Atiku said this in his remarks during the public presentation of a book titled, “We are all Biafrans,” written by Chido Onumah, in Abuja, on Tuesday.
According to him, it is wrong to assume that everyone who calls for restructuring is advocating the dismemberment of the Nigerian state.
He explained that Nigeria as “it is structured today is not working” and as such it was necessary to take a second look at the structure with a view to reforming it into a workable entity.
Atiku noted that while the posting of policemen from one part of the country to another could achieve cultural integration, it would do little if there was nothing to deal with the security challenges in the affected areas.
He said, “Agitations by many right-thinking Nigerians call for a restructuring and a renewal of our federation to make it less centralised, less suffocating and less dictatorial in the affairs of our country’s constituent units and localities.”
“As some of you may know, I have for a long time advocated the need to restructure our federation. Our current structure and the practices it has encouraged have been a major impediment to the economic and political development of our country.
“In short, it has not served Nigeria well, and at the risk of reproach, it has not served my part of the country, the North, well.
“The call for restructuring is even more relevant today in the light of the governance and economic challenges facing us. And the rising tide of agitations, some militancy and violence, require a reset in our relationships as a united nation.
“Some may say that we are saddled with more urgent challenges, including rebuilding our battered economy, creating jobs, fighting corruption and securing our people from terrorism and other forms of serious crimes.
“I believe, however, that addressing the flaws in our federation will help us address some of those very economic and security challenges facing this country.”
He, however, stressed that Nigeria must remain a united country because its potential was enormous.
Atiku maintained that a united country, which most Nigerians desired, should never be taken for granted or taken as an evidence that Nigerians were content with the current structure of the federation.
According to him, making that mistake might “set us on the path of losing the country we love or, as Chindo Onumah puts it, result in our country sleepwalking to disaster.”
The politician also acknowledged that “no federal system is set for all time.”
He observed that there were tensions arising from matters relating to the sharing of power, resources and responsibilities.
Atiku explained that established democracies had developed peaceful mechanisms for resolving such conflicts among the tiers of government because they recognised that negotiations and compromises were eternal.
Atiku recalled that the federal system Nigeria inherited at independence was one which allowed the federating units to retain their autonomy to raise and retain revenues, promote development, and conduct their affairs as they saw fit, while engaging in healthy competition with others.
Reacting, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, and the apex socio-political association of the Igbo, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, have backed Atiku’s call for restructuring.
They called on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to adopt true federalism. This, they said, would provide solutions to the country’s problems.
The Secretary General of Afenifere, Mr. Sehinde Arogbofa, who spoke for the group, said there was the need for the President to implement the report of the 2014 confab which, according to him, contains the solutions to the challenges facing the nation.
He said, “The late Papa Obafemi Awolowo said that we have to restructure the country but as we are now, we don’t have a true federalism to favour any geographical region.
“In a true federal structure, every component that makes up the federation would be allowed to exist at its own pace, which is not what is happening now. We have always preached what would make every component to be free, proud, develop and be ready to innovate.”
He lamented that in spite of the all the clamouring, Buhari had not shown any signal that he would implement the confab report.
Arogbofa added, “We have been calling on the present government to pick up the report of the 2014 confab, but it does not have the courage to pick it up. I don’t know why the President is not acting on the report and government is supposed to be a continuum.
“If he continues to do certain things that are good, why doesn’t he do this? We are not saying he should implement everything but, at least, he would see some solutions in the confab report such that he would not need to set up committees for everything.”
Also, a chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, described Atiku’s call for the restructuring of the federation as a welcome development.
Adebanjo said, “Atiku’s view is a welcoming view. He has been consistent on the call for the need for the country to restructure. He wrote an opinion article during the national confab, stating that there was the need for the restructuring of the country.”
Also, the President-General. Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Enwo Igariwey, noted that the Ohanaeze and other delegates from the South-East had canvassed the restructuring of the country during the last national constitutional conference organised by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Igariwey, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone, said restructuring was in the best interest of the country.
“That (restructuring) was our position during the last national constitutional conference. We have been calling for restructuring, we believe it is in the best interest of the country,” the Ohanaeze leader said.
Atiku had in response to a question during the panel discussion on the solution to the renewed agitation in Niger Delta suggested that the Federal Government should apply the carrot and stick approach in dealing with fresh agitations from the Niger Delta.
According to him, the issue of power supply will continue to be a challenge until the Niger Delta issue is resolved.
Atiku said, “In 2007, before I ran for president, I met with various stakeholders on the Niger Delta issue and they came up with a policy.
“Part of the recommendations was that, the ministry be moved to the Niger Delta and not Abuja. We have had administrations that did not do their homework on the Niger Delta.
“If I had won, I would have sold 10 per cent shares in the NNPC; that will give me $20bn which would build infrastructure for the Niger Delta.”
He however expressed sadness that we had always ended up with accidental leadership.
The former Vice-President said the restoration of peace and development to the Niger Delta would guarantee an end to pipeline vandalism. (Punch)