By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
Immediate past President of the Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega and prominent Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo on Thursday canvassed for the restructuring of the country ahead of the general elections on 2023.
Jonathan, who stoutly harped on the need for restructuring of the country, added however that it (restructuring) cannot be done without tackling the challenging issues polarising the country.
Jega on his part, proposed a three-phased restructuring agenda for Nigeria, while Chief Adebanjo called for the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report.
The trio of Jonathan, Jega and Adebanjo, among others, spoke at the 18th Daily Trust Media Dialogue in Abuja.
They insisted that the restructuring of the country before the 2023 general elections was very imperative.
The former President, who handed over power to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and chaired the dialogue yesterday, pointed out that restructuring cannot be done without first tackling the various challenging issues polarising the country.
Jonathan said, “For instance, in some states, it is not easy for some persons to win an election because of the areas they come from, the language they speak or their religious belief.
“Take a look at how local government elections are conducted at the state level.
“Why is it very difficult for an opposition party to win a chairmanship or councillorship seat in a state, despite the fact that the same party probably secured seats in the state Assembly and National Assembly elections, organised by a federal election management body?” Jonathan queried..
Continuing, the Otuoke in Bayelsa State
born politician, said, “The concept of restructuring is not new to us as Nigerians. Before the civil war Nigeria operated with four regions.
“At the onset of the civil war, General Yakubu Gowon, then head of state, thought that running Nigeria under the regional structure posed a threat to the unity and sovereignty of our country, so he opted to restructure Nigeria into 12 states.
“There were mixed reactions, for and against, across the nation by our people. But in the end, the 12 states structure stayed.
“What Gen. Gowon did, in a war situation, preserved our nation and saved us from disintegration”, he said.
Jonathan explained that it was in the attempt to address the issue that made his administration to convene the 2014 National Conference, to address “the issues that have been agitating the minds of Nigerians.”
In his presentation, Prof. Jega noted with regrets that the two national conferences organised since 1999, the Political Reform Conference of 2005 and the National Conference of 2014 on general national consensus to address burning national issues were unconsidered and unimplemented.
The former INEC Chairman therefore proposed a three-phased restructuring agenda for Nigeria.
These, according to him, are; short, medium and long term restructuring.
The short term, he said, should take place between 2021 to 2023, calling on the Federal Government to “set up a compact but broadly representative technical committee to review the reports of the Political Reform Conference and the National Conference and synthesise and prioritise their recommendations for implementation…”
Jega said the medium term restructuring should hold between 2023 and 2027, to implement the prioritised recommendations of the technical committee, and hand over more responsibilities and resources to the states.
The long term restructuring, according to him, should be from 2027 and beyond.
Chief Adebanjo who addressed the dialogue virtually, blamed the nation’s constitution for its woes.
He noted that at independence, the derivation principle was 50 per cent, adding that such enhanced healthy competition and economic development among and within the regions.
Adebanjo called for the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report.
His words, “Anybody planning to hold election in 2023 before restructuring does not love this country,” he stated.
On his part, former President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr John Nnia Nwodo, argued that Nigeria has to restructure because the current electoral system is dysfunctional and does not elicit confidence, and also to reduce insecurity in the country.
According to Nwodo, “We must do all we can to restructure before the next election in 2023 because the level of dissatisfaction in the country as evidenced by the last ENDSARS protest gives one the impression that any delay may lead to a mass boycott or disruption of the next elections to the point that we may have a major serious constitutional crisis of a nation without a government”.