Leaders of the three geopolitical zones– South West, South East and South South– under the aegis of Southern Leaders’ Forum on Sunday urged governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to expedite action on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 national conference.
It would be recalled that APC governors under the umbrella of Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) had called for restructuring of Nigeria which they said can address problems of agitations and ethnic-based tensions in the country.
The governors, who condemned the October 1 ultimatum issued to Igbos by some northern youth leaders to leave the North, equally condemned several inciting comments made by other Nigerians in response to the ultimatum.
The governors observed that the failure of leadership at all levels over the years and perhaps the outcome of the 2015 general elections aggravated ethnic nationalism and extremist positions by Nigerians across the divide.
Walking The Talk
In a statement titled ‘APC Governors on Nigeria in Crisis: Quo Vadis?’ and signed by Yinka Odumakin on behalf of the South West; Bassey Henshaw for South South and Okey Anieyiagu for the South East, the Southern leaders said the APC governors must move beyond the mere talk of restructuring but must take practical steps towards ensuring that Nigeria does not disintegrate.
According to the Southern leaders, to save Nigeria from further drift, urgent steps need to be taken to restore Nigeria to pre-1966 constitutional arrangements.
“The attention of Southern Leaders’ Forum has been drawn to the communiqué by the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) on the nationhood crisis bedeviling Nigeria, which culminated in a quit order to South Easterners living in the North to leave by 1st October 2017.
“This order was issued by the Arewa youths, apparently claiming to speak for the North. We commend the governors for speaking out at this critical time and for repeating what patriotic Nigerians have been saying: which is that the current structure of Nigeria is not working.
“We quote the APC governors: ‘Reforming Nigeria’s federal system: It appears that demands framed by different groups in terms of political restructuring or ‘true federalism’ can be met through adjustment in Nigeria’s federal system. Although such adjustment will not, on its own, address the root and branch of Nigeria’s challenges, it is worth pursuing in order to meet the demands of various Nigerian groups. The focus of this restructuring is to restore the principle of non-centralisation of power in the country’s federal arrangement being the defining element of a federal polity. There are options to consider in this regard.”
Review Of The Revenue Sharing Formula
“To achieve this objective, the governors suggested a review of ‘the long exclusive list in the 1999 constitution’ to allow for the transfer of several items to the concurrent legislative list, to enable states, which are the nodal points of development, to legislate on them. The PGF also called for the review of the revenue sharing formula between the Federal Government and the federating units.
“The PGF added, ‘However, alongside the imperative of political and fiscal decentralisation, contiguous states can pool resources to address common development challenges and embark on projects that can have maximum effect and efficiency through their endeavours.”
They stressed that these could only be made possible if the nation was allowed to remain as one indivisible entity.
“Southern Leaders Forum could not agree more with the PGF and wishes to state that we accept that Nigeria should remain an indivisible entity but the terms must be right for all the constituent units of Nigeria to have a feeling of inclusiveness and acceptance so that we can live together in peace and harmony with all groups pursuing their happiness according to their aspirations”, the statement noted.
In the same vein, “we note the observation by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo that ‘we have agreed to live together’ with the observation that the decision was made by British amalgamation. It is unfortunate, however, that we have not been allowed to move beyond amalgamation to integration by fashioning the framework necessary for peaceful co-existence in a multi-ethnic country.
“We obviously cannot in all honesty say our ‘agreement’ to live together has terms such as herdsmen terrorising farmers or cows chasing pupils out of their classrooms. Neither does it involve the palpable injustices built into the union to make some sections of the country subservient to the other through the politics of exclusion, command and conquest that characterise our union presently.
“The acting president has also been quoted in his address at Jaji to have said, ‘When you hear a person saying that my tribe has been marginalised, usually what he is saying is appoint me. The ethnic card is an effective bargaining tool.’ There is no doubt that many of our people from North to South and from East to West have depended on the ethnic crutch in pursuing their personal agenda.
Autonomy And Self-Determination For All The Constituent Units
While reiterating its earlier stance on autonomy and self-determination for the regions, the Southern leaders said, “Again, it is precisely for this reason that the Southern Leaders’ Forum like the vast majority of patriotic Nigerians has been speaking out in favour of autonomy and self-determination for all the constituent units of Nigeria; so that each can take its destiny and those of its people into its hands to manage its affairs, develop and pursue the aspirations of its people at its own pace.
“This is why while we appreciate the fence-mending measures of the acting president and the proclamations of the APC governors we want to see them move beyond the same rhetoric Nigerians have been hearing for so long into practical actions as leaders of our people.
“We want to call the attention of the acting president and the APC governors to: “Initiate action to amend our constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true federalism and federal spirit.
“We want to see the acting president and the governors leading the way by taking concrete steps to facilitate the implementation of this all-important promise to arrest the continuing drift to the edge of the precipice at this critical juncture in the life of Nigeria”.
Continuing, the leaders said, “To facilitate action, we wish to draw the attention of the acting president and the governors to some vital recommendations contained in the 2014 national conference report. These include, but are not limited to: 1. Equity in the number of states per geopolitical zone with the states remaining as federating units. 2. Greater autonomy for the states including their individual constitutions, police and freedoms to manage their affairs and resources and to cooperate or even amalgamate if they so choose. 3. Devolution of more powers and resources to the states to allow them develop at their own pace.
“We do not think we need to impress on these leaders at this point that time is running out for the polity and concrete and urgent steps have to be taken to save the Republic not by mere platitudes but proactive measures towards building an inclusive country along federal line.
“In the language of precision: urgent steps have to be taken to restore Nigeria to pre-1966 constitutional arrangements to stop the drift in the land. To this end, we strongly recommend a meeting between the governors, National Assembly leadership and leaders of ethnic nationalities in the six geopolitical zones to agree on the critical areas of 2014 national conference that need to be incorporated into the constitutional amendment so as to move Nigeria forward in concrete terms and to demonstrate that the governors are ready to walk the talk”, the statement said.