Leader of the apex Igbo socio-cultural group in Nigeria, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, John Nwodo, has maintained that restructuring remains the only way forward for Nigeria.
He faulted the belief in some quarters that the north would be doomed if the country was restructured.
He stressed that rather, the North, with right agricultural policies, would be the richest part of the country, if Nigeria is eventually restructured.
Nwodo made these submissions when he spoke yesterday at the Chatham House, in London, where he delivered a paper on “Next Generation Nigeria: Accountability and national cohesion,” at an event put together by the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
According to him, “The example of Netherlands in Agriculture is also relevant here. The Netherlands is the 18th largest economy in the world. It has a land area of about 33.9,000 square kilometres. Niger State, one of Nigeria’s 37 administrative units has about 74,000 square kilometres. Netherlands earns over $100 billion from agricultural exports annually, contributed mainly by vegetables and dairy. Nigeria’s oil revenue has never, in any one year, reached $100 billion. Northern Nigeria is the most endowed agriculturally in the entire country. Its tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, cucumbers, tubers, grains, livestock and dairy feed the majority of Nigerians in spite of its huge reserve of unexploited export potentials. In a restructured Nigeria, the North, with the right agricultural policies, will be the richest part of Nigeria,” he said.
He also frowned at the designation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group by the Federal Government, saying that they were the most loyal ethnic group in the country.
He added, “We invest and contribute to the economic and social life of the committees wherever we live. We are proudly Christians, but very accommodating of our brothers of other religious persuasions. We are grossly marginalised and still treated by the federal government as second-class citizens. No Igboman, for instance, heads any security arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Our area is the most heavily policed as if there was a deliberate policy to intimidate us and hold us down,” he added.
“Our present constitution was written at a time of unprecedented increase in national revenue, following the massive discovery of oil in Nigeria and its global reliance as a source of fuel for mechanical machines. It had, as its centre piece, the distribution of national revenue and national offices, using states and local governments as units for division. It constructed a federation in name, but a unitary government in practice, following the pattern enunciated in 1966 from the inception of military administration in Nigeria,” he said.
He also came hard on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for dilly-dallying over the issue of restructuring, which “it willingly promised Nigerians during the electioneering in 2015”, just as he insisted that the continued neglect of the 2014 National Conference report would spell doom for Nigeria.
“To achieve a national consensus on this subject requires a national discussion; regrettably, the ruling party, APC, which promised restructuring in its manifesto, after two years and four months in office, is still appointing a committee to define what sort of restructuring it wants for Nigeria. To make matters worse, none of the other political parties have come up with any clear-cut route for achieving a consensus on this matter.
“The National Assembly itself is a reflection of the deep ethnic divisions in the country, and the Northern majority conferred on it by the military makes it highly unacceptable to Southern Nigeria. Recent resolutions made by it on devolution of powers have not helped the situation. Happily, the Senate President has promised to revisit the subject matter.
“The only hope for change in Nigeria today is the rising call for restructuring pioneered by the Southern leadership forum, supported lately by ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, former President Ibrahim Babangida and leaders of the Middle belt, including Dan Suleiman and Prof. Jerry Gana.
“Our expectation is that now that our president is fully recovered and back to work, he should address the situation by constituting a nationwide conversation of all ethnic nationalities to look into the 2014 National Conference report and the trending views on this subject matter so as to come up with a consensus proposal that the national and state assemblies will be persuaded to adopt. To continue to neglect a resolution of this impasse will spell doom for our dear country,” Nwodo, added.