Why we must change the message of restructuring – Agbakoba


By Anayo Ezugwu

OLISA Agbakoba, SAN, has called on the proponents of restructuring to change the message of restructuring to accommodate the views of the north. He said the north will never support restructuring unless they understand what they stand to gain.

Speaking at the 16th Chief Gani Fawehinmi annual lecture and symposium in Lagos on Wednesday, January 16, Agbakoba said that the proponents of restructuring must convince the northern Nigeria that they would be the greatest beneficiary of a restructured Nigeria.

“We have to let the governors in the north know that restructuring will make them more powerful than ever, but that is not the message. The message of restructuring needs to change because we need to accommodate our northern brothers in order for the restructuring debate to work.

“Therefore, in order to deal with issues of restructuring, we must enter into the heads of our northern brothers. Mandela did that. He entered into the heads of those against the freedom of South Africa to understand their philosophy. Even Mandela in prison realized that military option will not solve the problems, and then he adopted what is called negotiated democracy. We need to lower the temperature of restructuring. We need to convince our northern brothers that restructuring will not breakup Nigeria.

“One of the features of federalism is that there is no single pattern of it. What you do is to look at the strength of the people and know what is suitable for them. In my opinion, we cannot have a central system of federalism. We have over 300 sub-nations in Nigeria with at least six major sub-nationalities, which late vice-president Alex Ekwueme rightly described as six geo-political zones.

“If those geo-political zones have been constitutionalised, we would not have a problem. So that is the challenge we face. How can we overcome and overturn Abdulsalami Abubakar’s 1999 constitution. I think we have played the game of restructuring wrong and I once had opportunities to talk to senior members of some ethnic groups and they didn’t like what I said. But I told them I will say it.

“And the reason is that we have to define the political evolution of Nigeria? Nigeria is not a liberal democracy. If Nigeria is not a liberal democracy, it might be difficult for those political elites to restructure Nigeria unless we are able to revolt. But it might be difficult for the political elites because they have nothing to gain.

“Why would they support restructuring or give up power? So we need to find a pragmatic way to deal with it. My take is that under the constitution given to us by Abdulsalami, there is enough space for our governors to do a lot more. For example, not a single governor has ever asked any Nigerian president to convoke a national police council. The appointment of Inspector General of Police under the constitution is not the sole prerogative of the president,” he said.

Agbakoba urged the lawyers in the country to write letters to all the state governors saying: “we know that you are handicapped, but if you look at the exclusive list of the constitution that set out 66 items and the concurrent that set out 30 items and then the residual that is silent, why don’t you use the powers conferred on you by the constitution.”

“At this point, the restructure argument will occur and we will now allow the governors to champion it. Again my position is that we have enough provisions in the 1999 constitution, illegal as it is to restructure Nigeria. It took about 50 years to get to 1952; it will take some time to get perfect regional constitution, which we all desire because I believe that if Nigeria can allow the possibility of the regions becoming economically autonomous, they will be powerful,” he said.

– Jan. 15, 2020 @ 17:05 GMT |

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