The remark credited to President Muhammadu Buhari last week on restructuring has elicited reactions nationwide.
Mr Buhari at an event in Kaduna threatened those clamouring for the restructuring of the country. This is coming weeks after he towed similar part while addressing secessionists, particularly from the South-East geo-political zone.
“Those agitating for restructuring are ignorant of war and its consequences, because Nigeria is a dominant force in West Africa,” the Nigerian leader, who also described restructuring agents as being naive and mischievously dangerous, said.
The retired military general was represented by the Executive Secretary, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu, at the Zaria event held on Saturday.
Various socio-cultural and religious groups including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have lambasted Mr Buhari of always resorting to war threat against dissenting opinions.
Afenifere, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) all flayed the president for his remark.
Also reacting, South-South governors also berated the president whom they said is not informed, a position reiterated by Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF).
“I don’t know who is not informed here. Restructuring is not about dividing the country into regions as it were,” the chairman of the South-South Governors Forum, Ifeanyi Okowa, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, said.
“Restructuring is a lot of things; true federalism. We can’t be a federation with the way things are; and with so much powers at the centre and the centre does less than even local government areas,” Okowa added.
The NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the president was being ignorant by describing agents of restructuring as being naive.
“To say that people who are supporting it are naive or hostile is to show either an unforgivable level of ignorance or unacceptable level of contempt for public opinion,” Mr Baba-Ahmed said. “Either way, it is not good for a president.
“It would appear that President Muhammadu Buhari either does not understand what restructuring is all about, or he is so hostile to change that he would call the people who are demanding restructuring names.
“I think the president is very poorly informed. Even if his personal view about a change of any type is negative, there are supposed to be people around him either the ministers or members of the National Assembly that should tell him that restructuring simply means holding amendments to the Nigerian constitution in such a manner that those changes address some of the most basic demands of Nigerians for a federation that works better in all sections of Nigeria.
“The call for restructuring is genuine, popular and legitimate. It is something that has to be done not because one part of the country or one segment of the population wants it, but because the Nigerian federation genuinely requires some major change,” he added.
Also, the PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Olugbondiyan, described the president as being dictatorial.
“It is appalling, and to say the least, despicable, that Mr President and his party (All Progressives Congress) that came to power in 2015 on the promise of restructuring, have not only reneged, in utter duplicity towards Nigerians but also turned around, six years after, to label restructuring as warfare and Nigerians demanding for it as mischievously dangerous,” the opposition party said.
“President Buhari should be tutored to know that even the quest for an efficient local government system as well as an effective judiciary, which he alluded to as a focus, can only be achieved through a constitutional restructuring that directly confers and vests the required powers and control in them.
“The amendment or alteration of the constitution to permit state police as widely demanded by Nigerians is, therefore, a form of restructuring that will adjust our policing system without creating a war,” the party added.
For PANDEF, the opposition to restructuring is because the North is benefitting from the flawed military-imposed 1999 Constitution.
“Every month, the 19 Northern states receive a minimum of 57 per cent of 100 per cent of oil revenue while the Southsouth which contributes 87 per cent, receives less than 20 per cent,” its spokesperson, Ken Robinson, said in a statement.
“How could a President whose party constituted a committee on restructuring make such comments? The Governor Nasir El-Rufai-led Committee concluded its assignment and submitted a report to the party, over two years ago.
“That the President could make such comment reflects the core of the nation’s problems at this time. It also shows that this Presidency is insensitive, and doesn’t care about the unity and future of Nigeria.
“Mr President did not talk about how to deal with the banditry and increasing kidnap of school children in Kaduna and other states in the Northwest.
“Rather, he reminded citizens of the nation’s military might which he has been unable to deploy against the terrorists, bandits and criminals making life unbearable for citizens and undermining the nation’s territorial integrity,” Mr Robinson added.
“We are at a critical stage where children, particularly in states with the highest population of children out of school in the world can no longer go to school at all for fear of being kidnapped for ransom,” Afenifere, through its Secretary-General, Sola Ebiseni, said.
“State governments are demanding the powers to establish state police to deal with insecurity and prominent traditional rulers, especially Emirs have called on their people to rise in their own defence and some uninformed government officials are threatening us with war if we seek restructuring or self-determination. It is so nauseating.
“In any event, restructuring of the political architecture of the country in the interest of the people, their security and general wellbeing is not going to be at the pleasure of the President or the whims and caprices of his uncouth officials,” he added.
“Did the President actually say they are ‘mischievously dangerous?” ACF spokesman, Emmanuel Yawe queried. “We in the ACF disagree with them but will not describe them so.
“The President has access to security reports which may have made him pass such harsh judgment on advocates of restructuring.
“What we have said is that we find it rather strange that some of the agitators for restructuring are the same people calling for the dismemberment of Nigeria.
“We don’t see how you are going to restructure a nonexistent country,” Yawe added