Says Gov Dickson at launch of Chido Onumah’s ‘We are all Biafrans’
By Nsikan Ikpe
Restructuring: Buhari missed golden opportunity – Gov. Dickson
*Says Biafra not geographical concept but metaphor for injustice, inequity
Bayelsa State Governor, Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson, on Friday literally extended the frontiers of the ‘Restructuring Nigeria’ debate, saying President Muhammadu Buhari missed a golden opportunity to become a great statesman by vehemently rejecting his party, the All Progressives Congress’s position on the restructuring of Nigeria.
He also said that it is a major tragedy for Nigeria and his leadership that the President dumped the report of his party’s committee on restructuring and devolution of power led by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, into the trash can.
Governor Dickson, who spoke in Abuja on the topic: “Federalism, Restructuring and Nation-building” at the public presentation of We Are All Biafrans, a book authored by veteran journalist and rights activist, Mr. Chido Onumah, restated his position that his relentless advocacy for the restructuring of Nigeria is not about dismemberment or balkanising of the country but that it is a call for major constitutional reform.
His Special Adviser on Public Affairs, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted the governor as saying that there has been no serious commitment to the process of comprehensive constitutional reform in the country.
“There is no way we can go forward as a country without going back to address the faulty structure that we are currently operating. I therefore call for leadership responsibility by the President. He has to use the power, influence and authority of his office to mobilise our country to do the restructuring that is possible. I regret to say that I feel disappointed that the President did not rise to the occasion. It is a tragedy for our country and also a major tragedy for his own leadership.
“I however congratulate and commend the APC committee on restructuring and devolution of power led by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, for the work it did. The committee’s report was very clear on the roadmap to restructure the country. Whenever I see anything good, I support and encourage it. Our interest is greater Nigeria. I don’t care which platform you belong to. Just do what is right and you have my support.
“It is however unfortunate that there was no follow up and it is really regrettable that the President did not utilise the lifeline that his own party offered him for the purposes of statesmanship. The President threw away that wonderful and golden opportunity.”
Governor Dickson also stated that inasmuch as he agrees with the metaphor of Biafra used in the book as representing the issues and challenges that confront the country, he is however opposed to the geographical connotation and does not believe in it.
His words: “This country belongs to all of us. I don’t believe in the geographical expression of Biafra. I will rather we join forces to fight for a new Nigeria, a Nigeria for equal citizens, a Nigeria for the big and the small, for the weak and the strong. That is the critical challenge facing us rather than the idea of balkanising. Nobody owns this country more than you and I. I will never leave this country for any other person and we are going to slug it out here together. This is to underscore the point that I do not believe in the geographical concept of Biafra.”
He however explained that we are all Biafrans as far as we are concerned about the issues of inequity and injustice.
“If the concept of Biafra is used as a constant reminder of the challenges and contradictions of our nation, then it is right to say we are all Biafrans because we are all concerned about those contradictions and challenges. But I disagree with the concept of Biafra connoting a particular geographical location of our country that wants to be separate from the rest of Nigeria. I don’t agree with that Biafra and I am not a part of that Biafra.
“My understanding of restructuring is that of a united, big, strong Nigeria that is fair and equitable to all its citizens. A Nigeria that can be showcased as the greatest African nation. A Nigeria that our forefathers negotiated and spent a lot time discussing, agreeing and disagreeing about. The Nigeria that symbolises the hope of the black race. That is the Nigeria that I believe in, a Nigeria of equal citizenship. This country belongs to all of us. I don’t believe in the geographical expression of Biafra.
“But we should not run away from discussing the issues that people raise from time to time that they want to be Biafrans. If all is well with Nigeria, who would not want to be part of what is big and is working? And if things are not working, why shouldn’t we talk about it? We shouldn’t be scared of disagreeing. We need more disagreements in this country. I don’t know what you are doing in the public space if you cannot hold a view. Whether we agree or disagree, it should be in the national interest. If you disagree, do not question my patriotism.”
Speaking further, the Bayelsa helmsman noted that nations are not just mere geographical entities but that there has to be shared values.
“We must have a shared Nigerianness. Nigeria is a great nation with immense potentialities. We only need to get the ground rules right. No country can intimidate us because of our size. Those in support of restructuring do not hate Nigeria. It is wrong to question their patriotism because they are challenging the faulty status quo. There are glaring inequities. We should simply lock the door and sit down to talk. The answer is not to dismember the country. Sudan has plenty oil and gas but no peace and no stability. Same with Congo with all their rich resources.”
Dickson again stressed that the 2019 election is a referendum on restructuring and that he is delighted that having raised the bar on the issue of restructuring, all the former presidential aspirants of his party, the People’s Democratic Party, had no option than to publicly say that they believe in it.
“In my part of the country, we are very clear that this coming election will be a referendum on restructuring. I therefore call on all our people to identify, support and encourage candidates who believe in restructuring so that when the next National Assembly reconvenes, it will have the numbers to do the needful.
“The candidate of my party, Alhaji Atiku, has consistently said that he believes in restructuring. For us, therefore, the options are very clear because the President, by his own conduct, has not left Nigerians who believe in restructuring and people like us who are passionate about it with any options. This is about the future of our country. We will mobilise support for the party and the candidate that believes in restructuring in the 2019 election,” he said.
He further argued that the Nigerian brand of the presidential system of government is wasteful and has given room for the agitation for a return to the parliamentary system.
“The presidential system is wasteful and expensive because of the very large bureaucracy that we operate. Recently, some lawmakers raised a bill seeking a return to the parliamentary system of government. What they are simply asking for is restructuring. Yet the President said there is nothing to restructure in Nigeria. In all honesty, our country is not currently structured to succeed,” he said.