It was also a day President General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, declared in Lagos that restructuring of Nigeria is now or never.
They said this at the maiden Handshake Across Nigeria summit, with the theme: Nigeria beyond oil organised by Nzuko Umunna in partnership with The Core Federalists, which was held in Lagos, yesterday.
Soyinka, who was the keynote speaker, also said present and past leaders have consistently abandoned recommendations made by Nigerians on different occasions on how to move the country forward and that restructuring the country is not an option but a necessity that will help avoid the constant bloodshed in the country and guarantee its unity.
“We want government to understand that they are part of the community and have been given a mission of carrying out the will of the people… Insecurity has reached a certain level that even when we bring experts in, they wonder what exactly they have come to do. They are given a certain problem to solve and when they arrive here, they meet another problem.
“We have had many instances of armed killer herdsmen who wreak havoc across communities in the country and, rather than show empathy to the victims, the Inspector General of Police goes there to say they were killed because they blocked the grazing routes for cattle.
“One way of stopping the bloodbath is to reconfigure the nation. States must be given maximum control over their resources. There are some who prefer to grow rice, there are others who prefer to grow religion and we know where religion has taken us, today.
“Some people will like to say it is not really religion that has gotten us to where we are. I agree with you, but, some people have manipulated religion to suit their purpose.
“Those insisting on restructuring do so because they know that there is something wrong with the state of Nigeria. Many times, Nigerians have come together to proffer solutions and the way forward for the country, but, after spending so much time and effort, nothing ever comes out of it. The recommendations are left to gather dust. How much longer shall we continue like this?
“Forgiveness is a virtue. Although I have the same temperament as my late friend, Tai Solarin, but, it is a national embarrassment that our president has refused to obey our laws. Citizens should not be the one to choose to obey laws.”
On his part, Nwodo said those campaigning against restructuring of Nigeria have painted an unfortunate and untrue picture.
He said: “The new model we propose for Nigeria recognises that revenue in the world, today, is promoted by two main sources namely, human capital development leveraging on technology to drive the critical sectors of the economy and agriculture. Nigeria beyond oil must contemplate the implementation of legislative independence to the federating units, sovereignty of mineral and oil resources to the federating units, a painstaking resolve to support all electoral processes and candidates that would bring about this change.”
Adebanjo said anyone who opposes restructuring is living in denial about the fragility of the country.
He said: “It is unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, do not understand each other as regards restructuring. I can understand the president’s predicament because education is necessary to comprehend what restructuring entails but, I do not know why the vice president, who is a professor of Law, does not know what it entails.
“How can the vice president say he wants devolution of powers, state police and the likes, yet, he says he does not understand what those who talk about restructuring want? If the man who is the president does not understand what restructuring is, because of his education deficiency, should the vice president not also know what it is?
“If you do not restructure, the country would break up. If you say that the unity of the country is non-negotiable, then, you do not have a choice than to restructure.”
But, Director General of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Yima Sen, who represented the convener, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, had a different view about restructuring.
He said: “As a group, NEF met several times with northern governors and northern traditional rulers over the issue of restructuring and discussions are still ongoing. But, one thing we have decided is that we are going to dialogue with our people and know what they want.
“Most often, the elite push an agenda because they think that is what those they are leading want and they usually do it out of pride and arrogance.
“We should be humble when pushing an agenda. We need to move from the level of sentiments to the scientific. It is important that, when such important issues are discussed, the elite should be humble enough to ask their people what they want and that is what we are doing.
“We are not going to decide for our people whether they want restructuring or not. We are going to ask them and listen to what they have to say.”
Chairman on the occasion, General Ike Nwachukwu, said even though the unity of the nation is sacrosanct and non-negotiable, the country cannot maximise its full potentials if it does not return to federating units.
“Although they were appointed by the government, they are responsible to the people of Nigeria.
To make INEC truly independent, there is the need to review the system of appointing its members.”