Restructuring best way for Nigeria to go, SMBLF insists

• As it reacts to Olisa Agbakoba's call for cooperative federalism

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) on Monday insisted that restructuring of the country is the only best way for her to move forward, vowing that it would not bow to those it described as “the temporary holders of powers of Nigeria” who were opposed to what was best for the country.

The leaders said this in statement jointly signed by Mr Yinka Odumakin for South-West, Gen CRU Ihekire (South- East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South) and Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle- Belt) in reaction to call made by a human rights activist and foremost lawyer, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), that Nigerians should rather begin to agitate for cooperative federalism rather than restructuring.

Agbakoba had at a press conference last week in Lagos made the call hinging the need on the fact that continued agitation for restructuring was causing more harm to the country.

Besides, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said President Muhammadu Buhari does not believe in the idea of restructuring the country.

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“Rather than bring us together and strengthen us, restructuring has pulled us back. I personally will urge all political parties, all sub-nationalities, like Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Ijaw national, etc, for now, to suspend it, because it is tearing us apart.

“The president does not believe in it and the president exercises the executive power under the constitution. So, if the president does not believe in it, we are the ones to suffer. Rather, let’s look for a new philosophy.

“Let us put restructuring on hold and I say this not because I don’t believe in it but it is causing trouble in the North and the South. So, I will rather call on all the 36 states to pursue what I call cooperative federalism. Let us cooperate; let us forget about who is exercising what power,” Agbakoba said.

SMBLF said its attention was drawn to Agbakoba’s submissions and would have ignored what it termed “unfortunate views” as comments are free and opinions “were it not that our names were inserted into the not well-processed thoughts.”

The leaders, while maintaining that there was no option to restructuring and that Federalism would bail Nigeria out of the unitary crisis that was gradually sending it to the graveyard of disintegrated countries of the world, noted that the whole suggestion made by Agbakoba was akin to somebody suggesting to the Nigerian founding fathers to stop the struggle for independence because the colonial lords were opposed to the idea.

This was just as SMBLF proudly recalled and saluted Nigerian patriots that it said secured independence for the country “seven years after the same forces who are opposed to restructuring today walked out of parliament and killed people in Kano over the motion for Independence moved by Mr Anthony Enahoro in 1953.”

Besides, the group noted that Agbakoba, who offered the opinion that Nigeria should abandon agitation for restructuring was a leading light in the pro-democracy movement that fought the military back to their barracks and a development which had given the country 20-years of civil rule now, querying: “What would have been the fate of the country if the forces had beaten a retreat because Abacha did not want democracy?

“We say from the rooftop that we will not bow to the temporary holders of powers of Nigeria who are opposed to what is best for our country. Federalism will bail Nigeria out of the unitary crisis that is gradually sending Nigeria to the graveyard of disintegrated countries of the world.

“Nigeria has entered a terminal crisis under this arrangement as we now reel under unsustainable debt with the government planning to amass more like a drunken sailor. The development has ceased nationwide and we are reeling under a system collapse.

“There is no solution under the suffocating arrangement as the only possibility is now disintegration. It is the best moment to push for the restructuring of Nigeria to avert its break-up under the crushing weight of over-centralisation,” SMBLF stated.

The leaders said they would not be worthy of men of history to now succumb to cowardice by going about with tails in between their legs to beg for restructuring before a “president who has 3 years and a few months left in office” all because he was opposed to what they saw as amounting to “destiny of our country.”

“We are not begging the president to restructure Nigeria, we only ask him to move Nigeria out of this crisis without returning Nigeria to federalism so he can be credited with the eighth wonder of the world

“On restructuring, we stand as there is no other option for the survival of Nigeria,” SMBLF said.

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