In the past few months, several groups and critical stakeholders in the Nigerian project across the country, have joined the train in the demand for restructuring of the country. The demands started with groups that felt marginalised one way or the other and on the arrest of one of the leaders of the Independent State of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, which exacerbated and gave the agitations international dimension.
It has been argued in some quarters that the comment by President MuhammaduBuhari about how he will discriminatorily spread patronage between the 97 percent and 5 percent that voted for him during the 2015 election was the catalyst that triggered the agitations.
The agitation has since taken a new dimension as even the Niger Delta Avengers included the issue of restructuring as part of its demand. Before the Niger Delta Avengers joined in the groups asking for restructuring, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar came out during a book lunch in Abuja to say the country will run into troubled waters if the federal government ignores the clarion call for restructuring.
Other prominent leaders and groups in the country made a renewed advocacy for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation ostensibly to neutralise the mounting insurgency and violence over perceived marginalisation in parts of the country.
The umbrella body of socio-cultural groups in the North, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, has also lent its voice for the immediate renegotiation of their status before Nigeria collapses.
While backing Atiku’s call for an urgent restructuring of the country, Arewa Consultative Forum through its National Secretary, Ahmed Suleiman said renegotiating the union appears the only thing that will set Nigeria on the right path.
His words: “We are calling for the restructuring of Nigeria because that is the only thing that will set us on the right path. We think the 2014 confab report would provide ample guidance for the restructuring of the country.”
In support of the position of Atiku, ACF and other advocates of restructuring, Pro National Conference Organization, PRONACO, hailed the renewed call by eminent leaders of thought and prominent Nigerians for urgent political restructuring of the Nigerian Federation.
PRONACO; the main citizens’ movement advocating for national restructuring based on democratic self determination and popular ownership of the Nigerian constitution by the diverse peoples of Nigeria said, the interjection of the political class has reignited hope for national cohesion and political stability in the country.
The coalition which was initiated by eminent leaders of thought in 2004 under the revered leadership of late Chief Anthony Enahoro, who moved the historic motion for independence of Nigeria and his able compatriot, Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, gave this applause in a media interjection on the state of Nigeria in Lagos.
Addressing the Nation, through its spokesperson, Olawale Okunniyi who is also the Head of Secretariat of Nigeria Political Summit Group, NPSG, the body stressed the inevitability of a popular restructuring if Nigeria must survive its unending “political incohesion and instability.”
Okunniyi, however, cautioned that a legitimate and valid political restructuring of Nigeria can only become a reality if the Federal Government initiates a popularly composed constituent assembly which he termed Indirect Referendum to agree and resolve on the most suitable structure for the country based on the various resolutions of past national conferences in the country.
“The snag that has previously hindered a valid national restructuring in Nigeria is the genuine fear of every past leader of the country, not to preside over an unintended consequence of such initiative like the break up of the country among others.”
“And President Buhari too, given his military training in patriotism, may also be cautious and reticent, except he is able to get visible cooperation and firm impetus from the political class as they are currently doing, as well as a practicable blue print and roadmap for a sustainable restructuring in view of the very sensitive and volatile nature of the Nigerian National Question and the rigorous, expensive and delicate process to be undertaken for a legitimate restructuring to take place in Nigeria,” PRONAC Spokesman said.
In the same vein, a coalition of civil society groups under the umbrella of the Minority Interest Rights Advocates in Nigeria, MIRAN, has described as a welcome development the position of the Arewa Consultative Forum and other well-meaning Nigerians, on the need to renegotiate the status of all nationalities in the union called Nigeria.
According to the group, the union should first and foremost provide a level-playing ground for all and create a sense of belonging to all component parts of the nation’s polity.
Leader of the coalition, Comrade IyahIyah, in a statement made, noted: “With the current impasse created by Boko Haram, the Fulani herdsmen’s terrorism across the country, and the atrocities of Niger Delta Avengers in the south, Nigeria urgently requires a re-modification of its political and economic order in all the 36 states of the federation, to make it more impactful on the lives of our diverse citizenry.”
Comrade Iyah suggested that restructuring will no doubt, unlock forever the latent potentials of the nation’s ethnic minorities: “an immeasurable asset caged by decades of hegemonic rule in Nigeria.”
He, however, cautioned that the assimilation of smaller ethnic groups within the previous regional construct, as being suggested in some quarters, will likely be resisted because there is no longer a monolithic region as obtained in the First Republic.
The MIRAN leader affirmed that every ethnic nationality in Nigeria – from the North to the South – must be given an opportunity to decide on the union.
There appears to be some level of consensus that implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference may be a valid starting point, practicable blueprint and roadmap to commence the restructuring of the country as suggested by the ACF. Leaders of the South West zone are also on the same page with the ACF on the imperative of implementing report of the 2014 National Conference.
Though the delegates to the National Conference were not directly elected, their far-reaching recommendations were very much in tandem with the wishes of Nigerians that are clamouring for restructuring of the federation.
For instance, the South West elders under the auspices of the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, have never relented in their clamour for the implementation of the confab report. Earlier this year at a meeting of the YCE, the Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, said “convening the 2014 National Conference was indeed a historic assignment that we are proud of and as a people; we must do everything possible to ensure that the Confab recommendations get implemented.
He added that “No doubt, Nigeria has passed through various stages of national dialogues before, without being able to emplace a constitutional and political arrangement that is accommodating enough to sustain the dedication and patriotism of many. The Constitutional and governmental experiments that we have had seem inadequate to capture the essence of those things that have the inherent capacity to unite us despite our ethnic and religious cleavages.
“The Confab report when implemented, will create room for each State to have its own constitution, its own police force, its own prison service, can create its own local governments, can build its own Airports, Seaports and Railways and in addition; in the economic domain, solid minerals that had been the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government since independence, have now been brought to the concurrent list. States can now create employment and develop at their own pace. With all that, it liberates everybody, it opens up the political space,” he said.
The conference made far reaching decisions and over 400 recommendations that are aimed at restructuring the polity.
In the final report of the conference, the delegates had recommended creation of additional 19 states to bring the total number to 54 states, with all the zones having equal number of states.
The confab delegates agreed on the creation of a mayoral status for the Federal Capital City; that the Minister of Finance, not the President will now present the annual budget to the National Assembly; that power should be shared and rotated at all levels of government and that the presidency should rotate between North and South and among the six geo-political zones in the country. Likewise, governorship should rotate among the three senatorial zones in each state.
Equally recommended by the conference is proposed reduction in the shares of the national income going to the federal government and increase in the shares of the states. It also recommended modified presidential system of government that combines the presidential and parliamentary forms of government. In this instance, the president picks the vice president from the legislature.
The President elected under the new system shall exercise full responsibility for his government and shall select ministers, not more than 18 of them, from the six geo-political zones of the country, and in the modified presidential system.
On local government administration, the conference also voted that states should own their own constitutions, while the functions of local governments as contained in schedule 4 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) has been transferred to the states subject to the power of the state Houses of Assembly to add or reduce the said functions of the local governments.
Conference also voted against the local government as a different tier of government, saying that the House of Assembly of a state may confer other functions on local government and agreed that the constitution shall fix the tenures for local government councils.
Delegates approved the scrapping of joint state and local government accounts; to be replaced with a State Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, adding that the body would be expected to have as members, representatives of local government areas and a chairman nominated by the state governor for confirmation by the state House of Assembly.
In addition to the functions conferred on the local government councils as specified in the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended, a state House of Assembly may by law, confer other functions on the local government. The conference also conferred financial autonomy on state Houses of Assembly as a way of freeing them from direct control by the executive and voted that for functionality, local government should be politically and economically independent.
The confab report recommended that there should be complete abolition of the concept of plea bargain by accused public functionaries and also agreed for the establishment of special courts, for instance, anti-corruption courts to handle cases involving corrupt practices.
Another significant recommendation of the National Conference was the provision for independent candidates, which the National Assembly has already incorporated in the proposed constitutional amendment.
As Nigerians eagerly await the official reaction of the Buhari administration to the deafening calls for restructuring of the country to douse rising agitations across the country, political observers are of the view that the federal government cannot afford the luxury of keeping mute sine die, since the country is obviously sitting on time bomb that may explode at the touch of a button.

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