Abuja and Kaduna — Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Wednesday dismissed the widely held perception that the North was opposed to restructuring because it is the biggest beneficiary of the current socio-political and economic structure in the country.
Tambuwal spoke at a two-day conference on "The North and Future of the Nigerian Federation", organised by the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) in Kaduna.
However, his position went against the grain of his colleagues such as the Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, and his Katsina State counterpart, Bello Masari, among others, who had at a recent zonal meeting organised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on Restructuring, opposed the clamour for the restructuring of the country, saying that they were in favour of a fair and equitable Nigeria but not any arrangement that would lead to the alteration of the socio-political structure of the country.
Tambuwal's remark came just as the Kaduna State governor and chairman of the restructuring committee of the APC, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, faulted the clamour for more states as a means of addressing perceived geopolitical imbalance in the country.
The Sokoto governor, who was the chairman of the occasion, said the North wants restructuring as much as any section of the country, stressing however that as a people, the region would not jump on to the bandwagon of agitations without ensuring that any action taken was inclusive with due respect to procedures and processes that will sustain the outcome.
"Therefore, the idea that the North is against restructuring because it benefits the most from the current state of things is circumscribed and patently false.
"The fact that some people continue to parrot such a lie only helps to give credence to the flawed argument. Let us be clear: the North wants restructuring as much as anyone else.
"However, as a people, we do not easily jump on to 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.
"I think we should first, as a country, agree on a mutual definition of the term restructuring. In my view, 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," Tambuwal said.
According to him, "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 so while something else takes ascendancy."
He noted that Nigerians must look to the future and agree on what in the long run would benefit all citizens.
Tambuwal said only recently, the Northern States Governors' Forum (NSGF) and Northern Traditional Leaders Council Committee on the Restructuring of the Nigerian Federation which he chairs, inaugurated a technical committee to look at the issues surrounding the calls for restructuring and get the aggregate views of the North and present same to his committee for use during the proposed town hall/public hearings across the 19 Northern states.
However, the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and a former Vice-Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, declared that the North could not be stampeded into agreeing to what it is not prepared for.
According to him, all the agitations for restructuring were being propagated to blackmail the North.
"The West and East want regions, so be it! We are not opposing that and we are not afraid of regional government.
"But I see all these agitations as politics of blackmail against the North. No one should stampede us into agreeing to what we are not prepared for.
"We are ready to go our separate ways, but it is better to stay together," Abdullahi said.
But as Tambuwal and Abdullahi made their positions known, el-Rufai again faulted the clamour for the creation of additional states as a means of addressing the perceived imbalance in the country.
He said such agitation amounted to enthroning injustice and was akin to seeking to make unequal parts equal in a country that has an unequal population and resource distribution.
Speaking at a special public hearing organised for the youth members of the APC on restructuring in Abuja Wednesday, el-Rufai also faulted the demand for resource control, saying that those behind it were not considering the interest of the entire country.
However, the event fell short of expectations in terms of attendance, as not many youths showed up at the event.
"The greatest injustice is trying to make equal, unequal and unequal equal, things are not done like that. What do I mean by that: there are those who have said that Nigeria and Unites States of America are the same.
"It is just like saying everyone who is six feet, five inches can play basketball. As human beings we are equal but you cannot come and stand here and say we should create nine states in each zone.
"Nigeria is not equal likewise the population and resources so you cannot do that," he said.
On the clamour for the restructuring of the country, el-Rufai said that any arrangement that does not factor in the National Assembly, with members of the Senate playing a key role in the process, was bound to fail.
He also cautioned those pushing for a separatist agenda and resource control to note that they may have serious hurdles to scale at the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly, except they broadened their proposals to address the concerns of other parts of the country.
"For those agitating for restructuring, there is a constitutional way for doing it. The National Assembly, including the Senate, which cannot be abolished, is the final hope, for that is where the vote lies. We have a constitutional order, a due process.
"To amend the constitution and correct many of the things we are proposing, at least 24 state Houses of Assembly have to approve it; at the National Assembly, the majority in the Senate will always win the vote.
"I think one of the mistakes we are making about restructuring is that everyone thinks of his own and no one thinks of the entire country.
"But what we should be thinking of is how does this advance the overall interest of Nigeria, because everyone is thinking about his own and no one is thinking of the interest of the country and that is what is happening presently.
"Let us think about the interest of Nigeria first before we think of our own interest.
"Now, some people say because we have oil, let us have resource control. But we must think of what is in the overall interest of Nigeria.
"By that, I mean what works for everyone. Because what works for one part of the county will not necessarily work for the other and so as long as we are from one country we must seek for what is for the common good not the one that serves one interest group.
"You don't do things like that, you will get it wrong. Otherwise, you will continue to have arguments and there will be no consensus.
"You cannot just say that your state is producing oil and you want resource control, because you have to pass such amendments through the National Assembly and all the states that have no oil are more in number than those that have oil and so they will vote it down.
"So you had better start thinking about something that works for the entire country not just you," he explained.
El-Rufai also spoke on the plans being put in place to hold transparent local government elections in Kaduna State.
He disclosed that so far the state government has spent N4 billion to purchase electronic voting equipment which will be deployed for the council polls.
"We have so far spent N4 billion. We are saying that we want to have clean local government elections in Kaduna. We are importing electronic voting materials from China and after that we will start going round the state to educate the electorate on how to use the machines," he said.
The Kaduna governor, who was flanked by other members of the restructuring committee, advised the youths present against engaging in election vices such as thuggery and ballot box snatching, stressing that they should seek ways of being part of the political engagement and acquiring the experience needed for leadership.
Speaking on the poor turnout at the event, el-Rufai said: "I wished more of them (youths) came but I recognise that most of you now communicate more in the virtual world than in the real world.
"So many of them contacted us on the social media, so I am so far very happy with the participation of young people particularly when we went for our zonal hearings.
"The outing here in Abuja is not as crowded as I expected, but I know they are following us on the social media. We've received lots of memoranda from them through various social media platforms, so we have a very fair idea of what the young people of Nigeria are thinking about the future of their country and we will reflect that in our report."
Most of the youths who spoke at the parley, however, expressed support for restructuring and called on the federal government to do something about the clamour for the devolution of powers, true federalism and resource control.
They also canvassed for local government autonomy and state police.
One of the youths particularly deplored the state of affairs in the country, saying that hunger, inequality and lack of opportunities to showcase the talent among the teaming youths was the bane of the country.
He said a system that does not promote merit and excellence but encourages favoritism and ethnicity was at the root of Nigeria's problem.