The Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, and his Kaduna State counterpart, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, met on Monday over the controversial issue of restructuring of the country.
The Bayelsa State helmsman said he was in Kaduna to support the recommendations of the All Progressives Congress’ Committee on True Federalism, that Nigeria should be restructured.
Restructuring, he argued, “will never portend danger to the country but will rather enhance the nation’s progress and unity.”
The governor, while speaking with journalists at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House, Kaduna, the state capital, commended el-Rufai’s effort on the far-reaching recommendations of his party’s true federalism committee report on restructuring.
He urged Nigerians to support restructuring for a fairer and more stable and sustainable Nigeria, noting that restructuring must be embraced across party lines to enhance fundamental constitutional reforms.
This, he said, was because “nation-building is a work in progress.”
Dickson said, “Few minutes ago, I commended Governor el-Rufai’s courage and commitment to the new Nigerian project. By restructuring, we are talking about fundamental constitutional reforms; restructuring of our country to bring about a fairer and more stable and sustainable Nigeria and all of these within the context of a united and indivisible Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“There is nothing human that is perfect. Nation-building is a work in progress and it is actually not something that will be finished by one leader, one party or one government, or even by one generation.
“It is from one generation to another generation. Our leaders, our founding fathers gave us this country but we cannot claim that the present structure of this country is perfect.
“No nation is perfect, nation-building therefore is continual work in progress and that is great work and contributions of Governor el-Rufai’s committee even though it’s a committee of a political party; its recommendations are far-reaching and a number of us across party lines believe that we need to advance the conversations.”
Dickson, however, noted that the support of the North was indispensable towards the achievement of a truly federal and restructured Nigeria.
He called on political leaders in the South and the North to pull down the barriers of mistrust, misunderstanding and even miscommunication against the unity of the country.
After the closed-door meeting with el-Rufai, Dickson’s Special Adviser, Media Relations, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, issued a statement where he quoted his principal as emphasizing the need for the country to restructure.
Dickson said, “As you know, you and I have had very productive, fruitful discussions about the future of our country; we agreed that across party lines, leaders of our country need to come together, to reason together, work together for the good of our country.
“And that is why I am here to discuss the issue on restructuring of our country as a united, stable and prosperous nation where all Nigerians can have a sense of belonging, a nation founded on fairness and justice, a nation that can aspire to be one of the greatest on the face of the earth and we have the potential.
“I want to make this very clear that the northern part of Nigeria is not just essential to this new vision, the buy-in of the North is critical, it is indispensable in bringing about this new Nigeria that is anchored on restructuring, true federalism and devolution of powers to the federating units.
“And that is why I have called on political leaders in my region and in other parts of this country to break down the barriers of misunderstanding and mistrust and sometimes miscommunication, and we can only do so when leaders continue to meet as we have done.”
In his remarks, el-Rufai observed that there were some aspects of the Nigerian federalism in need of improvements as was contained in the report of the APC committee on restructuring.
El-Rufai, who was the chairman of the APC Committee on Restructuring, said the ruling party had set up a technical committee on the implementation of the key recommendations of the committee.
The Kaduna State governor said that he was optimistic that the technical committee would soon present its report to the party so that the recommendations could be sent to the Federal Government.
El-Rufai added that despite party affiliation they must work together for a balanced federation.
He said they would lobby other governors and political leaders to advance his committee’s report implementation.
“We must all work together; all hands must be on deck to make our country better.
“For me, the work of the APC committee on true federalism reflected that consensus among our party leaders and the APC National Executive Committee has adopted our report and set up a technical committee on the implementation.
“I hope that the technical committee will soon report to the party so that they will send the recommendations to the government.
“I welcome the support we received from Governor Dickson from day one and he crossed the party line and he refused to take the attitude of the opposition.
“We will continue to lobby our colleagues at the governors’ forum and lobby other political leaders to advance the work so that we can have a fair and balanced federation that will be fair to everyone.”
Regional leaders seek single-term presidency at Ohanaeze summit
Meanwhile, as the two governors were meeting in Kaduna, some leaders of four geopolitical zones represented by their socio-cultural groups were also at a restructuring summit organised by the pan-socio-cultural Igbo group, Ohanaeze, at the Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka, Anambra State, on Monday.
At the summit, leaders from four out of the country’s six geopolitical zones endorsed the restructuring of Nigeria through the adoption of true federalism.
The leaders are from the South-South, South-East, South-West and the North-Central geopolitical zones.
The zones were represented by the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (South-South); Ohanaeze Ndigbo (South-East); Pan- Yoruba group, Afenifere (South-West); and the Middle Belt Forum (North Central).
They said Nigeria must be restructured to reflect a true federal state to redeem her from many problems.
They also recommended a six-year single term for the country’s presidency.
The summit asked the Federal Government to lift the ban on the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra.
Some of the leaders who spoke at the summit including the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, expressed support for the restructuring of the country.
Ekweremadu said he stood by his colleagues from the South-East in adopting the position on restructuring, stressing that he would lead lawmakers to propose a bill on the nation’s restructuring at the National Assembly.
He said the nation’s resources were enough to make Nigeria the greatest nation in the world if only she could sincerely adopt true federalism.
Ekweremadu said, “We will network with our brothers and sisters from other parts of Nigeria; carry everybody along in the exercise and engage those not sufficiently convinced that Nigeria will be greater if restructured.”
Also, a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana (North-Central), said, “Let us agree and restructure Nigeria for the security and development of Nigeria. The democratic position is to allow for dialogue and freewill discussions that will arrive at a beneficial conclusion for the benefit of all.”
Gana advised that the National Assembly be allowed to discuss the issue of restructuring and subsequently refer the matter for public referendum.
He added, “We should allow ourselves to listen to one another and not to do anything by force.”
The Afenifere leader, Ayo Adebanjo, said restructuring was being proposed “because we love ourselves. Without restructuring, we are only paying lip service to national change.”
He said, “Are opponents of restructuring wiser than our founding fathers – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who founded the country on a regional-based economic growth?”
He commended the south-easterners for taking a stand on restructuring and encouraged them to stand firm in their resolution and not allow the notorious “Nigerian factor” to truncate their resolve to ensure that the country was restructured.
On his part, Chief Edwin Clark, a South-South leader, said the nation’s youths should be carried along in the process because “the youths have been treated very unkindly by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
On his part, a renowned economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, said justice was a condition for peace and sustainable development in any society.
Utomi said Nigeria was a long-term project where people should focus on long-term goals rather than short-term gain that would result in injustice, desperation and strife.
He said, “I find it necessary that we should all sit down and decide on a modus vivendi. It is important we create an atmosphere for engagements that will make our democracy viable and this is one of the platforms.
“It is important to note that Ohanaeze Ndigbo, under the leadership of Nnia Nwodo, has maintained focus and the focus should be maintained.”
Also, a former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, said constructive engagement on the Nigerian project remained the best way to go.
Chidoka described Nigeria as a product of negotiation which must be renegotiated at all times to get the best out of it.