The move by the North to adopt a common stand on restructuring, suffered a major setback on Wednesday, as the leadership of the region failed to reach a consensus on the issue.
This came as the Committee of Northern States Governors Forum, and Northern Traditional Leaders Council on Restructuring, led by the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, insisted that the region is not against restructuring, while the 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.
Tambuwal 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 added: “Let us be clear: The North wants to restructure 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.”
However, Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, who said the North is not afraid of a break-up, called for the country’s return to the pre-1914 arrangement.
He said: “If we cannot 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 is 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 the 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 us 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.