Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Buhari, Nigeria’s Breakup Is Possible

By Sina Adedipe
This comes in reaction to the statements credited to President Muhammadu Buhari in the Nigerian Tribune of last week Friday in a story on Page 8 with the headline: Nigeria’s Break-Up Not Possible, Unthinkable. It was the report of the meeting he had the previous day with members of the Council of South-East Traditional Rulers at the State House, Abuja. But, sad to say, the President never said anything that could stop Igbo people from wanting to break away to establish their own country.
Earlier in the year, political leaders from the South-East were at Aso Villa to discuss the problems of their people and zone with the President. Like the Yoruba of the South-West and the ethnic groups in the South-South such as the Ijaw, Efik, Ibibio, Itsekiri, Urhobo and others, what the Igbo of the South-East want is the restructuring of the country. To this end, they are demanding for the number of states in the country to be reduced into six or eight regions or a return to the 12-state structure of 1967-1976 and changing from the presidential to the parliamentary system of the First Republic, so that, instead of a strong and overbearing central government, the regions or states would be largely autonomous and in charge of their economic resources, and only paying agreed taxes to the Federal Government, which will take care of matters like currency, postal services, security and foreign affairs.
For their part, the Igbo also want another state created in the South-East to make them have six as has been the case since 1996 with the South-West, South-South, North-Central and North-East. The North-West, to which Buhari belongs, has seven states. From the report in the Tribune, the President did not address any of these issues as all he told the Igbo monarchs was that he would extend the new railway system his government is planning to construct to their zone and that he had shown interest in the Igbo by appointing four of their people as ministers of five of the most important ministries, but which he did not identify.
For me, it is wrong for President Buhari to believe that God brought the ethnic groups in Nigeria together in 1914 for a purpose and that because of that the country cannot break up. Nigeria was not created by the Lord, but by the British government of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, the 24th in office who served from 1908 to 1916. The people brought together by God and who cannot break away are those in each tribe in the country, the Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, etc., who have the same ancestors, were placed in the same area, speak the same language and have the same culture.

Just as such countries as the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the Sudan, where people of different tribes were forcefully brought together by a strong military officer or monarch or a colonial power have broken up, Nigeria too can disintegrate in the nearest or distant future, if it is not restructured in time. That was why these four countries collapsed in the last 26 years. I was in Yugoslavia in July 1978, and the Soviet Union in August 1988, and the grumblings of the people were just like what we have had in Nigeria in recent years.
If Buhari is interested in restructuring the country, I believe he would have told the two delegations of the Igbo leaders whom he met with this year. If southerners want the President to take them seriously and act, the leaders of the South-West, South-South and South-East must come together and make joint demands, not by speaking separately as they have been doing. They must also liaise with their colleagues of the minority tribes in the North-East and North-Central,  particularly the latter. The leaders of militant groups in the South-South, South-East and South-West should also act together and let Buhari know that they will not stop their agitations until he takes steps and presents a bill to the National Assembly on the restructuring of the country.
Indeed, restructuring and creating another state in the South-East should be campaign issues by southern leaders for the 2019 presidential poll. If Buhari does not act on it in the first quarter of next year the Yoruba in the All Progressives Congress (APC), who aided his emergence as the party’s candidate in 2014 and later winner in the presidential election last year, should dump him and get the people of the South-East and South-South to join them in voting for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa State in the North-East who has come out in support of restructuring of the country and has Yoruba and Igbo wives and can be trusted to keep his word.
Apart from his antecedents as a detribalised Nigerian, Atiku, as a highly successful businessman and former technocrat, will be a better manager of the nation’s economy and in finding solutions to our problems and creating tribal harmony than Buhari who so far has proven to be clueless and incapable of dealing with the nation’s economic challenges and plural ethnic composition. The country’s situation is more than fighting corruption. Atiku or any other acceptable northerner presented by the APC or the Peoples Democratic Party or another party should be the one southerners should vote for in 2019. Not Buhari whom I campaigned for in this column for three months for the 2011 poll and last year and voted for on both occasions, but who has let down myself and most Nigerians who voted for him last year. So, Nigeria needs leadership change in 2019.
*Sina Adedipe, former editor of the defunct Sunday Concord, newspaper is a commentator on public issues

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