An array of eminent Nigerians on Wednesday in Abuja while tinkering with Nigeria’s national question of restructuring came up with a resolution that the unity of the country is sacrosanct and that everything needed to be done by the government and every section should be done to retain the federal identity.
The labour movement under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) set the platform for discussion at a colloquium on the theme, ‘The Labour Movement and The Future of a United Nigeria: What Role For Restructuring’ held at the Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotels & Towers.
The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Sultan Mohammed Sa’ad III who posited that there is strength in unity than in division, emphasized the need for discussion of ethnic groups in an atmosphere where there will be mutual respect for one another’s views.
While he stressed that the country has undergone phases of restructuring since the 1914 Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by Lord Lugard, the royal father insisted that as a people we need to know our history and how we came together as a nation.
“It is good to sit down and dialogue but there must be respect. It is important to know who we are and where we come from. We have a history. We must look back at where we are coming from. When we talk about restructuring, what are we to restructure, how do we restructure?.
“Let us sit down to talk about these with position papers prepared by every ethnic nationality, Afenifere, Ohaneze, Arewa, the Ijaw of the South South and others. Let the Federal Government provide an enabling environment that will be conducive for us to sit down and discuss these issues. But like I said, there must be respect for one another’s views”, he said.
The Sultan commended the labour movement for taking the initiative of providing the platform to discuss issues that are germane to national unity, saying that it has been long overdue but said the NLC was apt in filling the vacuum left unfilled, charging the union to occupy its rightful position in scheming for a better Nigeria while warning labour movements to be united in playing the role of helping the government in power to sustain the unity of Nigeria.
Chairman of the occasion and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, GCON, commended the NLC which he described as one of the most educated and informed labour movements in Africa for its concern about the unity of the country. He said, “Nigeria will be united forever”.
Lead paper presenter, Prof. Sam Egwu said he does not subscribe to the notion that Nigeria is indissoluble but would rather advocate for what needs to be done to retain the unity, saying, we need to work to retain the existing relationship among the different ethnic nationalities and the unity of the country.
The political scientist said it is unfortunate that some people calling for restructuring are ignorant of the theme of restructuring, thereby creating a more trying situation. “They only succeeded in creating trying time for the country, trying time for our unity, trying time for our democracy because they keep on heating the polity and our corporate existence in being threatened”.
Prof. Egwu said the call for restructuring is not enough without resolving other dynamics of federalism needed to be addressed which centres around the institution of the state.
He said, “the central rallying point of identity which is the state has been taken away leaving the stage for alternative identity such as religion and ethnicity”, adding that people agitating for one thing or the other are contesting the meaning of the state. “People are asking legitimate questions but using wrong platforms of religion and ethnicity”.
Pro. Egwu blamed the Nigerian federal system for failing to reflect principles of true federalism embedded in shared roles that recognize peculiarity of each component units of the Federation.
He made reference to the 2014 National Conference to which representatives of the six geopolitical zones presented position papers as a better way of arguing on wrong platforms of ethnicity.
To him, restructuring “is about how you can align structures with functions in a federal system, stating that the problem of Nigeria is the problem of governance, justice and equity and the inability of mobilizing and distributing national resources.
The President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said the colloquium was put together to articulate a labour perspective on the debate on the restructuring of Nigeria, adopting just and fair measures of reconciliation, integration, and development, to proffer practical and policy based recommendations on the nature of restructuring.
Pursuant to the outcome of the proceedings, he said the Congress will take a position which will be submitted to the Presidency, the National Assembly, State Assemblies and the affiliates of the movement for consideration and implementation.
In addition, he said, a labour group will be constituted to monitor the constitution review process and lobby the appropriate bodies to ensure the implementation of the resolutions.
Justifying the need for the labour movement to join in the national discourse, he said the ongoing articulation of positions by the political class, civil society and the contending groups of agitators is being conducted using violent language and deploying ethnic and religious sentiments which have potentials of shaping the opinions of the Nigerian workers and dividing them along ethnic and religious lines.
“Unfortunately, the working people have been mobilized to be partisan by accepting some of these canvassed positions which are heavily identity-based rather than ideological. The Nigeria Labour Congress feels strongly that she should access this dominated space and articulate agenda for Nigeria by hosting a platform for national discourse on the issue”, he said.
On hand to discuss the paper presented were Professor. Godoni Darah, Prof. Toye Olorode, Barrister Femi Falani, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and Prof. Jibo Ibrahim.