Notable elder statesmen and socio-cultural leaders on Saturday converged, saying Nigeria was long overdue for restructuring while warning the Federal Government that the country was bleeding from bad leadership and poor policies.
The statesmen added that the government must not take Nigerians for granted, as the security and socioeconomic situations of the country were deteriorating.
At the programme which held virtually were; a leader of the Afenifere socio-cultural group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; a former vice-presidential candidate and Serving Overseer of Citadel Global Community Church (formerly known as Latter Rain Assembly), Lagos, Pastor Tunde Bakare; a former presidential candidate and political economist, Prof Pat Utomi; and the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland land, Gani Adams.
Others were political scientist, Mr Akin Osuntokun; and singers, Onyeka Onwenu and Eedris Abdulkareem.
The programme was themed, ‘#EndSARS consolidation of handshake across the Niger: An interactive session with Iba Gani Adams and Igbo/Yoruba champions.’
The session was moderated by the Publisher of Ovation Media Group, Chief Dele Momodu, and Maazi Ezeoke.
Afenifere chieftain, Adebanjo, said the President, Major General Muhammdu Buhari (retd), had chosen to “remain stubborn despite calls by several elder statesmen and sections of the country” that Nigeria was due for restructuring.
Adebanjo noted that the country must return to the 1960 Independence Constitution when the regions had autonomy.
He said, “My view is that we don’t look into the past. The way forward is for us to join hands together for the unity of this country. It is not the question of self-determination that we are after. Anybody opposing restructuring is an enemy of a united Nigeria.
“Buhari is an enemy of the country by not restructuring. If we don’t restructure, this country cannot stay. I am not opposed to self-determination but self-determination is the last resort. We are not going to beg to be a part of Nigeria.
“The government of the day should be reasonable enough to restructure this country on the basis of true federalism. From the outset, we have insisted that we cannot keep this country together in a unitary system of government.
“A lot of problems we are having now are self-inflicted by the northern hegemony. Is Buhari more Fulani than the Sardauna of Sokoto? If we don’t understand what restructuring is, let us go back to the Independence constitution.
“The problem we have now was brought by the military – the military gave us this constitution and imposed state and local governments arbitrarily. Hence, people are cheated. The present system we are using was created by the military. All the leaders of this country have been telling Buhari, restructure this country. He remained stubborn and what we have are killings.
“I won’t live in this country under this constitution. I like to warn the Igbo that they are deceiving them that they will give them (Igbo) presidency. They are also deceiving (Asiwaju Bola) Tinubu. I want to make it clear again that if you make my son the president under this constitution, I will oppose him. I am an embittered Nigerian because of what Buhari is doing to us. If we agree to an equitable deal, there will be no problem. Give us regional autonomy.”
Also, the Aare Ona Kakanfo, Adams, in his remarks, made a strong case for restructuring, adding that any region was free to call for a breakup if restructuring was not heeded to.
He said, “When we talk about restructuring without a strategy, it will be very difficult. We will continue crying for restructuring for another 100 years and our institutions will be destroyed. The generation coming behind us may not have the kind of patience that we have. Look at the recent protests they organised.
“They have a seven-point demand – education, health and others. When we say we don’t want this country to break, we don’t want to go our separate ways, the only thing that can grip the North and spike their hearts is to say if we don’t restructure, we will break up.”
He said, “There are those who believe we should go our separate ways but honestly I do not subscribe to that view. I have never advocated it. I believe we can restructure Nigeria. If we think it has failed, it is because of the people who are not committed to it.
“Let us be practical. We need a trustful give-and-take. Restructuring is an idea whose time has come. It will come to pass. I believe very soon that any right-thinking leader will know that we are better off together than fighting one another and going our separate ways. If Nigeria can get it right, Africa can get it right.”
Also speaking, Utomi said Nigeria should begin to “build production clusters instead of the mentality of sharing” currently in place.
He said, “I can speak of the model of the United Arab Emirates and other models. I find myself supporting Pa Adebanjo. Part of the challenges we have had is that this divide-and-rule politicking has prevented us from focusing on development. The strategy which many of us have suggested is closely related to a decentralised approach.
“As we pointed out, in the UAE, Dubai is one of the emirates and they are all competing. You have Abu Dhabi and they are competing on who would bring the most progress to their people. This was the competitive communalism in Nigeria in the 1950s. I believe that Nigeria should really be thinking in terms of Megalopolis.
“In Nigeria, we have been playing this game of sharing instead of producing. How do we put together production clusters that are globally competitive and build centres of development? This real rubbish about sharing should stop.”
Political scientist, Osuntokun, singers Onwenu and Abdulkareem also lent their voices to the discussion, while calling for good leadership, restructuring and protection of the rights of people in every section of the country.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, while speaking at the forum, took a divergent position by calling for the outright self-determination of the regions in the country.
He said, “I respect the divergent views and opinions. One thing that comes across in this debate is the weak position from which the South is tending to, should I say, in debating this restructuring of a thing.
“Restructuring cannot work because Nigeria has conflicting and faulty foundations. The powers are in the North. We are talking about the disparity in terms of how society should function. You cannot go to the Fulani and beg them for restructuring. What makes anybody in their right senses think they can give it to you now? Once you do not have that leverage, you cannot get restructuring.”