Restructuring is not a political philosophy. People want to confuse it by saying what we meant by it. Restructuring is to restructure the country back to federalism as we had it at independence because that is the constitution that the founding fathers of this country agreed to.
Restructuring is to say we want the constitution that everybody agreed to, that gives peace and unity in the country. And when we talk of federalism there is a political philosophy behind it. It is not just a philosophy that you just receive from the air.
It is a well-known principle that in heterogeneous society like Nigeria, the unitary form of government that we are running now will not work and it cannot work. Restructuring is important now, we should go back to federalism.
The constitution we are using now is a fraudulent constitution. It is not the constitution of the people and that point must be made clear. This constitution is not the constitution our founding fathers gave us, it is not the constitution that Sardauna of Sokoto, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo agreed to at Independence.
President Jonathan, when he was there tried by convoking the National Conference in 2014, only that he did it late. If he had set up the commission at the right time he could have implemented the report.
The progressive elements in the North should prevail on the president to change the constitution. If he believes he doesn’t want to follow the 2014 confab, let him set up his own so that we can agree on the constitution and move on. And if he believes that is too much you can set up a committee to examine it, take away what you don’t want there, put what you want there and move on from the unitary system.
All the problems we are having in Nigeria today is because of the fraudulent constitution that we are having.
The constitution we have now was imposed on us by the Military after the coup of 1966 and the question of going back to federalism is not a new one. Even before the 1999 constitution, we have been talking about this, we have been emphasising it and that was the basis of NADECO at that time.
When the military said they were sending us back to civilian rule, the progressives then said ‘no, if you are sending us back to civilian rule, send us back to the constitution you met us, that was when we had peace, that was what we were running before the military came. The constitution then gave us such freedom and autonomy in the federating units. We were making progress under a federal constitution.
Unfortunately our colleagues who came into office through the clamour for federalism, through the clamour for restructuring now deny it. Our friends from the North are saying we want to break the country. Anybody opposing restructuring which is going back to federalism is the person who wants to break the country now.
The country is breaking. We are worse than where we were before the civil war and the only thing that can bring us back is to bring us back to a constitution we agreed to. This one is imposed on us by the military and it is skewed against the South.
Under this constitution which must be changed now, our president is the most powerful president in the whole world and that is why he could put all the important positions of the country in his village. How will you have unity when the key positions are in a section of the country? It’s not possible!
They are confusing the issue of 2023 again by asking where the President should come from. That is not the question now. The question now is to bring the country together. When you have the country together, you can then decide where the President comes from. Let us make the question of the Presidency constitutional, not the question of gentleman agreement.
I only hope progressive elements in the North would persuade President Buhari to change the constitution now. Sometimes they would say we don’t like the North. No, if we don’t like the North we won’t be clamouring for a federation. Let us come together.
This is edited transcript of the contribution of the leader of the Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, at the 18th Daily Trust Dialogue on Thursday, January 21, 2021 at the NAF Conference Centre in Abuja.
From Chief Ayo Adebanjo