First-class traditional rulers across the southern parts of Nigeria have denounced the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar’s stance on restructuring, noting that it is unfair for a monarch of his stature to speak against the wish of the people.
Some of the monarchs told SUNDAY PUNCH that the position of the Sultan was born out of the interests of the North.
Last Monday, Abubakar had called on Nigerians to focus on the devolution of the economy, rather than the restructuring of Nigeria, while speaking at the Niger State Investment Submit in Minna.
“Rather than the clamour for restructuring of the country, the Federal Government should be called upon to release dams across the country to state governments for massive participation of Nigerians in all-year farming seasons.
“We have the ability and technical knowledge to feed the continent with what we can produce, with the required political commitment, through the provision of modern farming implements for our teeming farmers,” he had said.
Rather than economic restructuring, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, stated that it was mind-boggling that the Sultan was not in tune with the masses.
“If the people of Nigeria want the country to be restructured, as traditional leaders, we are not in a position to oppose it. We are closer to the people, so we must lead by example. It is important to find a way of addressing the yearning of our people.
“Without the people, there cannot be a leader. We can see clearly what is wrong with the present system. The people and all the major political parties are calling for restructuring. We should allow people to develop at their own pace. It is the only way out of a potential crisis. That is how we can address all the agitations across the country. We support the restructuring of the nation,” the monarch, who spoke through his Director, Media and Public Affairs, Adeola Oloko, said.
Another first-class traditional ruler from Eket, Akwa Ibom State, Obong Etim Abia, noted that reforming the country’s economic policies to make it more buoyant was not the focus of the call for restructuring.
“I think the general opinion is that, as Nigerians, we all need to come together, sit down and discuss how we want this country to be governed. This is the only country in the world that people have to go to the centre and share money. Things cannot continue like that — that is why some people insist on resource control.
“To say the country should not be restructured and that we should leave it to what the military decided to make it — with the military all from one side of the country — is unfair and unrealistic. We must agree on resource control in which every state will control its own resources and give a percentage, even if it is 50 per cent, to the centre,” Abia said.
Also weighing in on the matter, the paramount ruler of Aburemi Kingdom, Ogbia, Bayelsa State, King Collins Daniel, told SUNDAY PUNCH that he disagreed with the Sultan, arguing that only restructuring would address the perennial problems of the country.
Daniel, a first-class monarch, said he did not buy into the idea of building dams across the country as the solution to the restructuring Nigerians were calling for.
“The man (Sultan) who is talking about building dams across the nation is talking in respect of the Sahel region. You know this country is divided into different geographical regions. You have the savannah; you have the Sahel, the forest and the swamps. You will find out that most of the Niger Delta states are in the swamps, lowlands; the South-East and the South-West are in the forest region. The Middle Belt is in the savannah and the North-East and the North-West are in the Sahel region. Now the problem of someone that is in the North-East or North-West cannot be the same problem of the people in the swamp region; it cannot be the same with the people in the forest region.
“So, what is the significance of dams? What will dams do? Dams are for those who don’t get enough rains. The northerners don’t have enough water, so they need dams. So, if that is the solution to their problem, that cannot be the solution of Nigeria. There is always a unifying force for people to say, ‘Let there be restructuring.’ People should be able to negotiate on this structure that we have, so that a section of the country does not have undue advantage over other sections of the country,” the Ogbia monarch said.
For the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, a paramount ruler in Ondo State, there are many imbalances in the Nigerian system and only restructuring can correct them. He told our correspondent that no monarch should ignore restructuring demands.
“I must say that we cannot shy away from the restructuring of this country. Remember that we are talking about an equitable society where we will all see ourselves as one and not a lopsided situation as we currently have. We need to restructure the political frame of the country; the fiscal federalism must equally be addressed.
“We must, therefore, look for a way to discuss these challenges and the best way to overcome them is by the restructuring of Nigeria,” the Deji of Akure said.
Similarly, an Ekiti monarch, the Ajero of Ijero, Oba Adebayo Adewole, argued that, contrary to the view of the Sultan, the country would not progress without political restructuring.
Oba Adewole said, “I believe strongly in restructuring. There is no need for a region to be dragging another region behind. Each state should develop at its pace and control its resources.
“This is why the Niger Delta people are agitating; they feel they are the ones generating the wealth of the nation and their region is not developed. If Nigeria is restructured, the economic and security challenges will go away.”
Similarly, a first-class traditional ruler from Imo State, Obi of Ihim, Eze Oliver Ohanwe, noted that the northern monarch’s preference for economic restructuring would not bring about equity, fairness and justice that Nigerians are clamouring for. He asserted that anything aside full restructuring would continue to undermine the unity of the country.
“I do not agree with the Sultan of Sokoto with his take on restructuring. We need to restructure the country. Agitations for the restructuring of the country did not start today. They started during the amalgamation in 1914 — most Nigerians support restructuring of the country.”
In the same vein, the Okirika-Ama, Umuokirika in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area of the state, Eze Dom Okoro (Eze Okirika I) told SUNDAY PUNCH that he was not surprised that the Sultan did not throw his weight being the restructuring that many Nigerians wanted.
He said, “I say this because they (northerners) are beneficiaries of the current distortions in the country. By that campaign from the Sultan, they want the existing imbalance and cheating in the country to continue.”
His view was shared by another paramount ruler, Dr. Ikechukwu Okoligwe, (Okukoro II) of Awo-Idemili in Orsu Local Government Area, Imo State.
The monarch said, “Many Nigerians are calling for restructuring for us to have equity and fairness in the country. If we fail to do that, we would be deceiving ourselves.”
However, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, told SUNDAY PUNCH that he agreed with the Sultan’s call for economic restructuring.
“I sat with the Sultan and he explained what he meant to me. He explained everything about the devolution of the economy to me and I agreed with him. If restructuring is about breaking up the country, I am against it. But if it is about how to improve the welfare of the people, I will support it,” he stated.
Oba Akanbi added that there should be a clear understanding of the restructuring being called for.
“So many people do not understand what the restructuring is about. Many think it is about the break-up of the country and the people must be educated that the restructuring they are clamouring for is not to break up the country.
“What I would advocate is industrialisation. This government must do everything to ensure that Nigeria is industrialised. The kind of agriculture we are practising in Nigeria is wasting our produce. Farmers lose 75 per cent of their produce after harvest,” he said.