of the people. The 1963 constitution was agreed upon on the basis of justice and equity; how we can be governed and how each region could develop at its own pace.
I read Alhaji Alhaji recently, and he said in 1974, he was a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, when Nigeria took a loan from IMF. He, therefore, reasoned that by creating more states, which are now 36, Nigeria brought more corruption. He said 12 states would have been the ideal. I saw some sense in his argument, but we are now saying instead of emphasising on states, we should now be talking of regions.
The six regions should stay and each of the region can now break into states or provinces, as they deem fit. We should not deceive ourselves; Nigeria is not moving forward under this arrangement. If anybody is saying all we need is to devolve power to the state, this cannot serve our interest, as Yoruba people. It will affect our unity and won’t allow us to harness potentials in each states of the Yoruba nation. For instance, Lagos has money, but it does not have land. It had to go to Kebbi State in the North to plant rice, when there is land in Ekiti, Osun and Oyo States.
Suffice to say there is no state in Yoruba land without solid mineral resources, which range from gold to diamond and bitumen, which is in abundance in Ondo State. There is oil deposits in Lagos and Ogun in commercial quantity. Some people think Ekiti is poor, but that is not true. That state has the best fertile land in the country, and the governor there just needs to be told to concentrate on agriculture, rather than people there sourcing food from the North. Ekiti can supply 50 per cent of food needed in the South West.
Antagonists of restructuring seem to fear that the centre will be weak, which they think is not good for the country… That fear is not genuine. Did devolution of power in America weaken its central government? States in America have their own police. There is Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI); some universities have their own policing system, so also some counties. And all these do not make FBI weak. They also have CIA like our DSS. Whoever is nurturing the fear that Federal Government will be weak in the new arrangement we are canvassing is not getting it right. In fact the Federal Government will be stronger, as there will be economic, as well as infrastructural competition among the states and all the glory will go to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
When Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was in power, Awolowo was not as popular as Balewa or Nnamidi Azikwe, and all what gave Nigeria popularity and respect in the comity of nations were in the Western Region. It got to a stage that the Western Region lent money to the Federal Government. The Western Region Embassy is what Federal Government is using now.
The University of Ibadan, the first in Nigeria was conceived and built by the Western Region, but it has been taken over by the Federal Government. The Western Region built the first television station in Africa. We all heard of how the king of Saudi Arabia came for medical treatment at the UCH, Ibadan. The Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) was also a Western Region project
What I am saying is that with regionalism and devolution of power, the Federal Government will still have its own responsibilities – International relations, the control of Army, Air Force, Navy and the DSS, among others, will still be there. There will be federal police, and the Federal Government would still defend our territorial integrity. Most of the responsibilities of states and regions will border mainly on economy.
What is your opinion about Federal Government’s decision to deploy operation tagged ‘Crocodile Smile’ to South West to fight Badoo and other cultists?
The Federal Government has the right to maintain security in any part of this country, but if the intention of bringing soldiers to the South West is to fight Badoo or cultists, it will not work. However, what we can easily deduce is that the Federal Government is not comfortable with agitation for regionalism and its wide campaign in the South West. The essence of the military operation is to intimidate and silence agitators. But it will not work.
The Yoruba people fight with their brains, which is why Yorubas never lose a war. We are a region with the intellectual power to fight our battle conventionally. A tribe that knows how to engage in a struggle is difficult to defeat. Let me tell you, whether their Crocodile is coming here to smile or cry, we are waiting for them. Yes, the military can help in securing peace, but they should not go beyond their boundary.
I know for sure that the soldiers they are bringing will have nothing to do. But the energy they will dissipate on dancing in the South West should be used to fight Boko Haram in the North East and Fulani herdsmen in the North West, who have turned many communities into ghost towns. They have a lot of job to do in that axis. Their job is not to be going about intimidating people in the country.
When I heard the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Sadique talking of their efforts to track down IPOB members, I just laughed. You can’t pin down people that don’t carry firearms. That should be done in the North East.
Bringing military operation to the South West is diversionary, and the strategy can boomerang, because you are creating the impression that a zone known to be peaceful by the international community is no longer so, simply because you want to silence an agitation. Why can’t they allow the police and DSS to do their job? Is it the duty of soldiers to fight Badoo? This cult group is not the kind of force you see and which can be conquered with physical power. These are people that operate at night, when people are sleeping. It is an operation of three or four people. It is not a rowdy operation; they don’t operate like armed robbers; they don’t lay siege on the community. Only three of two people operating at a time.
Had it been soldiers are coming because of the nefarious activities of Fulani herdsmen, yes that is another ball game. These herdsmen do not have a base, and they move around with their cattle. They wreak havoc wherever they go and then disappear into another farmland. I do not see any acceptable reasons for them to bring battalions to the South West. It is purely to intimidate people here, because our people had never spoken with one voice like this before. But the agitation for restructuring based on regionalism cuts across political and religious divide.
I know many people in the North are not comfortable with our position. Though the South South and South East endorsed our position, but we all heard the position of the North, as articulated by Tanko Yakassai, immediately after the Yoruba summit held in Ibadan. But we deserve to determine our future. Yes, we can be in the same country, but millions of Tanko Yakassai cannot determine our future for us.
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