By Chris Udochukwu
He recalled as President, when we were to celebrate golden jubilee in 2010 and the centenary of our amalgamation in 2014 that some Nigerians challenged the intentions, arguing that the amalgamation was faulty. They insisted that there were no reasons to celebrate because they believe that the amalgamation has not helped the growth of our country.
My belief is that all nations have their unique history; the amalgamation is not the problem. Rather, there was too much emphasis on divisive politics and this has greatly affected our nation’s unity.
“As a country, we have our peculiar challenges and we should device means of solving them, but we should not continue to vent our spleen on the amalgamation. As Shakespeare in Julius Caesar said, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, he said.
Jonathan stated this on Thursday at the 18th Daily Trust Dialogue with the theme: Restructuring: Why? When? How? held at Nigerian Air Force Centre, Abuja.
“According to the former president, a nation is an organic being whose life is characterized by reforms, adaptation and structural changes. At Independence in 1960, the population of Nigeria was 45 million and our early leaders and the British colonial government, decided that the young nation was too vast and complex to be governed centrally from Lagos, Jonathan said.
Also before the Civil War Nigeria operated with four regions. At the onset of the war, Gen. 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 twelve 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 noted.
“Sixty-one years after independence, our population is now estimated to have exploded to over 200 million. In the same vein, the call for restructuring has continued to grow louder. Within these six decades, our political space has assumed many colorations. We had gone from the three regions to 36 states and 774 local councils. Yet, all that did not seem to have provided the answers to the questions on the administrative structure of our country and how best it should be governed.
“It was the need to address these issues that my administration elected six years ago to convene the 2014 National Conference, which I inaugurated on March 17, 2014 in Abuja for the specific purpose of addressing some of the issues that have been agitating the minds of Nigerians.
“My conviction is that discussion on restructuring will not help except we restructure our minds because some of the challenging issues at the national level still exist at the state and local levels.
For instance, in some states, it is not easy for some persons to win an election because of the area they come from, the language they speak or their religious belief. Take 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, organized by a federal election management body? This shows that restructuring alone may not solve all the anomalies in the system.
Jonathan said he believes that restructuring for a better nation is good but there are other fundamental issues we should also address. We cannot restructure in isolation without tackling the challenges that polarize our nation. These includes nepotism, ethnic and religious differences as well as lack of patriotism. The issues of tribe and religion have continued to limit our unity and progress, as a nation, he added.
He maintained that leadership is like giving care to a sick patient. If someone is ill, he will receive different phases of treatment regardless of which doctor is on duty until the patient recovers fully and is discharged. I think the same is applicable in nation building. The point I am emphasising is that restructuring on its own without love of country, national unity, unifying leadership and building of strong institutions and values may not take us to our destination.
He said, “As leaders at different levels, we should encourage a healthy conversation on restructuring and reforms that stir national pride and love and faith of our citizens in our beloved country.Stressing that Nigeria is still the greatest gift history has bestowed on us, with her huge potential for greatness, prosperity and happiness for all our people and future generations.
“Like every other nation, Nigeria is a project in progress and should confidently discuss her experiences and fashion out solutions to improve on her performance and the well being of all citizens. We should all do our little best in our little corners to overcome the challenges we face, and work hard to reposition our country for a greater and more prosperous tomorrow for our children.
This he said, cannot be achieved without deliberate effort to promote national unity and love of country by all our leaders and citizens.
He reminded that we owe ourselves and the coming generations a duty to reduce the bile and embrace one another so that restructuring for a better and greater Nigeria can be meaningful and guarantee the nation’s economic development and citizen’s welfare.
“We should never lose hope in our nation for the future is bright. With the robust character of our people and the unbeatable resilience of our spirit, I have no doubt that our country will become greater,” he noted.
He commended the Daily Trust Media Group for keeping up with this dialogue series for the past 18 years and their contribute to nation building,
Other speaker at the ocassion are: former INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega; former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo,Chief Nnia Nwodo, Afenifere Chieftain and elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo who participated virtually and a host of others.