Restructuring: Ohanaeze, NEF, INC Backs Return to Regional Governance

. Lawyers express mixed reaction, blame leadership

 By Olumide Olusegun, Funmi Ojo, Taiwo Niyi

The clamor for regional governance in Nigeria has gained momentum, with prominent socio-cultural groups such as Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Northern Elders Forum, and Ijaw National Congress (INC) advocating for the restructuring of the country.

In separate interviews with NATIONAL TELESCOPE, spokespersons of these groups emphasised the need for a more structured Nigerian state where each region would have control over its resources and governance.

The socio-cultural groups stress the urgency of addressing the nation’s governance structure to ensure fairness, equity, and stability for all Nigerians.

Dr Alex Ogbonnia, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, highlighted the importance of true federalism, advocating for semi-autonomous federating units with authority over revenue, expenditure, and security.

He stressed the necessity of a federal structure in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria, emphasizing its importance for equitable governance.

“The essential is not one rule like the 1963 constitution. What is important is the kernel of the constitution. The very kernel of that constitution is talking about, a kind of restructured Nigerian state. That is almost semi-autonomous federating units. What you call true federalism.

“There is a need for true federalism. A kind of autonomous federating unit where each unit will have authority over the revenue and the expenditure profile. Where they will have the authority to harness the resources and pay a percentage of tax to the center. Where they have the opportunity to develop in their own space. Inter-governmental, inter-regional relations. Where they have the authority to bring their police security agency.

“In a multi-ethnic society such as Nigeria, there is no way to govern the country without a federal structure. So, the country is now a more inter-ethnic structure. It’s not an advantage to anybody.”

Similarly, Chief Ezonebi Oyakemeagbegha, the National Publicity Secretary of INC, called for a return to the 1963 constitution, describing the current 1999 constitution as imposed and enslaving.

He urged President Bola Tinubu to take urgent steps to revert to the 1963 constitution to prevent imminent chaos.

He emphasised the need to empower states to control their resources and abolish subsequent constitutions that deviate from the principles of the 1963 constitution.

“We strongly believe that in the nearest time, there will be a call for the abolition of the 1993 constitution, which was rudely and forcibly introduced to the Nigerian people. Particularly to enslave the Niger Delta people, where their God-given resources and wealth are taken away. 

“We call for the reintroduction of the 1963 constitution, which is the presidential system of government, where states are empowered to control their resources and pay tax to the Federal Government. We have deviated from these ideal norms and derailed them. All constitutions after 1963 should be abolished. Nobody changes a winning team.”

“The 1963 constitution was winning. Where the minorities and the majorities were carried along respectively. Free of oppression of the minority. All the recognised regions were carried along. 

“We can revert and take the right route instead of continuing en route to lead us to doom. It’s never too late to correct our mistakes instead of continuing with these mistakes. 

Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, the Spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum, acknowledged the necessity of restructuring but cautioned against breakaway, citing the diverse nature of Nigeria. He emphasized the importance of dialogue, compromise, and inclusivity in finding a lasting solution to the country’s political challenges.

“I believe that while restructuring may be necessary to address some of the existing challenges in the country, breakaway is not the ideal solution. It is important to remember that Nigeria is a diverse country with different ethnic groups and cultures, and breaking away would only lead to further division and instability.

“Instead, I think that a combination of dialogue, compromise, and inclusivity is key to finding a lasting solution to the current political crisis. It is important for all stakeholders to come together and discuss how to move forward in a way that benefits all Nigerians, regardless of their ethnic or regional background,” he said

Lawyers express mixed reaction

Reacting, a legal practitioner, Barrister Omotayo Ishola advocated for a rework of the 1963 constitution, emphasising the importance of physical autonomy, particularly regarding revenue sharing.

He highlighted the principle of derivation embedded in the 1963 constitution, where revenue was based on the resources of each region.

Ishola suggested incorporating a similar derivation principle into the current constitution to move towards confederalism.

He said, “In my view, I think the rework of the 1963 constitution is in order. Whereby, there shall be provision of physical autonomy, particularly on the revenue sharing formula.

“You see the principle of 1963, the revenue was based on derivation. There was no west at that time that was able to develop from cocoa, the eastern region followed with palm produce, while the northern region was cotton.

“If we can do that kind of derivation to be embedded in our constitution. Then, certainly, we will be working into confederalism.”

However, on his part, Barrister Olasunkanmi Olorunnisola urged caution, emphasising the importance of understanding the country’s history and goals before rushing into constitutional changes.

He believes that Nigeria’s current challenges stem more from leadership and values than from the constitution itself.

Olorunnisola emphasised the need for effective leadership and societal values to achieve a better society and country for all citizens.

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