….Want federal character properly implemented
A Coalition of Igbo groups last week converged at Abuja, the Federal Capital territory to brainstorm on national unity with focus on Federal Character which is not working and as presently implemented, is grossly skewed against Ndigbo.
Tagged “The great debate and dialogue for national unity” the dialogue was organized by Igbo Leadership Development Foundation, ILDF, in collaboration with Igbo Leadership Development Foundation, Gregory University Uturu, World Igbo Summit Group, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies Lagos and New Generation Leadership Foundation.
The aim was to achieve national unity and equity; peace building and how to resolve the many challenges of national unity and national development besetting and unsettling the polity today. The theme of the conversation was, “Federal character, restructuring and rotation of Presidential power in Nigeria”.
In a keynote address, the Chancellor of Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State, Prof. Gregory Ibe, told the audience drawn from leaders, elder statesmen, patriots from all parts of Nigeria that the World Igbo Summit Group assembled South East leaders in Gregory University Uturu to review contemporary affairs in our nation and moving forward where it was agreed that the fate of Ndigbo in one united and restructured Nigeria was affirmed.
According to him, the submit held last year also resolved that there was a great need to reach out to the other zones in the country in order to fashion out ways to salvage the nation and put her back on the path of true unity, reconciliation and development, and make it a nation that works for all citizens regardless of creed, ethnicity or political persuasion.
He said that the national conversation is planned by this coalition will last for at least 2 years, until a renewed national understanding and common grounds for peace and unity are firmly established in our country.
“Our coalition sees Nigeria as a great work in progress, with so much already attained and much more yet to be attended to. We also believe that nations are not natural but conscious creations of men on purpose as Nigeria was created by the colonial government”, Ibe said.
According to him, since the Nigeria Biafra civil war, successive military regimes have corroded and eroded federalism and replaced it with a system that is more unitary than federal in outlook and essence. In every federation, power is shared between the Federal government and federating states.
“But in the unitary 1999 Constitution, the Federal Government is given powers in about 66 areas while the States are given mere concurrent powers in about 16 areas.
“That is what makes today’s Nigeria a unitary system and federal only in name. What we have today is a clear departure from the federal system bequeathed us by our founding fathers and colonial Britain”, Ibe said.
According to him, truth is that most of the powers that will engender real growth and development are tied in the exclusive list. Solid minerals, Electricity, Railways, Ports, Security etc. are all tied to the federal exclusive list to be executed only by the federal government, which he said has not been able to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.
“This coalition also calls for Federation Equalization Fund, a body to be saddled with developing 6 Economic Hubs for the 6 geopolitical zones based on the Ricardo’s principle of comparative advantage and prepare the zones for fair competitions and cooperation as obtained before and after independence”, he added, pointing out that “ the strength of Nigeria is not in crude oil.
“It is in agriculture and taking a look on the implementation of the federal character of principle. Ibe said much as it was designed to bring equity and justice, it has not achieved that because “the Federal Character Principle has been largely observed in breach”.
“For many years, the Federal Character Commission has operated without a Board. With the Board inaugurated days ago, we hope the Commission will restore the lost glory of the principle which once gave every section of Nigeria hope and feeling of being carried along”, he said.
He noted that of late, separatist agitations going on up north and down south of the country, were all due to the feeling of exclusionism.
Stressing the need for equity, justice and fairness, Prof. Ibe said “all things considered, the benefits of zoning far outstrip leaving it to a free-for-all in our heavily monetized, ethnicized and religion-driven electoral process”, hence the belief by the conveners that
“the national conversation would engender national unity, social amity in the polity by adopting ways and means of achieving equity of which rotation is key, given our peculiar circumstance”.
He also made strong case for equity saying that “the clearest pathway to the nation’s unity is equity achievable through fair implementation of federal character and by extending it to the office of the President of the country through rotation.
“Nigerian President of Igbo extraction should not be debatable if a genuine reconciliation has actually taken place in our country since the civil war ended. Let me assure us that Nigeria President is safest with the Igbo man and therefore a win-win for all
Nigerians, given the fact that the Igbos are in every nook and cranny of Nigeria, developing the places where they live and pursue their happiness. It is not therefore possible for the Igbo to offer a divisive presidency since he is bound to protect all parts even for the sake of his investments.
“The reality is that parts of the country appear scared of the Igbo man. He is isolated and excluded from the scheme of things, to the point that today’s Security Council has no Igbo man or woman in it, given the impression that the war is not over and that they are not wanted in Nigeria. This is fueling the agitation for Biafra.
“This National Conversation should seize this moment to enact a genuine reconciliation to heal the land. Since the 6 zones of Nigeria are here fully represented here, let them say “sorry” to each other and put the civil war behind and move forward. Like Nnamdi Azikiwe also said: let us bind the nation’s wounds, quicken the healing and unite our people.
“Let us stop pretending as if all is well with our country. The North and the old South East (the erstwhile Biafrans) must genuinely forgive each other in order to put the civil war truly behind.
“The core North has not forgiven the Igbo man for the first military coup in which some of its leaders were killed. The unfortunate and highly condemnable act has been erroneously tagged an Igbo coup which it was not. It was purely a military misadventure for which Ndigbo have suffered (and continue to suffer) gravely and unjustly.
“Ndigbo on the other hand have not forgiven the North for the attendant pogroms and the civil war which claimed millions. Both sides must forgive and let go of the past so that they and the nation can move forward. It is the only way to recover the nation and put her back on track.