Why North opposes restructuring — Sagay
Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), recently canvassed the need for a restructured Nigeria where there is peace, justice, and true federalism, and where federating units control their resources. His views and hope for Nigeria are contained in his autobiography titled ‘All Will Be Well’ which was launched in Lagos recently.
Your autobiography, ‘All Will Be Well’ was recently launched in Lagos, what is the book about?
It captures my life story, which is intended, one, just for the purpose of making the world know that story. Secondly, it is written for younger ones to learn from the story, so they could know how to structure their own lives and learn from my mistakes and my successes. Also in the book, there is a strong section in which I am pointing out what is wrong with our society and what can be done to cure it.
You mentioned some mistakes you made. Does any of them have to do with your activism or political leanings?
I didn’t make any mistake in activism. The major mistake I make is a personal one and the mistake was that I married too late. I stated it in my autobiography. I also advised the young men that by the time you are 25, you should be looking for a wife. Don’t wait until your late 30s or 40s before thinking of getting married and starting your family. You will go through so many things you would not normally have gone through. When you don’t have a wife at a certain age, you could be subject to all sorts of mistakes and errors, encountering people who you shouldn’t have anything to do with. All that is well discussed in the book because I had some bad encounters until I got married.
You are an advocate of a restructured Nigeria. Some people have said no matter who becomes the president of Nigeria, the country cannot make any meaningful progress unless it is restructured. Do you share that view?
Yes, there is no alternative to having Nigeria restructured. We have to restructure, otherwise Nigeria will not move forward. There is no question about that. Without restructuring, Nigeria can’t make any meaningful progress.
Why do you think successive leaders, especially from the Northern parts of the country are opposed to Nigeria being restructured?
I believe that the North has an attitude that restructuring will be unfavourable to them in terms of resources. That is my belief; that the resources being shared, a lot of which comes from the Niger Delta will not be available in such quantity for them. They believe restructuring will lead to a reduction in the resources they will get. That is why they are vehemently against restructuring. You find that the average northerner prefers a unitary government, which is totally at variance with what they started with when Nigeria was young, just before independence and up to the time of the civil war. They wanted a very strict federalism, with regions controlling everything, leaving the federal with very little. But when oil became a major player in our economy, then the song changed. So, it is an economic thing. But what I always say is that at the end of the day, everybody will benefit from restructuring, including the northerners who are not exploring so many things that they can do other than oil, which will finish one day.
Ahead of the 2023 general election, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Afe Babalola and Edwin Clarke have made propositions to the effect that the general election be put off. While Clarke wants President Buhari’s tenure to be extended by six months, Babalola is calling for an interim national government. What do you think?
I don’t agree with both Afe Babalola and Clarke. One can extend the tenure of the president every six months, once there is crisis and we are not able to conduct a regular election. This is because the constitution has provision for that. But that will mean that there is a major crisis and something is very wrong which cannot be resolved. I think what they want is true Federalism which can be done constitutionally by amendment of the constitution. It is sad that in all constitutional amendments so far, the National Assembly has avoided all the critical areas, just tampering with and touching irrelevant things which doesn’t make any change in our situation. Yes, there should be restructuring but I don’t think it will be achieved by an emergency government which these two men are talking about.
Some Nigerians recently demanded the sack of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele over his presidential aspiration; others also worried if sensitive election materials kept in the custody of the bank will not be compromised. What do you think?
I think his position is abominable and totally unacceptable. He has to resign. In fact, I think he should be sacked by the president. But I don’t agree that his attitude will affect the security of election materials. That he wanted to contest or not cannot affect election materials at all because the system of voting we have now only allows a voter through if he/she has a voters card and the machine has to capture your fingerprints and your face. So, there is nothing Emefiele can do with the election materials which can affect the election. You have to go through the biometric process when you want to vote. So, I don’t see any reason why people should be worried about election materials kept in CBN custody.
What will you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for the fact that I was principled throughout my life. I want to see a Nigeria in which there is peace, justice, and true federalism, where every federating units have total control over their resources and simply contribute to the centre. I also advocated for a judiciary which believes in justice and will not allow themselves to be derailed by unworthy characters outside the judiciary. (Daily Sun)