the National Assembly remains the only viable path for those who believe in restructuring, because it is only by legislation that things will change except the people want to go to war.
By Kodilinye Obiagwu
THE national leader of the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief (Dr.) Chekwas Okorie, Ojeozi Ndigbo, has expressed fear that despite the growing calls for restructuring, the country is not near to the realisation of that desire and demand.
In an interview with The National Statesman, Okorie noted that the military, which imposed the 1999 Constitution on Nigerians made it near impossible for its amendment.
According to him, “any chances of structural reforms in the polity are fraught with difficulties and fears,” and there is no likelihood that Nigerians and the nation will witness any changes soon.
He noted still that, “the National Assembly remains the only viable path for those who believe in restructuring, because it is only by legislation that things will change except the people want to go to war.”
While noting that those calling for restructuring are those who mean well for Nigeria, he pointed out that the calls for restructuring had been bad news to “some northern hegemonies and irredentists.”
In the face of a lack of agreement on what constitutes restructuring, Okorie said that “the basis (of restructuring) would be to create an atmosphere of justice and fairness because those opposing restructuring are those benefiting one way or the other from the injustice. Those asking for it are those who feel schemed out by the present structure and state of things. The face-off is unhealthy and that is why the agitations will continue.
“Injustice is embedded in this structure and this has stifled the development and growth of the country. I am not even trying to enter into the never ending debate of particular ethnic nationalities who have felt shortchanged and are the butt of the injustice, but am talking of how the country itself has not developed because of the skewed structure.”
He placed the blame for the present structure on the military that “cancelled the regional structure, which at that time looked appropriate and introduced the 12 states structure. They created more states to favour the North as we went on and arrived at where we now have 36 states plus Abuja that has the status of a state.
“In creating the new state structure, the military also altered the structure of the provinces, which existed in the regions – Mid West, Eastern Region, Western Region and the Northern Region – to give the North advantage over the South.
“The same military also carved out 774 local government areas and allocated 188 local government areas to the North West alone. The South East, with its five states, got 95 local governments areas. The injustice here is that the local government areas became factors in revenue allocation and this meant that the South East got the least in terms of federal allocation.
These are some of the pointers that changed the Geo-political structure of Nigeria to what people are now clamouring against.”
Explaining the difficulties of heeding to the cry of the people, he said, “the military enshrined the structure in the 1999 Constitution and provided impossible conditions to alter them. And it is most interesting therefore that the likes of General Ibrahim Babangida, one of those who sat in on the conspiracy that put Nigeria in this situation, has had a rethink. The only thing I am waiting for him to say, is how he thinks the restructuring can be done.
“They are the people who made sure that there is nothing like referendum in the constitution so that Nigerians cannot have the opportunity to even put to democratic test whether they want to continue with this contraption or not. So even when agitating youths talk about referendum as a legitimate means of pressing their case, they don’t know that there is nothing like that in the constitution.”
He observed however that with the several reports on constitutional amendment gathering dusts on the shelves, only the National Assembly can make things work.
He said: “If the recommendations of the 2014 national conference report had been implemented, then Nigeria would have been restructured to a large extent. But it is not going to happen overnight or with a sleight of hand. The conspiracy is well entrenched and so it is going to be a major event to dismantle it.
“The National Assembly remains the only viable path for those who believe in restructuring, because it is only by legislation that things will change except the people want to go to war.
For example, it is only the National Assembly, through legislation that can dismantle the Federal Government and reduce the immense powers and responsibility in the Exclusive Legislative List.”