A former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; a chieftain of a pan-Yoruba organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; the President General of a pan-Igbo organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, and others have said Nigeria’s future is hanging in the balance if its governance system is not restructured urgently.
The elder statesmen on Wednesday at the 10th anniversary symposium of the late Senator Abraham Adesanya held in Lagos, described the crises in the country, especially the incessant killings in the Middle Belt, as a reflection of a country on the brink of collapse.
Anyaoku, while delivering his speech as the guest speaker at the symposium titled, ‘Leadership and the future of Nigeria,’ said Nigeria had retrogressed since the early 1960s in many areas, including education, health, security and agriculture.
Noting that revenue from crude oil exports over the years had had little or no impact on the lives and welfare of the vast majority of the population, the former Commonwealth secretary general said the “present state of affairs in our country represents not only a clear case of national dysfunction, but also a bleak future with no assurance of the country’s continued existence as one political entity.”
He proposed a return to federalism as a system of governance, as practised in the country in the early 1960s.
He said, “Based on the experience of other similarly pluralistic countries across the world, Nigeria will not achieve enduring political stability or realise its desired development potential with this present non-conducive federal imposed constitution.
“I believe that restructuring Nigeria’s present governance architecture by returning to provisions of its 1960 and 1963 constitutional arrangements will not only help the emergence of a leadership that will pave the way for a national rebirth, but will also put the country on a more assured path to political stability and faster socioeconomic development.”
Anyaoku proposed that the country should be structured into “eight federating units comprising the six geopolitical zones plus a restored old Midwest region and a newly created Middle Belt federating unit.”
“The present mostly non-viable 36 states, many of which can no longer pay the salaries of their workers, should be retained in the new federating units but as development zones to be administered without their current costly executive and administrative institutions,” he added.
Anyaoku spoke longingly about the period in the country’s history when the old “Northern Region had groundnut pyramids and plantations of cotton, the old Western Region had free and universal education and introduced the first television service in sub-Saharan Africa and old Eastern Region achieved the world scale production of palm produce and the burgeoning industrialisation of the eastern region.”
He blamed the military administrations for the failure of governance and civilians who have helped perpetuate the politics of corruption and divisiveness in the country.
In his speech, Nwodo described Nigeria as a “federation in name and not in practice.”
He said, “The essence of a federation is that it is a group of people with diverse characteristics who come together as different people and different units and donate their powers to the Federal Government.
“That is what we did in 1963; it means that whoever must lead our country must be someone who is prepared to see himself as an Adesanya, who is Yoruba, but also a Nigerian.”
Nwodo took a swipe at a former Interim National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Chief Bisi Akande, for not speaking against the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, who he described as tribalistic.
He said, “Our patriotism is destroyed when you have a tribal leadership, more worrisome is when I watch statesmen who when issues of this nature exist would rather be diplomatic than confront it.
“If you don’t have leaders who are detribalised to stand up for truth, who have the fearlessness to tell their closest friends and people from their ethnic configuration – you got it wrong here – then something is wrong with our country. If we have people like you, Chief Akande, who cannot speak to power; if because you belong to the APC, you cannot say to our head of state (sic) you are wrong here, then something is wrong.”
Adebanjo, in his contribution, described restructuring as necessary for the country’s growth.
He said, “When you say restructuring, it doesn’t mean anything other than to restructure the country back to federalism. It is a shame today to find the so-called followers of (Chief Obafemi) Awolowo (the late Premier of the old Western Region) asking, what is restructuring?”
One of the contributing speakers at the event, Maj. Gen. Zamani Lekwot (retd.), urged those who were afraid of restructuring to express their fears and be open to discussion.
“Otherwise the structure will one day collapse on us and future generation and God will not forgive us,” he added.
According to a historian and another contributing speaker at the event, Prof. Banji Akintoye, Nigeria is likely to break up if it does not urgently restructure.
“If Nigeria does not take steps to urgently restructure itself and return to the federal system, the federal system that we saw in the 1950s up till 1965, Nigeria is very likely to break up.
“Don’t say your country cannot break up, any country can break up,” he said.
A former vice president and presidential aspirant, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, described the current composition of the second schedule of Nigeria’s constitution as not development driven.
Speaking on his advocacy for a proper restructuring of Nigeria on the sidelines of the event, the former vice president noted that his approach towards achieving the restructuring agenda will be to review the contents of the Exclusive, Concurrent and Residual lists.
He said, “I have had people come to me to ask how I intend to achieve the restructuring agenda in six months and my answer to them all is that the process is not rocket science.
“A serious-minded government that knows how to listen and build consensus can restructure Nigeria for the benefit of all and this I undertake to do when I become the president.
“Some politicians will tell you it is a daunting task but the reality is that they are not really sincere and committed to ensuring its actualisation. They play lots of politics with it and when agitations box them to a corner, they set-up smokescreen committees.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, while speaking about Adesanya’s consistency, disclosed how the late sage rejected him three times when he went to seek his support ahead of the 1999 presidential election.
“I came to know him when I was going into politics. When I met Adesanya, he did not mince words at all; straight he said, ‘why do you come here, you are not with us.’”
He said after telling Adesanya about his mission, the late sage said he would not support him and that he repeated it twice later.
The Chairman on the occasion, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.), extolled the virtues of Adesanya, describing him as “principled.”
The event was also attended by a former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; and Dr. Doyinsola Abiola, among many other dignitaries.