Northern leaders on Wednesday converged on Kaduna and declared that the region was not afraid of restructuring of the country as believed in some quarters.
Among the leaders who made the declaration at a two-day conference on ‘North and Future of the Nigerian Federation’ were the Sokoto State Governor and Chairman of Committee on Northern Governors Forum and Traditional Rulers, Aminu Tambuwal; and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. The conference held at the Arewa House in Kaduna.
The forum was organised by the Arewa Research and Development Project led by Dr. Usman Bugaje in collaboration with the Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation, Cope Group, Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Arewa Reawakening, Jam’iyar Mayan Arewa, Northern Elders Forum, and Forum for Northern Youths Organisations.
Tambuwal, who presided over the conference, stated that it was false to say that the region was against restructuring.
He said, “The idea that the North is against restructuring because it benefits most from the current state of things is patently false. The fact that some people continue to parrot such a lie only help to lend credence to the flawed argument.
“Let us be clear: the North wants restructuring as much as anyone else.”
He, however, added, “We do not easily jump on the bandwagon because we are always there for the long haul. We believe that any decision we take must be inclusive, respect procedures and processes so that the outcome is sustainable.”
Similarly, Atiku said the North would benefit more when the country was restructured.
The former Vice-President noted that his perception of ‘restructuring’ was the devolution of power, saying the Federal Government was too powerful.
Represented by Dr. Awwal Anwar, Atiku said the devolution of power would favour the North because of its landmass and population.
But Governor Nasir el-Rufai, represented by his deputy, Bala Bantex, said what was important should be how to reduce poverty.
On restructuring, he said, “The North is the elder brother and when we articulate our position, we should do so in a harmonious and amicable manner.”
The Arewa Consultative Forum deferred its contribution to the debate, saying “The ACF would publish its own position on restructuring.”
The ACF’s National Chairman and a former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, who articulated the group’s position, was represented by Bukar Zarma, the Pro- Chancellor and chairman of the Modibbo Adama University of Technology.
Other groups, which supported restructuring, were Jama’atu Nasir Islam led by the Sultan of Sokoto; and Northern States Christian Association of Nigeria.
Prof. Ango Abdullahi, a former Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University and leader of the Northern Elders Forum, however, differed.
Abdullahi said the issue of restructuring was being used by some sections of the country as a political tool to blackmail the region that had over the years sacrificed to keep the nation one.
He argued that Nigeria could break if the clamour for restructuring persisted.
“If we can’t go back to1914, we should go back to 1960 regional governance. North is not afraid of getting its North back just like those that want East and West. I see this as a political manoeuvre and the North will not take it,” Abdullahi said.
Although Abdullahi represented the NEF’s Chairman, Dr. Paul Unongo, he explained that the view he expressed was not that of the forum because “my chairman may have his own view on restructuring.
“Restructuring means so many things to many people; but to me, I am not speaking for Dr. Paul Unongo or the Northern Elders Forum. When I was confronted about this by people from the South, we sat with Prof. Ben Nwabueze and he said Nigeria was unbalanced and that Lugard made a mistake by amalgamation and North had always dominated. That’s why they asked for a national conference in 2014.
“We reminded him that the North had always sacrificed for the unity of Nigeria. I was a student when we got independence and we saw that each time there was the need to unite Nigeria, the North made the largest sacrifice.”
Bugaje in his speech noted that the call for restructuring was a symptom of poor leadership at various levels of governance over a period of time.”