Apex ethnic groups and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Sunday expressed shock and anger over President Muhammadu Buhari’s jibe at advocates of restructuring of the polity.
The President at the weekend described advocates of restructuring and secession as “naïve and mischievously dangerous.”
The president spoke during the launch of the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation in Zaria, Kaduna State.
Represented by the Executive Secretary, Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Alhaji Mohammed Shehu, the President also told those calling for a national dialogue that his government had no time for any “obscure conference.”
Afenifere, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the Arewa Consultative Forum (AGF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) flayed the position of the President.
The other groups that faulted Buhari were the Movement for Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in Niger Delta (MOSIEND), the Southsouth Elders Forum (SEF) Ikwerre Peoples Congress (IPC) Worldwide and Egbesu Brotherhood.
The Afenifere said it was stunned that despite governors and former Nigerian leaders lending their weight behind the calls for restructuring, the President was thinking otherwise.
Secretary-General, Sola Ebiseni, said: “We are at a critical stage where children, particularly in states with the highest population of children out of school in the world can no longer go to school at all for fear of being kidnapped for ransom.
“State governments are demanding the powers to establish state police to deal with insecurity and prominent traditional rulers, especially Emirs have called on their people to rise in their own defence and some uninformed government officials are threatening us with war if we seek restructuring or self-determination. It is so nauseating.
“In any event, restructuring of the political architecture of the country in the interest of the people, their security and general wellbeing is not going to be at the pleasure of the President or the whims and caprices of his uncouth officials.”
The PANDEF, in a statement by its spokesman, Ken Robinson, said the President was “against restructuring because the North was benefiting from the flawed military-imposed 1999 Constitution.”
“Every month, the 19 Northern states receive a minimum of 57 per cent of 100 per cent of oil revenue while the Southsouth which contributes 87 per cent, receives less than 20 per cent,” it said.
The statement partly reads: “How could a President whose party constituted a committee on restructuring make such comments? The Governor Nasir El-Rufai-led Committee concluded its assignment and submitted a report to the party, over two years ago.
“That the President could make such comment reflects the core of the nation’s problems at this time. It also shows that this Presidency is insensitive, and doesn’t care about the unity and future of Nigeria.
“Mr President did not talk about how to deal with the banditry and increasing kidnap of school children in Kaduna and other states in the Northwest.
“Rather, he reminded citizens of the nation’s military might which he has been unable to deploy against the terrorists, bandits and criminals making life unbearable for citizens and undermining the nation’s territorial integrity.”
The PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the President missed the point in dismissing restructuring calls with a wave of the hand.
Stating that restructuring and national dialogue had become imperative and more compelling for the corporate existence and continued survival of Nigeria, the main opposition party cautioned the President against pushing the nation towards the precipice.
It described the remarks as dictatorial and inflammatory.
The statement said: “It is appalling, and to say the least, despicable, that Mr President and his party (All Progressives Congress) that came to power in 2015 on the promise of restructuring, have not only reneged, in utter duplicity towards Nigerians but also turned around, six years after, to label restructuring as warfare and Nigerians demanding for it as mischievously dangerous.
“President Buhari should be tutored to know that even the quest for an efficient local government system as well as an effective judiciary, which he alluded to as a focus, can only be achieved through a constitutional restructuring that directly confers and vests the required powers and control in them.
“The amendment or alteration of the constitution to permit state police as widely demanded by Nigerians is, therefore, a form of restructuring that will adjust our policing system without creating a war.”
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said the President’s position is poorly informed and ignorant about restructuring.
Director of Publicity and Advocacy, NEF, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, told our correspondent that: “To say that people who are supporting it are naive or hostile is to show either an unforgivable level of ignorance or unacceptable level of contempt for public opinion. Either way, it is not good for a president.
“It would appear that President Muhammadu Buhari either does not understand what restructuring is all about, or he is so hostile to change that he would call the people who are demanding restructuring names.
“I think the president is very poorly informed. Even if his personal view about a change of any type is negative, there are supposed to be people around him either the ministers or members of the National Assembly that should tell him that restructuring simply means holding amendments to the Nigerian constitution in such a manner that those changes address some of the most basic demands of Nigerians for a federation that works better in all sections of Nigeria.
“The call for restructuring is genuine, popular and legitimate. It is something that has to be done not because one part of the country or one segment of the population wants it, but because the Nigerian federation genuinely requires some major change.”
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) faulted President Buhari for describing those demanding restructuring as “naive and dangerously mischievous”.
ACF spokesman Emmanuel Yawe said though the Forum does not entirely agree with the advocates of restructuring, the President may have his reasons for his position.
“Did the President actually say they are ‘mischievously dangerous? We in the ACF disagree with them but will not describe them so.
“The President has access to security reports which may have made him pass such harsh judgment on advocates of restructuring.
“What we have said is that we find it rather strange that some of the agitators for restructuring are the same people calling for the dismemberment of Nigeria.
“We don’t see how you are going to restructure a nonexistent country,” Yawe said.