By Chimennma Okolo
Recently I was in Port Harcourt for the Niger Delta Young Leaders: Stakeholders Round Table Meeting.
The Round-table meeting was convened by Mr Moses Siasia, a vibrant young Niger Deltan with an obvious love for the people and passion for the development of the area.
The meeting has as its theme “On Restructuring We Stand” with a rider “True Federalism and Resource Control”.
It was an interesting avenue to interact with young professionals drawn from across the Niger Delta and get a first-hand view of what this class of our youths are thinking with regards to the current events playing out in the national discourse. And I was not disappointed. The youths were passionate and articulate in their presentations and positions.
I commend the conveners of the meeting for the conception and implementation of this wonderful idea.
I am also deeply grateful to our mama Niger Delta madam Annkio Briggs who introduced me to the group and asked that I be invited to the meet.
When yours sincerely was given the opportunity to make my contributions I laid bare my fears on this issue of restructuring.
Below are some of my thoughts on this burning issue.
First I made it clear that it was great that most people believe in one Nigeria but as for me I don’t believe that one Nigeria should be by all means thing. We must answer the national question of to be or not to be!
The first thing that Nigeria needs to do and urgently too is to convene a conference of nationalities to discuss whether we should remain one or not! If the conference of nationalities agrees for our continued union then we must determine clearly and specifically under what conditions that union must stand.
For me restructuring as a term must be properly defined, it’s too nebulous as presently been bandied about. We must define what we mean when we talk of restructuring of the Nigerian union. This is important because what restructuring may mean to an Atiku for instance maybe different from what it may mean to me.
What therefore should restructuring mean to us as Niger Deltans and indeed as southerners?
For me we should look to restructuring in two perspectives:
(a) Political Restructuring
(b) Economic Restructuring.
The two must go together to be able to achieve a fair and just system of relationship.
- A) For me Political restructuring will entail a determined paradigm shift from what obtains presently.
The present political structure is meant to favour the Northern part of the country and make the Southern part perpetual slaves.
At present the North has 19 states whilst the south has 17 states, this must be restructured.
The North with 19 states has 57 of the 109 senators at the National Assembly whilst the South has 52, the North also has about 191 HoR members compared to the South with about 167, the North West zone has seven (7) states to the South East five (5) how will we restructure all the above?
Kano has 44 LGAs which is about what Delta and Rivers states combined have how do we restructure such an anomaly? We must determine whether to go back to regionalism or continue with the present states structure or a hybrid of both.
Restructuring should not just be a slogan but a well thought out plan for the emancipation of our peoples from the shackles of pseudo-slavery we have found ourselves.
- B) We must demand economic restructuring of this nation. How is it that the major players in the oil industry are Northerners? How is it that there is no plan for the management of the environment of the Niger Delta?
How is that the North which presently adds nothing to the national purse take more than the Niger Delta states? Available data shows that of the revenue going to LGAs about 54% goes to the North whilst 46% comes to the south while of the revenue to states the northern states take about 60% to the South’s 40%. This must be restructured and for us in the Niger Delta economic restructuring must mean TOTAL control/ownership and management of resources with agreed and agreeable tax paid to the centre.
In stating our demands with regards to this restructuring we must show no fear, we are freeborn not slaves! We owe nobody apologies for demanding what is in fact ours by right.
Thus for me we cannot allow those who have held Nigeria to ransom to be the ones to drive this restructuring agenda, it must be people oriented and driven by the common man otherwise we will end up where we are with a new set of names.
Restructuring should not be another sloganeering for the politicians to deceive or lure us.
We must remain focused, committed and unwavering in our determination.
It must be emphasised that this is perhaps Nigeria’s last chance at survival as a nation, if we fail to take this opportunity then we will kiss Nigeria goodbye! There is no middle ground.
We either restructure or go our separate ways.
Chimennma Okolo is a lawyer, equal rights campaigner and environmental rights activist.