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Northern govs, elders split over restructuring

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Northern govs, elders split over restructuring

Tambuwal: We want restructuring

Ango Abdullahi: Let’s go our separate ways

The move by the North to adopt a common stand on restructuring suffered a major setback yesterday as the leadership of the region failed to reach a consensus on the issue.

While the Committee of Northern States Governors’ Forum and Northern Traditional Leaders Council on Restructuring, led by Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, insists that the region is not against restructuring, chairman of Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Prof. Ango Abdullahi, declared that the North is ready for break-up.

Both leaders spoke at the opening of a two-day conference on “The North and the future of the Nigerian Federation” organised by the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) at Arewa House Auditorium, Kaduna.

The Tambuwal team recently inaugurated a technical committee to look at the issues surrounding the call for restructuring and get the aggregate views of the North and present same to the committee for use during the proposed town hall/public hearings across the 19 Northern states.

But the Sokoto State governor, who gave an indication of the type of restructuring the North is comfortable with, said: “If restructuring means taking stock of our arrangement to ensure that no state takes a disproportionate amount of the resources, or most of the available space in the education or job sector, or subjugate the others’ culture or religion, or lords it over the other so that the number of the poor and uneducated whose future is circumscribed by their circumstance is shared proportionately, then we are game.”

He described the belief in some quarters that the North is against restructuring because it benefits most from the current state of things as circumscribed and patently false.

According to him, the fact that some people continue to parrot such a lie only help to give credence to the flawed argument.

His words: “Let us be clear: The North wants restructuring as much as anyone else. However, as a people, we do not easily jump unto the bandwagon because we are always there for the long haul. We believe that any decision we take must be inclusive, and respect procedures and processes, so that the outcome is sustainable.

“We all want a country where there is peace and progress, where justice is a given, where all lives are safe and people can pursue their legitimate livelihoods wherever they choose. I believe each state in this country has areas of comparative advantage and life is a cycle, so that what was once the largest revenue earner can in time become less while something else takes ascendancy. As a country, we must look to the future and agree on what in the long run will benefit us all.”

But Abdullahi, a former vice chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, who said the North is not afraid of break-up, called for the country’s return to pre-1914 arrangement.

He said: “If we can’t go back to 1914, we should go back to 1960, regional governance. North is not afraid of getting its North back, just like those who want East and West.”

He described the call for restructuring as a political calculation, saying: “I see this as a political manoeuvre, but the North will not take it.”

He added that though restructuring means different things to different people, it will not make any difference because the problem of Nigeria is not really about structure, but the managers of the country.

His words: “Restructuring means so many things to many people, but to me, I am not speaking for Paul Unongo or NEF. When I was confronted about this by people from the South, we sat with Prof. Ben Nwabueze and he said Nigeria is unbalanced and that Lord Lugard made mistake by the amalgamation and that North has always dominated, that’s why they asked for National Conference in 2014.

“We reminded him that the North has always sacrificed for the unity of Nigeria. I was a student when we got independence and we saw that each time there was need to unite Nigeria, the North made the largest sacrifice.

“Now, we have 36 states from three regions which existed in 1960. No country has had constitutional conferences like Nigeria, yet it has not created basis for a united country. We ought to have realised from that, that the failure is of operators of the country. If we want to restructure Nigeria, we have to start from the beginning, 1914, North and South, let’s go our separate ways.”

He accused the South of bad blood, saying the clamour for restructuring is not new because it has always been an antecedent of the region whenever a northerner is in charge of leadership.

“Since assumption of the northern leadership, we have witnessed demands like they always occur whenever a northerner takes over leadership,” he said.

The conference, with theme: “The North and the Future of the Nigerian Federation,” is organised in collaboration with the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation.

Other groups participating in the event are the Northern Elders’ Forum, Northern Delegates’ Forum, Arewa Consultative Forum, CODE Group, Arewa Reawakening, Jam’iyar Matan Arewa and Northern Youth Organisations.

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