The controversy over restructuring of the Nigerian nation re-echoed on Thursday in Abuja as former President, Goodluck Jonathan, posited that it could not alone solve Nigeria’s problems which were plethora.
Jonathan introduced a fresh perspective to the debate when he advocated that restructuring would be meaningful only to the extent that such other issues as nepotism, ethnic and religious differences and lack of patriotism were first and foremost addressed.
This, he said, was to ensure that they did not recur in a restructured Nigerian system that would emerge from the process.
But the pathway to restructuring the country turned out to be the moot point on the occasion which was attended by stakeholders that included the immediate past President-General, Ohanaeze Ndi’Igbo, Chief John Nwodo, Afenifere Chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chairman, Arewa Consultative Forum, Chief Audu Ogbe, former National Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega and the Director of Publicity, Northern Elders Forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, among others.
It was the 18th edition of the Daily Trust Dialogue with the theme, “Restructuring: Why? When? How?” held in Abuja.
The former President, who was chairman of the occasion, declared that restructuring alone would not solve the multi-faced problems of the country.
He said he was opposed to the idea of a one-party state as well as a unitary system of government as a solution to ethnic and cultural diversity.
He said: “I believe that federalism and liberal multiparty democracy offer by far the best opportunities for good governance in our multi-ethnic nation.
“Discussion on restructuring will not help except we restructure our minds because some of the challenging issues at the national level still exist at the state and local levels.
“In some states, it is not easy for some persons to win an election because of the area they come from, the language they speak or their religious belief.
“Take a look at how local government elections are conducted at the state level. Why is it very difficult for an opposition party to win a chairmanship or councillorship seat in a state, despite the fact that the same party probably secured seats in the State Assembly and National Assembly elections, organized by a federal election management body?
“This shows that restructuring alone may not solve all the anomalies in the system. I believe that restructuring for a better nation is good, but there are other fundamental issues we should also address because we cannot restructure in isolation without tackling the challenges that polarize our nation such as nepotism, ethnic and religious differences as well as lack of patriotism.”
He said that the issues of tribe and religion had continued to limit the unity and progress of the nation, adding that “leadership is like giving care to a sick patient; if someone is ill, he will receive different phases of treatment regardless of which doctor is on duty until the patient recovers fully and is discharged. I think the same is applicable in nation building.
“Let me state for the records that I strongly oppose the philosophy and the idea of one party state as well as a unitary system of government as a solution to ethnic and cultural diversity. I believe that federalism and liberal multiparty democracy offer by far the best opportunities for good governance in our multi-ethnic nation.”
The former President said further that Rwanda was an example of a country that polarization along ethnic lines nearly destroyed, leading to extreme inter-ethnic hatred, anarchy, violence and killings, saying “today, Rwanda has stepped back from ethnic bigotry and divisions to a system that emphasizes national unity and leadership performance and patriotism.”
Jonathan further said “the point I am emphasising is that restructuring on Its own without love of country, national unity, unifying leadership and building of strong institutions and values may not take us to our destination.
“As leaders at different levels, we should encourage a healthy conversation on restructuring and reforms that stir national pride and love and faith of our citizens in our beloved country. Nigeria is still the greatest gift history has bestowed on us, with her huge potential for greatness, prosperity and happiness for all our people and future generations.
“Nigeria is a country of great men of intellect across the globe. We have arable land with abundant rain that grows almost everything. There are rich mineral resources buried under the soil across the entire landscape.
“We are a gateway to the Atlantic that habours the wealth of nations. There is no part of our country that has nothing to offer the nation, if we do things right. Let us nurture what we have for the good of all our people.
“Like every other nation, Nigeria is a project in progress and should confidently discuss her experiences and fashion out solutions to improve on her performance and the wellbeing of all citizens.
“We should all do our little best in our little comers to overcome the challenges we face, and work hard to reposition our country for a greater and more prosperous tomorrow for our children.
“This cannot be achieved without deliberate effort to promote national unity and love of country by all our leaders and citizens. We owe ourselves and the coming generations a duty to reduce the bile and embrace one another so that restructuring for a better and greater Nigeria can be meaningful and guarantee the nation’s economic development and citizen’s welfare.
“As a country, we have our peculiar challenges and we should device means of solving them. But we should not continue to vent our spleen on the amalgamation. AS Shakespeare in Julius Caesar said, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
A former National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Atahiru Jega described Nigeria as one of the worst models of political accommodation of diversity, as well as power and resource sharing in the world.
While saying there were no perfect federations or “true federalism” anywhere in the world, the former INEC boss said “every federation is a product of the dynamics of its historical evolution and inter-group (ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural, etc.) relations.”
He said: “However, the better the framework/structure for management of diversity, power and resource sharing is in a federation, the more stable, peaceful and socio-economically developed it would be.”
He said further that “for its stability, progress and development as a modern nation-state, Nigeria’s current federal structure needs refinement and improvement, or some form of what can be called restructuring.
“We need elite consensus to bring it about, and we need good democratic governance to nurture and entrench political accommodation of diversity, as well as equitable power and resources sharing.”
Jega proposed what he called a three-phased restructuring agenda which included a short term (2021-2023), medium term (2023-2027) and a long term (beyond 2027) restructuring agenda.