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The Centenary of Barewa College: Reminiscences – Past, present and future

As a group of people from the 19 Northern States, trying hard to find solutions to our serious internal security crisis, we also have poverty…

Continued from yesterday


By General Yakubu Gowon

On the Centenary of Barewa College, it is also very important to re-examine National Question or Questions, that asks, what is the future of the peoples of the former 19 northern states within a United Nigerian Federation in the light of what is going on now: the security problems – Boko Haram, banditry and herdsmen-farmers imbroglio and the political agitation and concerns of various ethnic groups – 517. The Ethnic Nationalities are requesting for fundamental changes in the question of re-structuring and the way Nigeria is governed and ruled. All sorts and various permutations and combinations have been proposed and talked about for sometime now, and many restructuring had taken place in Nigeria – nationally or regionally/state wise since Lugard’s restructuring in the 1914 Amalgamation of North and South Nigeria; the various regional and states legislative restructuring through to regional and states elections in 1954 and 59; to Nigeria’s national elections and independence in 1960. In 1963, there was restructuring that created the Mid-West as the 4th Region of Nigerias federation and a change from Parliamentary to a Republican (US) type Constitution followed three years later by the 1966 coup that ushered in military government – Federal/Regional – Unitary and later briefly changed to a Federation of Group of Provinces, later restored back to Federation of four (4) Regions. Finally as a result of threat to a breakup of the country, the country was structured into 12 states and subsequently to 19 states and ultimately to 36 states and FCT. Therefore, restructuring is not a new thing, and it seems major restructuring comes round every 50 years. Of particular interest and note is the 2005 Political Reforms Conference and the 2014 Constitutional Review Conference and others being put forward by various interest groups.

The diverse people of the former Northern Nigeria who were previously put together by geography, history and dialectics of big power imperialism are now facing their future as 19 self-governing independent states along with other 17 states within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They are now both tested and passing through unprecedented internal security crisis of all sorts, they have also become the poverty capital of the world according to the World Bank, which reported that 87 per cent of poverty incidence is in the 19 northern states of Nigeria.

As a group of people from the 19 Northern States, trying hard to find solutions to our serious internal security crisis, we also have poverty and other socio-economic issues demanding our attention. While we are on these existential matters, the drumbeats of restructuring are sounding loud and disturbing our peace of mind. The diverse people of the 19 Northern States must decide on what type of restructuring best serve their interest. The future we are facing depends on this matter. As things are now, restructuring definitely means different things to different people, living in different regions or geopolitical zones of the country. We must, therefore, decide whatever type of restructuring we want, not as one entity as former Northern region, but as people of 19 independent/self-government states brought together by geography, history, economy, culture, market, biodiversity, good neighbourliness with shared values and interests.

This means that we must make among other things realistic political and economic choices as well as existential choices. It is said, politics is the art of the possible, so as things are, the only homogenous geographical zones in Nigeria are four political zones: the South-East Zone, South-South Zone, North-East Zone and North-Central Zone are ethically so diverse that their people would certainly not sacrifice their current/present self-governing status symbolised by their state government for anything else. Therefore, the question of Nigeria becoming between six to eight regions federation as canvassed by some groups causes a serious problem and may be difficult to achieve in a truly democratic circumstance and processes.

I understand that at a recent restructuring debate organised and published by a Media House, it clearly shows that the retention of the 36 states and 774 LGAs structure for the Nigerian federation was preferred by the vast majority of participants at the debate. This proposal is being recommended by BOBA to the 19 Northern states, but is open to discussion with other groups. Also recommended is the devolution of some powers of the federal government in the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution as amended, to the States/LGAs. A new Revenue Allocation Formula is also being recommended in favour of the States/LGAs to reflect this additional responsibility. Again, for the sake of justice and fairness, and political stability of the federal states, the possibility and necessity for a rotational presidency is also recommended for acceptance by the 19 Northern states and that the rotation will be among the existing six geo-political zones and two (2) vice presidents, one each from the same zone as the president and to be provided for in the coming constitutional amendments. Also, rotation of the position of the governor among the three Senatorial Districts of every state be considered and provided for in the constitution. This would reduce further requests for creating more states and cries of marginalisation.

As the local governments are the tier of government closest to the people, they must be provided for in our constitution as presently done. The 36 states are known by their members of LGAs. Also, electoral constituencies for States Houses of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senatorial districts are all determined by the number, size and population of LGAs. Therefore, LGAs must be given proper identity, independence and stability of their existence as statutory bodies. However, I believe that there should be a restricted supervisory role by the State Governor, this should be carefully discussed at appropriate levels and nationally agreed on. However, it is better to have a uniform Local Government Administration system, as now obtains. For LGAs to be effective, it must have full autonomy and uniform standards of operation. Any contemplation to scrap LGAs should be voided at all cost.

BOBA noted and is aware that, all federal systems in the world, in every country, it is the people who evolve the structure and institutions in their country to suit, or according to their different and peculiar ways. Therefore, every or all federal countries design their structures and institutions to suit their peculiar, historical, political, social and economic development needs and circumstances. So there is simply no one standard federal or type that fits all, and is universally applied or acceptable. USA, UK, France, Germany, India and all are known as democracies and are accepted as such – democratic countries despite the differences in their systems. Therefore, in Nigeria, it is time we reflect and put on our thinking cap and do what is good for all the people of Nigeria – our beloved country.

Nigeria, our rapidly and fast developing country of more than two hundred million (200, 000,000) people, in spite of all our present difficulties and challenges, has a great future and also high position, respect and influence in the whole world. We enjoy the largest market in Africa and this is a great advantage if wisely managed. And as things are now, no ethnic group is better off outside Nigeria than inside Nigeria. And also in this uncertain world, there is safety in numbers, check with the Chinese and Indians. Therefore, let us all renew our resolve to keep Nigeria one and united for the sake of future generations of Nigerians and all black people of the world. I believe we of BOBA – BOBANS – YAN BAREWA should and other great and patriotic Nigerians should work to keep Nigeria one and united.



An abridged version of a lecture delivered  by General Gowon, Chairman, Board of Trustees of Barewa Old Boys Association on the occasion of the Centenary celebration of the college on March 21, 2021

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