In his 2018 New Year speech, Buhari finally came out with a position on the restructuring debate saying that he does not favour it.
“When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure,” he said.
So what do Nigerians think? We have aggregated the opinions of some public figures who spoke on the matter following Buhari’s speech. Here’s what they said:
1. Head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Bishop Ignatius Kaigama
“We must proceed from a premise that is very clear. If having restructuring means to re-examine how things are done in the country in terms of allocation of resources, appointments in national offices, appointments that should be spread not just limited to a particular zone, if restructuring means justice, then, we should all go for it.
“If restructuring means spending less on governance, then, there is every need to re-examine the structures. If restructuring means reducing drastically the cost of governance, then, there is no option than to embrace restructuring if we really meant well for Nigeria.”
2. Social Democratic Party, National Publicity Secretary, Alfa Mohammad
“From Mr President’s position expressed on 1st January 2018, it is obvious that he may have misinterpreted the call for restructuring to mean a call for return to parliamentary system of government thereby resisting the need for virile and workable nation where maximum welfare and security of every citizen would be guaranteed as basis for sustainable development and good governance.
“The Social Democratic Party, SDP, has read with great dismay the views expressed by President Mohammadu Buhari on the call for the restructuring of Nigeria to reflect the principles of true federalism. We are disappointed that Mr President is still hammering on the blame game and canvassing the use of the Assembly process that has repeatedly been unable to yield any positive results in terms of restructuring when, in fact, a report of the National Conference is on ground.
“Unfortunately for Nigeria, when it comes to restructuring, the President would rather thrash his party’s (APC’s) manifesto upon which he rode to power as well as the consensus of opinions of eminent Nigerians from all walks of life drawn from various ethnic nationalities and geo-political zones who sat at the 2014 national conference organised by Federal Government of Nigeria.
“It is worrisome that the President has continued bare -facedly to jettison the opinions of regional socio – cultural organisations and respected individuals that restructuring Nigeria is the best option for ensuring unity, stable democracy and progress.”
3. Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum – Yinka Odumakin, Senator Bassey Henshaw, Prof C Ogbu and Mr. Isuwa Dogo
“We cannot become a productive country under a 1999 Constitution which keeps 68 items on the exclusive list, including mineral resources which abound all over the country but which the states, whose governors are constitutionally vested with authority over land, cannot touch.
“We need to give authorities to the federating units over their resources for self-sustenance and paying all necessary dues to the Federation to sustain common services.”
“We must devolve more powers and authorities to them to have effective state administrations. The Federal Police has shown it lacks the capacity to deal with crimes in a multi-ethnic society like ours, the imperative of State Police has never been more urgent than now,” it said.
“Restructuring means nothing else than the above. It is a call for a return to a Nigeria that worked under Federalism as against the failing state we are becoming under a Unitary structure.”
4. Ohanaeze Ndigbo, National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Uche Achi-Okpaga
“I am not, by any means, surprised at the President’s speech against restructuring. It lends complete credence to the prevailing belief that the he is a down-to-earth Fulani ‘hegemonist’, who has been brainwashed and will never see anything good in restructuring.
“It only smacks of ignorance for anyone to think that restructuring would not favour the North.
“The irony is that Nigeria has been restructuring even from the pre-independence times and at every point in time, it had always favoured the North; from unitary to regional government, from parliamentary to presidential system. Even the present six geopolitical zones structure introduced by the late General Sani Abacha also favours the North.
“In a nutshell, restructuring is like a moving train. It will eventually consume those on its track and only time will vindicate us in Ohanaeze.”
5. Women Arise for Change Initiative, President, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin
“It is difficult to have a good process without a proper structure. It is a case of a software and hardware.
“You put software in hardware. Nigeria must first get its structure right and a good process shall be added unto it.”
6. Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Spokesman, Henry Ayalla
“We disagree, when the president said ‘our problems are more to do with process than structure’ because without a proper structure there will not exist any process.
“The country cannot make any progress with the kind of constitution we operate at present, which is seen as a quasi-unitary system of government, because power is over concentrated at the centre.
“Section 2(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that Nigeria shall be a federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory.
“This means that Nigeria operates a federal system of government, which also suggests states should have control and management of their resources and pay royalty to the centre. This is what we see as restructuring in line with true federalism.”
“A restructured Nigeria will be considered as the bedrock for lasting peace within the Niger Delta. Anything to the contrary will be seen as living in the past.”
7. Monday Ubani, Second Vice President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)
“Maybe he misunderstood what restructuring really means. The restructuring we’re talking about is removing most of the things being handled by the Federal Government. Let them be decentralised.
“States should share some of these duties in order to ensure good governance, proper structure and a well-run federation.”
8. Civil Liberty Organisation, Lagos chairman, Ehiz Omokhuale
“Any system needs a process, the process is not the destination as the president believes, he is postponing our evil day if he does not embrace restructuring.
“The present system is over concentrating at the centre; it is a wasteful system for instance, the National Assembly and states. Our state governors are the richest set of humans on earth.
“That is why most governors gravitate to the National Assembly after their tenure to combine the buffet.“
9. Ijaw Leader, Edwin Clark
“Mr. President was not addressing Nigerians. The New Year speech is supposed to be an address to the people, telling them what you have done or the ones you have been doing. The current discussion in Nigeria today is restructuring.
“The Afenifere, governors and others are all discussing restructuring. The people of the Southsouth are the most affected. 87 per cent of our revenue comes from the Southsouth. Nigerians believe in restructuring. I was very much disappointed that the President said he does not want restructuring.
“Northerners are talking of restructuring; you have heard the Sultan of Sokoto, Balarabe Musa all of them are part of the majority of Nigerians talking about restructuring. El- Rufai heads APC committee on restructuring. Even the northerners have not rejected restructuring.
“The National Assembly has no choice but must follow the people, what the people are saying if majority of Nigerians say they want restructuring the National Assembly has no choice. Nigeria must solve the structural problem in the country where only some ethnic groups can be governors in a state where there are others; where some regions have more states and local governments than others. If we don’t restructure Nigeria some people will be treated as second class citizens.”
10. Former Kaduna Governor, Balarabe Musa
“Those people that are talking against restructuring are the ones who are stealing public funds using the institutions we have today particularly the leading role of private sector.
“Look at the scandals in the oil industry, pension fund, everywhere. This stealing has been facilitated by the attempt to privatize everything and bring about minimal government input.
“That is the situation in which government can only just oversee key economic sectors.”
11. Afenifere, General Secretary, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa
“I think maybe he is playing on words. I believe in the long run, somebody will explain to him what we are talking about. He is talking about process and structure. It is when we have a good structure that a process can work. If there is a bad structure, there would not be good government, institutions won’t work. Structure precedes the process.
“I hope the President is not at war with the National Assembly or the good people of Nigeria who are saying let us restructure Nigeria so that every Nigerian will surely benefit. Even Buhari himself will benefit from it”