Many delegates to the on-going National Conference were taken aback yesterday when His Royal Highness Lamido Adamawa Barkindo Aliyu Mustapha said that oil-bearing states should be allowed to receive 100 per cent revenue accruing from their resources. Mustapha also said that states that do not have oil should be allowed to receive 100 per cent revenue from their land resource.
He noted that the implication of his proposal is that ownership of all land should revert to the states. The monarch however opposed assigning traditional rulers any roles in the constitution. He said, “Mr. Chairman, I have observed
that some people have started jumping the gun by commenting on issues like resource control, resource ownership and so on. In this case, let me also jump the gun and say that states who don’t have oil should allow states which have oil to take 100 percent revenue.
“And states that don’t have oil should take 100 percent land resource. That means all lands should revert to those states. And anybody who wants to use the land or the structure on the land must pay rent to those states or the traditional owners of the land. For example, the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT). As for traditional rulers, I don’t support the idea or opinion to give us any role in the constitution; our roles are conventions like the British constitution and we have been performing them for years and in some places, for more than one thousand years.
“What traditional rulers in Nigeria want is recognition. So I urge this Conference to please, include in the constitution, a provision that will entrench the National Traditional Rulers Council of Nigeria, whose membership will be three traditional rulers from each State, including the President of the council from that state. The other day I heard an ethnic nationality delegate saying that his people are marginalized, because a District Head was appointed in the area, which they don’t support.
“We should not listen to these ethnic chauvinists because if we agree with their argument, we will end up in a situation in Nigeria whereby every ethnic group will demand that the next president, governor, Emir, Obis, Obas, Ministers, Chairman of Local government. We better thank God the major tribes in Nigeria are tolerant, considerate and magnanimous. Otherwise, we would have found ourselves in a different situation in Nigeria today.”
On President Goodluck Jonathan’s address, he said, “In his address, he almost laid down the challenges facing this country and went ahead to advise us to be moderate, tolerant, considerate and magnanimous in our discussion. I will like to advise us once again to take a cue from Mr. President’s speech and not the so-called civilized people from the West, who always tell us there are no permanent friends but permanent interests and who advocate same sex marriages.”
Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chibudom Nwuche, yesterday said that the on-going Conference should consider restructuring the country in line with existing six geo-political zones. The two former principal officers of the National Assembly said that the way out of the country’s myriads of problems was to make the geo-political zones federating units of the country.
Nnamani specifically noted that the issue of local government should be left to the zones “so that if a zone feels it wants to make each family a local government, it should feel free to do so.” He, who urged delegates to focus on the future of the country, insisted that the federal government should be decentralized.
Nwuche, on his part, said that those opposed to restructuring of the country missed the point. He noted that the subsisting structure of the country has made everybody a loser. Insisting that the zones should be the federating units, Nwuche said that the states are too weak and small and could easily be pocketed by respective chief executives. The problem with Nigeria, he said, is the structure which “compels corruption, youth unemployment and other vices,” adding that, “The current status quo has made everybody a loser. The current structure has produced corruption, inefficiency, unemployment, lack of power, bad roads, poor economic system and others.
“So whoever wants to maintain the status quo must have a serious rethink. Either those who want to keep the status quo have not done the analysis or they are keeping a blind eye to the negative effects. Otherwise it is self-evident that this status quo is not working and it will not work. Therefore, I strongly support the agitation for restructuring. To make Nigeria work, we must restructure.
“People who are advocating for the status quo to remain either they haven’t read history or they haven’t taken time to analysis even in their own short lifetime why Nigeria has deteriorated. In my lifetime, Nigeria has gone down; the system is not working for us. I believe that those opposed to restructuring are in the minority. Go out there ask the youths who are unemployed what they want, they will tell you they want change.
“The fact is the minority will have its say while the majority will have its way. Most Nigerians want change. We can’t allow a few irredentist minorities to hold us back. Nigeria is at a crossroads and must be overhauled. I advocate for the zones to be the federating units, the states are too weak and small they can easily be pocketed by the respective chief executives. The local governments are too small; they should be expunged entirely. So I advocate for zonal structures, not states with weaker centre. The federal government should handle common issue, common currency, foreign affairs, and general oversight.”
Retired colonel Tony Nyiam, in his contribution, said the negotiation at the conference is between those who wanted the existing system to continue and those want a change from the status quo. And for Professor A.B.C. Nwosu, who also spoke about the need for devolution of powers, the federal government has over-burdened itself with responsibilities. He said, “We must stop ‘do or die affair’ through devolution of powers.”
While metaphorically describing the conference as the assembly of lions, chickens, cobra and scorpions in one room, Maj. Gen. Alexander Mshelbwala said delegates should be honest to themselves “so that at the end of the day, we can arrive at equity and justice.” But Fati Eunice Ibrahim promptly raised Point of Order to challenge Mshelbwala over the reference to the conference as an assemblage of dangerous animals.
In his contribution, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba said to fix the country requires good leadership. He noted that more than anything else the country required good leadership, adding that the quality of leadership in the country is declining and needed to be rescued. Na’Abba also emphasized that political parties should take the issue of internal democracy seriously.