(Video of booing. Click url-2 above)
Restructuring: Oshiomhole booed, jeered at NLC debate over unpopular views
•I WON’T SUPPORT NIGERIA DISINTEGRATION – SULTAN •SAYS 1914 AMALGAMATION NOT A MISTAKE •NO GROUP CAN GIVE OTHERS QUITE NOTICE •ADVOCATES DEVOLUTION OF ECONOMY, NOT POWER
Soji-Eze Fagbemi – Abuja
THE immediate past Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was booed and jeered in Abuja yesterday when he declared during a National Colloquium Organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to discuss the raging issue of restructuring; that those who lost during the 2015 general election were behind the current agitation for restructuring.
Oshiomhole, who was a former President of NLC, took to the stage as one of the discussants on the theme: “The Labour Movement and The Future of National Unity: What Role for Restructuring” held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja.
As soon as he pointed out that the current agitations and clamour for restructuring began when some people lost out in the election, participants at the event started shouting him down, jeered and booed him, for his unpopular position.
At the event was the Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Sa’ad III, who declared in his own presentation on Wednesday that the North, and other Nigerians were eager and ready to meet and discuss the issue of restructuring.
The event also has in attendance prominent former and present labour leaders as well as people from the academia.
The short rowdy session was later calmed down, and the former governor presented his paper. He specifically accused the PDP of spearheading the “rising campaign for restructuring” after losing the election.
Oshimhole said: “We have been in this current democratic dispensation since 1999. Somehow, just after 2015 General election, there was a power change which Nigerians voted for. Then suddenly people who have just lost out just found a buss word called restructuring.
“The last confab organised here by the last president suggested that we created 18 states. I didn’t think it was meant to be implemented.”
In his presentation, the Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Sa’ad III, declared that the North, and people across the country were eager to meet and discuss the issue agitations across the country and especially, the issue of restructuring.
He pointed out that people were eager to meet and discuss issues, instead of fighting over those issues. According to him, there are more important things that unite us together as one people than those things that divide us as a nation.
Sultan Sa’ad was speaking yesterday at a National Colloquium Organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on the theme: “The Labour Movement and The Future of National Unity: What Role for Restructuring” held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja.
However, he declared emphatically that he would not support the disintegration of Nigeria, and warned that if the idea behind the clamour for restructuring is intended to disintegrate the country, he would not support it
“We know who we are and I think it is important for us to look back while we are talking about restructuring. When people talk about restructuring, if they mean we should disintegrate the country, I will not support it. But if it means making things, lives better and much conducive and convenience for Nigerians, then lets seat down and discuss about it.” The Sultan said.
He pointed out that the colloquium organised by the NLC came at the right time and that people are ready to talk.
He said: “This colloquium came at the right time and people are eager to meet and discuss issues g instead of fighting over those issues. There are more important things that unite us together as one people than those things that divide us. And when we meet to discuss, we must try and understand one another and I believe in dialogue.
“It is good to seat down and dialogue but there must be respect. I must respect you and you must respect me. And the greatest thing we can do for this country is always reflect on our history.”
The Sultan pointed out that many of the groups agitating from the North, West, South-South and South East, have their own point, but stated that no any group has the right to tell the other to leave wherever he lives anywhere in the country.
He said: “I know that many of these groups from the North, West, South-South and South East agitating for this or that have their positions. But despite the realities at present, no group has the right to tell anybody you must leave this place or that place if we still live in this country called Nigeria.
The Sultan fully backed the position of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying, “I support the President’s position 100 per cent, I believe what he said is right.
And I say, instead of talking about devolution of power, let’s talk about devolution of economy.”
On the 1914 amalgamation, he said: “We didn’t fall from the sky, we came from somewhere. We became Nigeria in 1914 through amalgamation. People are shouting that our coming together as a country in 1914 was a mistake, but God doesn’t make mistakes. If God doesn’t want such a thing as Nigeria to happen, nobody could ever have made it happen.
“So we claim to be very religious but we challenge God, you don’t come out in the open and say you are challenging God but by actions and utterances many people are virtually challenging God.
“There is no wrong in you saying I want to be better than I am but when you seat down and discuss issues, you find out that you are a much better person.”
While challenging the organised Labour on their expected roles on issues that affect Nigeria, the Sultan added: “It is important for us to use this forum to bring out issues that are really germane, very important at this time in the history of our country. I expected the organised labour to have been at the forefront of some of the issues affecting this country long before now. Not through strike, even though strike would be the last option but there are things we need to take much more seriously and make our lives much better. But because we have left a vacuum, others came and told us there is a vacuum.
“So I challenge you to take up the mantle now, occupy your right position and make good things to happen in this country through your solidarity. You must put personal interest aside.”
He said: “I read somewhere that ‘since the conception of war is in the mind, the solution to peace must also be in the mind.’ Because some of these issues we keep on talking about, we have to be very serious and patriotic. We must place Nigeria first before any other thing, because if we do that, we find out that the country will be a better place for us all.”
The guest speaker and a university don, Prof SamEgwu, from the University of Jos, stated that restructuring is not an umbrella category for understanding all the challenges facing Nigeria today.
He added: “While it is important in the context of our distorted federalism in which states that are expected to be the nodal points of development have been reduced to political and fiscal appendages of the federal government, we need to situate it in the proper context.
“We need to review the long federal exclusive legislative list, we need to review allocation of tax powers to the various tiers of government, and we need to promote efficiency in the operation of our federal system to guarantee equity and progress for all.”
However, he pointed out that governance is a key missing link, and added that the failure of governance contributes to the numerous agitations.
He insisted: “It does not make sense, for instance, to give more powers and resources to states when governors resist legislative autonomy and deny the mutual checks and balance that enhance public accountability in a federal system.
“Why are the Arewa youths not tackling corruption and callous neglect of education by many northern governors? Why are the different militia groups not taking Niger Delta governors to the cleaners for not showing much for the 13% that comes from derivation, even though this is not what they deserve?
“You can extend the same question to other groups, including the painful reality that huge allocations given to local governments hardly makes impact in the lives of ordinary citizens.”
He also agreed that Nigerian federal system needs to be restructured, stressing that the on-going constitutional review exercise still provides a window despite the setback of the devolution of powers Bill.
He stated further: “Nigerians clamour for it because they believe it can address some of the key governance and development challenges. However, the working people of Nigeria must understand the limitations of restructuring which has remained essentially a platform of elite bargain and negotiations for power and resources.
“What Nigerian working people need is a state that is committed to their basic social welfare and progress; an electoral democracy that enforces the social contract with the citizens; the realization of true citizenship; and the promotion of people-centred development; and a strong state that intervenes to curb the excesses of the market; and a national state that provides a rallying point of identity to all regardless of ethnicity and religion; and above all, a social democratic order based on social justice, fairness and equity.”
President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said the congress decided to convene this colloquium in response to recent developments in the polity, and the stringent and vocal calls for the restructuring of the nation.
“The discourse among the political elites in our country in the last few months has been so heated that suddenly many involved in this debate have thrown caution, decency and decorum to the winds, and threats and counter threats, all having grave consequences for our cooperate existence as a nation , have become the order of the day.” He said.
He added: “We in the Nigeria Labour Congress feel that posing our discourse along these and other critical areas of our nation’s inability to make progress over nearly six decades of independence would be more productive, and would also detox the toxic polemics around ethnicity, regionalism and religious affiliations of our people.”