Distinguished Senator Nkechi Justina Nwaogu, former senator representing Abia North Senatorial District and the current chairman University of Calabar Governing Board, in an exclusive interview spoke on the issue of the moment, restructuring and came up with some wonderful views. Excerpts:
Distinguished Senator, as a notable voice in matters of concerning peace and oneness of this great country, Nigeria, what is your take on restructuring?
The issue of restructuring; people easily use that word restructuring. It depends how we want to restructure, what we want to restructure. For instance, are we looking for the things I call the items in the executive list? Are we looking to remove some of the 68 items in the exclusive list and make it available or put them into the concurrent list? That can be done, that is part of restructuring. Are we looking at the structure of Nigeria? When I mean structure as it is called geopolitical structure of Nigeria. Do we need to restructure it, do we need to restructure the layers of government as we have it, the Federal Government, the State Government, the Local Government Area. Are we going to restructure in that area. Are we going to restructure or take away the responsibility of creating additional Local Government Area in Nigeria from the constitution, from the Federal Government? Are we going to restructure that? In which case, we will allow states to create as many local government areas as they want.
If we have to restructure the tiers of government, that means we remove the LGA and merge them to the state and allow states to create as many LG or administrative centres as they deem fit, for the purpose of development and gathering development to the communities and armlets.
When we talk about restructuring, we are talking about the revenue resources of this Nation. Is that what we want to restructure. The issue of restructuring for me is topical and people have been using it loosely, which is frightening.
As people have been coming up with divergent unimaginable views how do you think the issue will be handled?
We need to come to a table; there is the need to look at the composition of this country as we have it today. Because it is not sacrosanct in the first place, it was probably in 1960. But for crying out loud for goodness sake, this is 2017, we are attaining 57 years of Independence and even in a home you built in 1960, there are certain things you need to change. There are certain structures in that building you may want to redesign, recreate as the current time demands.
Similarly, in a country such as ours, I think for 57 years we need to look at what we are doing now. What we had in 1960 when this independence was given to us and see which area we need to restructure.
It is not as if it is a taboo word and people should not look at it as if anybody that says it is against oneness of Nigeria.
For me Senator Nkechi Nwaogu I believe in the unity of this Nation, I believe in Nigeria, I believe that we will be better off, if the entire people if Nigeria stay as an entity of Nigeria. But where a child is crying and pointing his/her hand to, if the mother is not there, the father must be there or somebody that is supposed to carry that child is there.
Therefore all parts of this nation, from East, from West, from many parts of this nation, we are crying about restructuring. We need to go and have a round table discussion in civil way and look at what are those things that are bordering some parts of this nation, where we think that there are visible inequalities. Where we think inequalities are visible, they will be addressed.
For me that is what I call restructuring. We must listen to the cries and demands from people from all parts of this nation asking for restructuring.
What areas in our ways of life will you want to be restructured?
Restructuring like I said earlier could be resource control restructuring, geopolitical zone restructuring, the three tiers of government restructuring, even the democratic nation restructuring. By that I mean: Today we are operating presidential system, when we come to that round table I am envisaging in future we will look at the very system of government that we are operating which is presidential, how good has it been for us. What is the quality of value addition to the use of this type of government? Can we opt for something else? We can even develop our own home grown type of government that will suit the mixed people of this nation.
Therefore people must hear us. The leadership of this country must look at it because, their child or the children or their subjects are crying. Therefore we must, a sensitive government must, but I am glad in the party where I belong today which is All People’s Congress, they have just done what I am saying. There is a committee from the party that has been established and they will go round to get view of Nigerians from all nooks and crannies of all geopolitical zones and I do hope that it will result to putting every cry, every demand on a table and see where we go from there. That is what I call a sensitive government.
Refusal by the government has given birth to pockets of agitations across the nation, they say. What do you have to say about that?
I don’t think there is any link between agitation and restructuring. Restructuring is an issue yet it is only getting to this crescendo as a result of some people thinking that this is the time that they can get their voices heard and hopefully be attended to. The agitators, some of them are frustrated if you ask me. And they are funded and they are engineered.
Because people just get on the street of any place and say we want restructuring, what do you want to restructure? I am also a crusader for restructuring. Looking at the structure in 1960, we were less than 60 million; today we are over 200 Million. In 1960 we had very few tertiary institutions, today we have more than 40 Federal Universities and over 70 Private Universities.
There is the need for us to change certain things. Sometime in the past we had a law that is called Federal Character, and this Federal Character introduced the quota system and this quota system, we know that it is discriminatory.
So there are few things that we need to put on the table and review whether certain things we did in good faith many years ago, are still in good faith today.
Or do we abrogate certain things. A situation where somebody from one zone will need to score like 300 in Joint Matriculation Exam and another person from another zone is given a concession and that person needs to score like 100 to be in the same institution need to be reviewed . There are things that we need to attend to. And for fifty something years of independence for crying out loud we need to now do what I call review.
How do you mean, Distinguished?
Review of the journey so far. We review our own existence as a nation and we review areas that people are agitating for one thing to the other. Some of the agitations ought to be looked into. The leadership and security agencies should look at the courses of agitations whether they are promoted, whether they are induced, whether they are orchestrated and whether they are ignited deliberately just to cause trouble. Every agitation should be looked into.
If you are asked to reach out to the agitators what will you tell them?
My advice to various agitators from nooks and crannies of this nation is, we should tread with care because of those of us that were victims of civil war, and we all know that no good can come out of war of any type or civil unrest.
I believe in dialogue, I believe in conflict resolution through dialogue not through the barrels of gun. For those people who are agitating, do not allow yourself to be used. And you cannot just agitate because others have started to agitate. And you agitate for jealous reasons.
I am asking our parents just like myself not to allow our children to be used. Those who are sponsoring agitation should first bring their children, and their wards in there.
I am also asking the leader to always apply a carrot/stick approach to issues. Don’t just say they are agitating for nothing. They cannot be agitating for nothing. We should always have an agitation resolution mechanism whereby we can look at them critically to see if they are crying hoarse because they could be just doing that just to cause trouble. They can be doing that to cause confusion.
I call those agitators to ensure that before you become an actor in agitation, ensure that you have convinced yourself that what you are agitating for is reasonable, responsible and realizable.
Don’t you see that refusal to restructure is marginalization?
For me I don’t see it as marginalization. Who is marginalizing who? Most times when we from the East are given positions we fail to use it to the good of our people. There is no position in Nigeria except the President that we have not held, as South Easterners.
What have we done for our people? Having said that; there are still some elements of inequality in my zone. For example we have the least number of states than the other 5 geopolitical zones. If not for any other thing I think we should be attended to.
Today we have only 1 river basin for 5 States, most geopolitical zones have 2 or 3.
But having said that, it does not call for civil war. What it calls for is dialogue. What it calls for is a humane way of presenting our case at the right places.
Thanks for your time.
You are welcome.