- Speaker not opposed to Southern governors’ position – Reps •NASS can’t be trusted to amend ‘fraudulent constitution’
- CNPP wants 2014 conference report implemented • Governors have limited power to tackle insecurity – Lalong
- Kogi gov: Buhari has restructured Nigeria
Senate President Ahmad Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday drew flak from several pressure groups and eminent Nigerians following their criticism of the Southern governors’ call for national dialogue and restructuring of the country.
The Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said it does not reckon with the National Assembly, in the first instance, as having the moral right to amend what it called the fraudulent 1999 constitution, while the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) described the statement by Lawan and Gbajabiamila as ridiculous and irrational.
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) wondered why the recommendations of previous constitutional conferences could not be adopted to address Nigeria’s problems, while Speaker Kunle Oluomo of the Ogun State House of Assembly said Lawan’s comment has exposed his “premeditated position” against the Asaba Declaration.
Human rights activist, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), said he does not see anything offensive in the governors’ position.
The two principal officers of the National Assembly had differed with the governors on their ‘Asaba Declaration’ with Lawan in particular challenging them to start restructuring from their states.
He told them to avoid what he branded regionalism.
Gbajabiamila, on his part, said: “If truth be told, we all have equal shares in the blame for what is happening today.”
But he seemed to have made a U-turn yesterday after the spokesman for the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, said the Green Chamber and its Speaker are not opposed to the call by the Southern Governors for the restructuring of the country and the need to convene a national dialogue.
Speaking yesterday at the end of a meeting of Afenifere at his Ogbo country home in Odogbolu Local Government Area of Ogun State, the acting leader of the group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to prioritise restructuring of the country ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Restructuring, according to him, is the only factor capable of guaranteeing the continued unity of Nigeria, warning that if the flawed and lopsided federal system being practiced today persists amid cacophony of agitations, the constituent parts may have no option but to demand “to thy tent oh Israel.”
Chief Adebanjo said: “We urge Buhari to bury the idea of holding election before returning to federalism by restructuring the country.
“There must be a country before elections are held. It would be patriotic of him to heed this advice.
“If Gen. Buhari is sincere about keeping the country together, he must restructure the country now. This is the only answer to halt the disintegration of the country. To save Nigeria, restructure the country now.
“It is mischievous for President Buhari’s government to accuse advocates of restructuring as secessionists and separatists. It is the system that our founding fathers, the Saudarna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmad Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe agreed to before the British government granted us independence in 1960, after the collapse of Macpherson constitution in 1953.
“The clamour for the return of the country to federalism is borne out of the obnoxious provisions in the constitution which have made economic and political progress impossible, and this has been the main cause of instability in the country.
“Our resolve for the restructure of the country back to federalism is unshakeable. We assert we are no secessionist. It is those who oppose restructuring that are enemies of a United Nigeria; that all opponents of restructuring give impetus to secessionists.
“We do not believe in the National Assembly which is a product of this fraudulent constitution to amend the constitution. It is immoral and illogical for a product of fraud to amend the fraud.
“The Yoruba people are the only ethnic group that has never called for secession. We have invested in a united Nigeria that we will resist any act that will lead to its break up. We will be in Nigeria as equal partners in a federal Nigeria. A Nigeria in which we will play a second fiddle is most unacceptable.
“Therefore, our irreducible minimum condition of staying in Nigeria is a restructured Nigeria. Anything short of that is ‘to thy tent, oh Israel’. The unity of horse and the rider in which a section of the country is the rider and we the horse is most unacceptable.”
He also expressed support for the prohibition of open grazing of cattle.
PANDEF: Lawan’s, Gbajabiamila’s comments ridiculous
National Publicity Secretary of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Hon Ken Robinson, speaking to The Nation on the phone yesterday, called the statements by Lawan and Gbajabiamila ridiculous and irrational.
He said: “There is a constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is lopsided. They can afford to make this kind of statement because the National Assembly itself is lopsided against southern Nigeria with all the ridiculous numbers they post.
“It is unfortunate and that is how bad the situation is; that those who should say the truth will choose to call black white. And that is why Nigeria is how it is.
”The National Assembly has failed to carry out its oversight functions, and that is why we are having the issues we are having.
“They claim that they are having a constitutional review and then the Speaker and the Senate President are making this kind of ridiculous and irrational statements. They spoke like ordinary people on the street who are not sensitive to the situation in the country.
“We are greatly disappointed in their statements. I think they need to apologise to the governors and the people of southern Nigeria.”
What is wrong with previous confab resolutions and recommendations? -CNPP
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) called for the implementation of the recommendations of previous constitutional conferences to address Nigeria’s problems.
The Secretary-General of the group, Chief Willy Ezugwu, in a statement, faulted the Southern governors’ position on a fresh national dialogue.
He said: “Their call for a national confab is faulty as the recommendations from past national dialogues are accumulating dust and should be put to use by the National Assembly as there are no new issues in the country that have not been discussed at earlier national confabs.
“But, unfortunately, the current leadership of the National Assembly has remained the worst rubber stamp principal officers ever.
“Obasanjo’s national dialogue, the PRONACO people’s confab by the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, and Jonathan’s 2014 confab all have recommendations which addressed our current challenges, among others.
“If Nigeria had implemented the recommendations of the 2014 confab, there would have been a state police today and we would have had a part-time legislature, among others.
“That would have nipped in the bud current restiveness and agitations across the country, including the ongoing deafening insecurity.
”Why have Nigerian political elites continued to postpone the doomsday?
”The earlier we wake up and confront our fears, the better too for us all.”
Senate President’s reaction exposes his premeditated position, says Ogun Speaker
Speaker Kunle Oluomo of the Ogun State House of Assembly expressed shock at Lawan’s comment, which he said betrayed the Senate President’s premeditated position on the ‘Asaba Declaration’.
Speaking in an interview yesterday in Abeokuta, Oluomo accussed Lawan of insincerity.
”If Senator Lawan is very sincere about amending the constitution to suit the exigencies of this time, I don’t expect him to fire back at the governors for airing out the opinion of the people,” he said.
He added:”This is about the first-time in the history of the country when the governors of the southern part of Nigeria or any governor whatsoever would come out openly on this matter and align themselves with the request and demand of their people, and I don’t know when emphasising or airing what your people want becomes a crime in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Almost everybody in the country has been agitating for restructuring since we don’t know how we came together in 1914. What is wrong in all of us sitting together and rearranging our union? When has it become a crime in the Constitution of Nigeria to say the mind of those who elected you?
“More so, the Southern Governors emphasised that they prefer one united Nigeria. Therefore, since they have said they believe in one Nigeria, all we need to do is to restructure, devolve power to the federating states, consider appropriate role for local governments and traditional rulers in a way that would bring peace and expected unity to this country.
“So, I don’t now understand what prompted such reaction from the Senate President. It shows that he has a pre-meditated mind, otherwise, what he’s supposed to do is to collate the ideas, the thinking, the agitations and opinions of the generality of Nigerians, particularly those who are elected by the people to represent the, and make the National Assembly work towards achieving that goal instead of condemning them.”
I see nothing offensive in what the Southern governors said – Agbakoba
Senior lawyer and human rights activist, Olisa Agbakoba, is in support of the southern governors, saying: “I don’t see anything so offensive in what the Southern governors said.
“This is so because all they said was that we are the governors of our states but we do not control the security situation. So, we cannot stop insecurity in our states except there is state police. I think that makes sense.
“But on the part of the Senate President, unfortunately, he just gave a general disagreement of what the governors did or said. He did not give reasons. So, it becomes difficult to understand what he is particularly concerned about what they said.”
On Lawan’s accusation that the governors retreated to regionalism to address a national issue that should be collectively decided upon, Agbokoba said, “even if that is what he said, that is only a view from a group. There are many groups in Nigeria: APC, PDP, ethnic nationalities, civil societies, religious, traditional group, etc. If we are really sincere about resolving Nigeria’s problem, then all of these groups will have a say, and that’s why we had past national conferences.
“But today, another national conference or dialogue, as the governors called it, might not be helpful because we have had so many.
“It is not necessary because we had five before and those five produced very tangible results, but nobody implemented them.
“The thing we need to do is to agree we have a problem. Then the next question is how do we resolve the problem?
“All that the governors did, in my view, was to say part of how to resolve Nigeria’s problem is to create state police. That brings up the issues of restructuring, devolution of powers or regionalism.
”The other question to ask is should Nigeria continue with the current political arrangement? These are the questions that I think all Nigerian political leaders need to seriously answer.
“Should Nigeria continue the way it is? I don’t think so, because even the APC itself has accepted that Nigeria is too centrally governed; that power needs to come from the centre to the regions. So, I don’t see the strong statements the governors made that made the Senate President to take offence. “
Lawan missed the point -Okorie
All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, Checkwas Okorie, said the Senate President and the House of Reps Speaker missed the point when they pushed the issue of restructuring back to the governors.
He said: ”This constitution has not been structured in a manner that will promote federalism and promote growth and promote the exploitation and the exploration of our various relative advantages.
We are now compelled to wait for the federal government to give direction in every little thing. Things that are not supposed to be controlled by the centre are being controlled by the centre, and that was the point the governors were making in terms of restructuring.
“I would rather expect the National Assembly which, in the absence of a national conference which has the major responsibility, to amend our constitution in a manner that we would have a better federation than we have now.
“The fact that the National Assembly has not been able to achieve this for its 7th, 8th, and 9th assembly, it should be their major concern. They should not be the ones coming out to shift responsibility for a better structure of Nigeria to governors. These governors were not speaking for themselves. They were speaking for those they govern.”
He added: “When you go to the north, most of the states don’t see the need for restructuring. That is why the committee of the APC, the ruling party, headed by El’Rufai, made far reaching recommendations on devolution of power and other fiscal issues that also border on restructuring.
“This recommendation is before the National Assembly. Instead of the leaders of the two houses given the opportunity they have to assure Nigerians that they are doing something about the recommendations for a better federation, they are busy trying to provoke the 17 governors. They should come out to explain what they mean or be humble enough to apologise.”
Reps: Gbajabiamila not opposed to Southern Governors’ position on restructuring
However, the leadership of the House of Representatives yesterday rallied in defence of Speaker Gbajabiamila and said neither him nor the House is opposed to the call by Southern Governors for the restructuring of the country and the need to convene a national dialogue.
Spokesman of the House, Rep. Benjamin Kalu, said in a statement in Abuja that the Speaker and the current House have shown commitment to the total review of the 1999 constitution to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the generality of Nigerians.
Reproducing what he said was the accurate reproduction of the statements made by the Speaker, he said: “This is not a time for name-calling or blaming one person or the other. If truth be told, we all have equal shares in the blame. And whatever challenges we have, we all must come together.
“In the same way we all have equal shares, we must all come together to make sure that we resolve whatever issues there are.
“Like I said earlier, the greatest nations have gone through challenges worse than this and I believe that it is that spirit of oneness and that spirit of togetherness and unity and love that will take us through this.
“You know sometimes there are many things that people have said here and there and you never know where these things are coming from. Sometimes God even puts you through challenges so that you can come out of it stronger, bigger, better, bolder.
“That’s what I believe is gonna happen to Nigeria. We’re all put together in this one geographical space for a reason. It wasn’t by happenstance or coincidence or by chance. It was ordained by Almighty God and He doesn’t make mistakes, He doesn’t go wrong. What He decrees is what will be and I believe He put us all together.
“No matter your religion, no matter your ethnicity, talking about over 250 ethnic groups in one country, it is that diversity that God had foreseen that I believe we should tap into as Nigerians. I have belief in the Nigerian resilience and in the Nigerian spirit; and in the spirit of Ramadan, we must continue to pray.”
Kalu then said: “It is clear to objective reason that nothing in the above statement opposes the Southern Governors’ call for restructuring. Indeed, from the beginning of the 9th Assembly, the House under the leadership of Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has reiterated its commitment to a thorough review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as can be seen by the composition and activities of the Constitutional Review Committee of the House.”
Governors have limited power to tackle insecurity, says Lalong
Contributing to the debate on the present structure of the country, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State said yesterday that there is a limit to what state governors can do about insecurity in the country.
The governors, according to him, lack full authority over the security operatives in their states.
He spoke during the Good Morning Nigeria programme on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA).
He said even though the constitution makes the governors the chief security officers of their states, there is a limit to the orders they can give security personnel.
Lalong asked the National Assembly to intervene, adding that the federal lawmakers have a role to play in ensuring that governors are empowered to tackle insecurity.
“We have also cried and said the constitution provides that we (the governors) are chief security officers in our state,” he said.
“But there are limits to what we can do; the command that we do. If I am the general officer commanding, I should be the general officer commanding; not the general officer that will command and the person you command will say I need to get command from somewhere. All these are very important.”
Bello to Southern govs: Buhari has restructured Nigeria
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State said yesterday that his southern counterparts were wrong to ask for the restructuring of Nigeria as, according to him, President Muhammadu Buhari has already done so by granting judicial, legislative and local government autonomy, amongst others.
“When we talk about restructuring or the various demands or resolutions put across by my colleagues from the South, they are quite germane and they are entitled to their opinions, and I so respect it.
“But when it is titled or when it appears as if you are fighting President Muhammadu Buhari, our father and our President, we are all getting it wrong because we get to where we are today as a result of maladministration of successive administrations,” Bello said on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme.
He cautioned leaders “across board, including governors and all of the leaders across Nigeria, that we should be careful about the words we use. When we are talking of security, unity and national cohesion of Nigeria, as leaders and politicians, we should be careful about the words we use when we are addressing these various topical issues.”