President Muhammadu Buhari has come under severe criticisms for condemning advocates of restructuring of the country. Mr Buhari was reported to have said those agitating for restructuring and secession were not only naive, but “mischievously dangerous”.
The statement was made through the Executive Secretary, Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, Mohammed Shehu, in Zaria, at the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation on Saturday.
“The other issue is that those who are calling for restructuring and conference on what they call ethnic nationality, if you go to Southern Kaduna, Taraba, who is to represent them? We have different combinations of ethnicities in many states. Even Kano and Kaduna Igbo have properties. The same goes with Yorubas.”
“There are Fulani in Port Harcourt. So those calling for separation or restructuring, some of them I will say are very naive or even mischievously dangerous. Those agitating for restructuring are ignorant of war and its consequences because Nigeria is a dominant force in west Africa. There is no government in the world that will cede their authority to the people that are not elected,” the President said through Shehu.
Recall that a human rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, attacked Mr Buhari over his comments, saying “Buhari erroneously believes that the problem of Nigeria is how to make Local Governments functional and the Judiciary independent. As important as these are, President Buhari has merely seen the smaller picture, rather than the larger picture, as President of a hemorrhaging country yearning for urgent rescue. So, for those Nigerians who had heaved a little sight of relief last week on the little tokenism conceded by Buhari ,I sympathise with you.”
In a related development, the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Middle Belt forum have knocked Mr Buhari.
The Secretary General of Afenifere, Chief Sola Ebiseni, said “from what I read in the papers, the fellow to whom this statement is credited is one Executive Secretary, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu, who presides over the sharing of the revenue of the federation to which his state probably contributes nothing. How else can he impress his principal than tell him what would soothe his sectional and sectarian ego?
“The elected governors of the constituent states of the federation, the leaders of the entrenched federating ethnic nationalities, former leaders, presidents and knowledgeable personalities are all calling for the restructuring of the political architecture to reinvent the foundational federal principles of the polity and here you find an opportunistic official heading an office which had no place in a true federal state, talking down on the nation.”
“State governments are demanding the powers to establish State Police to deal with insecurity and prominent traditional rulers, especially emirs, have called on their people to rise in their own defence and some uninformed government officials are threatening us with war if we seek restructuring or self-determination. It is so nauseating.”
“In any event, restructuring of the political architecture of the country in the interest of the people, their security and general wellbeing is not going to be at the pleasure of the President or the whims and caprices of his uncouth officials,” the Afenifere argued.
Also, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) president, Bitrus Pogu said no amount of threats will stop genuine agitations.
“Mr President’s threat cannot stop what is right; many things are wrong in this country. The government is becoming more and more autocratic. Things that are supposed to be handled by states are being by the federal government. There’s confusion everywhere. The directive by the president on the cattle routes, which were done by the colonial and the Northern regional government is another confusion we are talking about. If there’s anyone that is confused, I think he is the one not those clamouring for restructuring and devolution of power.”
“Those clamouring for the restructuring of the country, devolution of power which is part of the component of restructuring, are people who love Nigeria; people who want the country to work; people who want agitation for secession to stop; who want transparency in governance; people who want electoral processes devoid of rigging. ”
“If he thinks people who are advocating for restructuring are confused, I think he is the one that is confused because Nigeria cannot remain the same. The way it is now can lead to its dismemberment.”
In addition, the national chairman PANDEF, Emmanuel Ibokessien, asked that “What is it that we are ignorant about: restructuring?”
“The position of PANDEF is that Nigeria must be restructured along the path of true federalism. Powers must be devolved to states and resources controlled with percentage shared to the centre. Anything outside that is a total misnomer because, as I always say, if we fail to restructure now, Nigeria will restructure itself later,” he said.