By CHRIS EKEKE, Abuja
Former vice chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Ango Abdullahi has differed with some leaders from the South-South and South East over the clamour for restructuring the nation.
While Abdullahi maintained that dialogue remained the way out, stakeholders from the southern region insisted that Nigeria should be restructured for the north to also use their population and land mass to create wealth.
They spoke at a National Discourse Forum to mark the 90th birthday anniversary of former minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, at the International Conference Centre, yesterday in Abuja.
The topic for discussion was “Restructuring, True Federalism and Resource Control: Panacea for Enduring Peace and Sustainable Development.”
The former ABU Vice chancellor, urged political stakeholders to remain resolute with the good foundation layed by the past heroes, just as he faulted the manner the 2014 National Conference was organised by former President Goodluck Jonathan. He noted that he refused to be part of the confab because of the numerous flaws in its formation.
He said that the clamour for power sharing by some disgruntled politicians is to “share Nigerian money” a development he said is making Nigeria to become a failed state.
“Friends agree but sometimes disagree. For me I would like to change the issue of sustainable peace for development away from what you insist on calling resource control. I would rather use the word resource management.
“Refer to our founding fathers, Chief Awolowo and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. During their time, they never had anywhere the kind of volume of resources that are available to Nigeria today. Quite a number of you born after independence, I can tell you that those forefathers managed the very scarce resources and achieved so much for this country.
“To me, their concept of resource management is what promoted equity, fairness and justice in various parts of the country. The challenge now is for us to dialogue; discuss truly and honestly, particularly if we actually want to sustain the unity and peace in this nation, ” he said.
However, former minister of Science and Technology, Prof Turner Isoun; former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah; former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil, Patrick Dele Cole and President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, John Nwodo among others pressed for restructuring in their different presentations. Prof Isoun specifically flayed Ango for saying that the issue should be about resource management and not resource control.
According to Nwodo, he said, “Our political system is jaundiced, unfair, exploitative and unsustainable. Since attainment of independence the civilians have not been able to agree on a political structure. Our present constitution and the previous 1979 constitution were impositions of the military – an unrepresentative and dictatorial corps whose decrees were seriously influenced by the lop-sidedness of
“The economic and development data from Nigeria is unencouraging in many sectors. Our law and order system including the police, the court system and the penal system has been characterised by impunity,
incompetence and indiscipline.
“On the global Terrorism Index Nigeria ranks 3rd after Iraq and Afghanistan and ahead of Pakistan and Syria. The World Economic Forum ranks Nigeria 127 out of 138 on the Global Competitiveness Index.
The UNESCO ranks Nigeria with Chad, Pakistan and Ethiopia as the worst educational system in the world. Nigeria, according to the report, has the highest number of children out of school and one of the world’s worst education systems due to a combination of corruption, conflict and lack of investment. In the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme, Nigeria ranks 152 out of 188 countries and is the lowest among OPEC countries. The data points to a bleak future as we march to post-oil world without a coherent plan to reduce conflict and build a new national consensus.
On the positive side, there is a global consensus that Nigeria is highly potentiated. With a population of about 182 million people, by current estimates; and with our vast mineral and material resources; a
well-organized Nigeria should be a land of plenty that supports its people and a leader in the comity of nations. Sadly, this is not the case.
“Almost every Nigerian is agreed that Nigeria is not working but there is no clear consensus on why; or on what to do about it. Some say that it is merely a problem of leadership and once that is fixed all other
things will fall in place. Others say that it is a problem of corruption. Once you tackle that, everything will be fine. Others have said that our problem is one of law and order; some say it is more fundamental and has to do with control of resources, structure of the Federation and thus requires more equitable sharing of revenue and the devolution of powers. Others say it can be fixed with power rotation
and a more level playing field. It has been said that it could be a bit of all of the above; and that Nigeria cannot be fixed without a fundamental change of values and attitudes. Whatever the case, it will
not profit us to pretend that we do not face existential challenges.
“These challenges are worrisome; especially to our younger ones who must face the fact that the next 50 years could be even more challenging and there is a good chance that we could be left behind if
we fail to take action today. For instance, it is estimated in some quarters, that by 2050 – that is in 33 years’ time – Nigeria could be the 4th most populous country in the world. That means that Nigeria,
which is just twice the size of Texas; would be more populous than all the United States of America. Meanwhile, as of today, we have a GDP that is barely 2 per cent of that of the United States.
“At the same time, in the years ahead, we could face very severe ecological challenges that will impact negatively on our economy. The desert is encroaching southwards at a speed of up to 6 km per annum.
Thus within 33 years we could lose about 200 km of land to the desert across the north. This can only exacerbate competition for arable land in the north and elsewhere – with dire political consequences.
“In the South East, we could expect more ecologically-induced dislocation. For instance, the government of Anambra State estimates that about 40 per cent of the state is threatened by erosion. In the South-South, by 2050 we could be dealing with the reality of a post-oil economy and yet have massive environmental degradation that is yet unattended to. There is also the possibility that much of the
mangrove ecosystem could be lost to deforestation. Lagos could have a population of up to 50 million people and face unbearable challenges of massive urbanization.
“We must become more responsive to the world around us, or we and our children will be left behind. These are some of the fears and anxieties of our youths. We have for too long allowed the bitterness
of the war and its lingering feelings to dictate our political relationships. The coalition that fought the war is still in control of Nigeria engaging in rhetoric that fueled the war in managing renascent Nigeria. The young men and women who were not part of the war are frustrated by this impasse. The future is bleak unless Nigerians come to the table to discuss Nigeria truthfully.”