Tribune: South-West Governors And Constitutional Amendment

THE last couple of weeks have witnessed renewed consultations and meetings by major stakeholders across the six geopolitical zones of the country on the political future of the country. The spirited moves came against the backdrop of the transmission, by the National Assembly, of copies of the harmonised report of some key amendments carried out in the 1999 Constitution which, by the letters of the Constitution, require ratification by at least two-thirds of the 36 state Houses of Assembly.

Only on Wednesday, senators from the northern part of the country met in Katsina, Katsina State, to articulate the position of the North on the current quest to institutionalise a system that guarantees fairness and equity among the constituent units making up the federation, especially the clamour for restructuring. Prior to that retreat, their southern counterparts met in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, to further firm up their demand for a just and equitable federal entity where there is access and equal opportunities for all stakeholders. Their stand is that Nigeria must be restructured, a position that governors from the South-South and South-East had taken earlier on.

Apparently, the stakeholders in the Nigerian project from the North, as well as their counterparts from the South-South and South-East, took a cue from governors from the South-West zone who again met behind closed-doors in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, to harmonise their positions based on the unified agenda of the Yoruba on the strategy to make Nigeria work again. We recall the resolution of stakeholders in the South-West at their September summit on restructuring. They called for a return to the post-Independence constitution that encouraged healthy competition and economic growth and development among the Western, Eastern and Northern regions, immediately after Independence.

While we commend the governors for sustaining the spirit behind their forum, we urge them to remain resolute in upholding the collective will of the people for a federal system of government. No one should live under the illusion that the reign of impunity that entrenched the current unjust system with its attendant chaos and confusion will disappear without conscious and concerted efforts to address them. Happily, all patriotic Nigerians believe in restructuring, an unambiguous term that aggregates viable measures to address the sore points in Nigeria’s existence. The present system is criminally unjust. It encourages indolence, graft and inertia. It kills initiative and enterprise while rewarding tardiness and mediocrity. For instance, 55 per cent of the Valued Added Tax (VAT) collected in the country comes from Lagos State alone, yet Lagos enjoys no special status. Just how can anyone defend a system that ensures that you can make money but not spend it? There is seething anger among the young and old in the South-West and other parts of the country today arising from the military-imposed constitution that continues to guarantee this naked robbery.

The South-West governors must remain consistent in their advocacy for a restructured Nigeria. Their demand is based on a burning desire for equity and fairness. As the custodians of the mandate of the people in the zone, they should not waver on the collective agenda of the region regarding the restoration of the cardinal principles of federalism. There must be a return to the constitutional framework that sustained the Nigerian federation until military intervention marked the descent into ignominy in the country. However, in pursuing the overall goal, the governors must synergise with the legislative arm of government and other critical stakeholders in the zone, just as the people themselves must remain vigilant and focused on the ideals that have stood the test of time. Since ideas rule the world, the governors should not be intimidated by the belligerent and bellicose mentality of a few who are still averse to restructuring. If anything, they need to make such people to appreciate the danger in sustaining the current convoluted federal arrangement that only fuels ethnic agitations, tensions and conflicts.

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