Governors from the 19th Northern States and their Traditional Rulers are meeting in Kaduna with a view to taken a unanimous decision on the restructuring the country.
Nigerians have continued agitations and calling for the restructuring of the country in order.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, the Chairman of the Northern States Governors forum and governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima expressed hope that the Forum and royal fathers will adopt a consensus position on restructuring of the country that will be reflective of the general overall interest of the people of Northern Nigeria.
Read his full speech below
We, the political and traditional leaders of Northern Nigeria, are gathered here today against the backdrop of certain developments in Nigeria’s political landscape that we can only ignore to the detriment of the wellbeing of our people and the development of our region. We have witnessed in the last few months, all manner of political agitations, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. While some arguably more moderate and mature voices have advocated for the scrapping of the 1999 Constitution and a return to the 1963 Republican Constitution with its own emphasis on regionalism, others have called for the practice of “true” or “fiscal” federalism. Yet another group is aggressively seeking to commit the nation to adopt the Report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference as the authoritative basis for discussing restructuring, while at the extreme end of the scale, we have the champions of a separatist agenda who are hell-bent on balkanizing the country. I shall in due course return to this restructuring palaver.
Another no less important issue on the front burner of national discourse, which by far impacts more on the socio-economic lives of the people of the North than the rest of the country is the continuing, and in some cases worsening, conflict between farmers and herdsmen. Although the struggle over grazing land is a recurring phenomenon in many African countries south of the Sahara, the case in Nigeria has come to assume a dangerous and worrisome dimension in terms of both its massive scale and widespread scope, and the ethno-religious colouration it has been so cynically given.
I dare to say that unless we are ready to cast aside all sentiment-laden approaches to tackling this monstrous problem, it is capable of consuming the very social fabric of the North and even condemning the entire country to unwarranted destruction. It requires no knowledge of rocket science to discern that the future prosperity of the North in particular and Nigeria in general squarely rests on agriculture and the human resources and talent we can bring to bear on it. And here I mean agriculture in its widest possible sense, encompassing the practice of both crop and animal husbandry with a robust synergy between the farmer and the herdsman. Only two days ago, no less than the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo warned that the days in which zero revenue will be generated from crude oil were fast approaching due largely to advancements in technology. To be forewarned, they say, is to be forearmed. It therefore behoves on us, our political leaders, royal fathers and elders, to here and now embark on the serious search for a viable, sustainable and lasting solution to this admittedly difficult to resolve but not insurmountable quagmire.
Your Excellencies, Your Eminences, Your Highnesses and Northern Leaders of Thought, by singling out these two major issues, I am by no means suggesting that our region or even Nigeria as a whole is without other fundamental challenges. Indeed to the contrary, we remain bedeviled by several other problems, chief among which is the vexing and protracted Boko Haram insurgency in the North East and its deeply troubling consequences of massive destruction of human lives and communities property, mass displacement of persons, threat to food security, social dislocation arising from the forced and sudden emergence of thousands of orphans and widows, to mention a few. There are also the deeply rooted issues of child destitution thrown up by the Almajiri system, alarmingly fallen standards of the public education system, youth employment and restiveness, drug peddling and abuse, and sectarian violence. Needless to say, we must wear our thinking caps to find immediate and lasting solutions to these teething problems less we get drowned by them.
I now return to the currently trending matter of restructuring. It is common knowledge that following the recent upsurge in the clamor for restructuring and even secession, the Acting President held a series of meetings with all stakeholders from all sections of the country. He has at other occasions also pledged that the Federal Government was looking into the matter with a view to coming up with a position. The ruling party, the All Peoples’ Congress (APC), to which 17 of the 19 Northern States Governors belong, has also since constituted a committee to handle the issue. I have no doubt in my mind that the combined effect of these efforts have to a reasonable extent defused tension and calmed frayed nerves across the country.
It is also my expectation that at the end of this meeting today and, God willing, tomorrow’s meeting of the Governors, the Forum and our esteemed royal fathers will adopt a consensus position on restructuring of the country that will be reflective of the general overall interest of the people of Northern Nigeria and which will attract popular acceptance. It is of vital importance to arrive at such consensus position because it is crucial to dispel the erroneous impression created and disseminated by certain interests in this country that the North is opposed to restructuring. Secondly, it is important to do so not only to accommodate the mainstream of Northern public opinion, our primary constituency, but to also counter the specific versions of restructuring which generally seek to place the North in a position of strategic political and economic disadvantage, but portrayed as the only versions that can work for the nation.
Without pre-empting the outcome of our interactions over the next two days however, permit me Your Excellencies and Your Royal Highnesses, to embark on a short reflection on the matter before hand. Agreed that being citizens of a democratic country, Nigerians are entitled to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and association, and the clamour for the restructuring of the country falls within the purview of these freedoms. However, the exercise of such rights outside the confines of responsibility is not acceptable. The resort to shenanigans, hate speech, and sometimes, incitement to violence by organizations such as IPOP and MOSSAB must be unconditionally condemned as they are inimical to national unity, stability, peaceful coexistence and national security. In this regards, I call on all constituted authorities and responsible leaders of thought in the South East and other parts of Nigeria to rise to the occasion and call these purveyors of hate speech and inflammatory and provocative statements to order. These elements must be encouraged to pursue their agitations within processes enshrined in our constitution and with the full and willing participation of all parts of our nation. This was precisely what we did when we acted in unison as Governors of Northern States when we recently took the responsible position of of swiftly and emphatically condemning the ultimatum given by some Northern youths to people of Igbo extraction residing in the North to leave by 1st October.
All the aforementioned being said, Your Excellencies and Your Royal Highness, it is important to stress that as daunting as it seems, these challenges of nation building our country is facing are nothing new or anything excessively out of the ordinary. Indeed, it should be a source of consolation to Nigerians, Northerners in particular, to know that the history of nation building from the Greek city states through the Roman and medieval times, up to the renaissance and enlightenment period of the 18th century had always been eventful. The modern nation state itself– an independent state with a written constitution, ruled in the name of a nation of equal citizens – is hardly 200 years old, having been elicited by the French and American revolutions. During these 200 years several states have been born and others have died all in circumstances that are often traumatic, the effect of which trauma still haunts the states.
Therefore, Nigeria’s experiences are nothing exceptional, having been created out of British imperial incursions out of motives that are anything but philanthropic. We are dealing with a historical fait accomplish and we have to figure out how we can manage this in ways, which minimizes the suffering or ways and which guarantees the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.
To do this, we need statesmen to chaperone the art of governance, not politicians; for we need to look at the coming generations not the coming elections. We need to look far into the future with the utmost sense of responsibility and not cash in on some immediate opportunities. We need to constantly weigh the consequences of our words and actions and avoid playing to the gallery.
We must constantly be aware of the terrain and times. We have a country that has gone through a civil war, military coups and counter-coups, some of them bloody, prolonged military dictatorships, several false starts as a democracy, insurgency and banditry and a huge youth population whose huge expectations are far from being met. Our peculiar circumstances have made it difficult to deliver and what we need is trust and hope to see us through the difficult times. Overcome we shall, but we need all the survival techniques our collective talent can muster.
These trying times should actually teach us something: we can’t continue with our old ways of politics, of thinking and of behaving. For our societies are decomposing under several stresses, poverty, drugs, crimes, many of which are symptoms of a great moral crises. In times of great moral crises we need exceptional and great moral leadership to remain afloat and rescue our society from the drain. These times should set us thinking.
We need to re-invent our politics, re-engineer our society and redirect the energy of our youth so that we exploit the great potential, which God in His mercy has bestowed on us. The system can be provided with the much needed policy-framework, funding, energy and direction to set up urban and rural agro based industries to raise our productive capacity, keep our youth busy; after some of the countries we admire and frequently visit did just that to be the shining light that they are today. We need to task our intellectuals, our political class, our clergy and our traditional leaders to create the necessary synergy to work assiduously to meet targets that will put us back on the path of progress. We cant afford to fail, we have all we need to succeed, all we require now is the political will; the will to change our ways, the will to re-invent our politics, the will to re-engineer our society and focus on the next generation rather than the next elections.
Your Excellencies, and our Royal fathers, I end this speech by reminding us of the recent demise of a most distinguished Northern and a patriotic Nigerian; a great builder of social bridges, His Excellency, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Sule, Danmasanin Kano. On your behalf, I want to thank His Excellency, Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, for renaming the North West University after this great man. I hope we can all find some befitting honour to bestow on a man whose life should continue to inspire younger generations. May Allah (SWT) reward him Aljannat Firdaus. I will also like to immensely appreciate Nigerians for their ceaseless prayers for the wellbeing and speedy recovery of President Muhammadu Buhari who to the delight of all of us is recuperating very well indeed.