Over the last few months, the call for restructuring has been very strident. Very many prominent Nigerians have come out to speak in favour of Restructuring as the best solution to Nigeria’s myriad of problems. Not only have prominent Nigerians like IBB, Ex-VP Atiku Abubakar, and co spoken in favour of Restructuring, all the leaders of the various ethnic nationalities have come out to canvass that option.
Some have even gone ahead to call on the Buhari government to revisit the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. Last week, Yinka Odumakin spoke to City People about this ongoing clamour for Restructuring. What does the call mean in real sense? What do the agitators expect to happen. For 2 hours last week Monday, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE spent quality time with this brilliant and articulate image maker of Afenifere and he broke it down into pieces. Yinka Odumakin is a 1989 graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where he cut his teeth in activism as the Public Relations officer of the Students Union. After Youth Service at Ogun State College Education, Ijebu-Ode; he joined The PUNCH newspaper as a writer and later worked for The Guardian.
He disengaged from active journalism to found PETALS MEDIA LTD which has grown to establish PETALS FM Radio based in Ibadan. He is also into Agricultural business with his Kaphine Agro Resort and Farm based in Ijebu-Ife. He also runs Dightsome Weathwise Investment based in Accra, Ghana. He has been involved in major socio-political platforms to reshape Nigeria such as the Save Nigeria Group and Afenifere of which he is the Publicity Secretary. Odumakin is an author and a columnist with Vanguard Newspapers. He was a delegate to the 2014 National Conference and one of the spokespersons of Southern Leaders Forum. He is married to the renown female activist, Dr. Joe Odumakin and they are blessed with children. By the time the interview was over, Odumakin concluded that Nigerians can’t run away from Restructuring. Its very, very interesting.
You and others have been clamouring for restructuring why is everybody talking about it now?
Towards the end of 1990, an American Journalist took a tour of Yugoslavia. He was about the last journalist that was allowed to go through Yugoslavia with free access. And he talked to all the parties involved in the Yugoslavia conflict. When he finished his tour, he wrote a book which he titled, The Journey Through The Last Days of Yugoslavia. The book was still in print when Yugoslavia collapsed. And it broke into war.
When you look at the last days of Yugoslavia and you look at Nigeria now you will see parallels between the two. Nigeria of 2017 you can see clearly that the central authority has lost complete authority. The economy is in shambles.
Insecurity is on the increase. Violent crimes are on the increase. Ethnic conflicts all around us. The Nigerian state is withering away collapsing before our very eyes. We are going down the hills by the day.
And there is no attempt to even pull the breaks. In the midst of all these the crisis of unitarist by government has peaked and the cheapest option out of it all today is to restructure Nigeria.
When you say Restructure Nigeria, what do you really mean?
When we say Restructuring, we are not saying anything esoteric. What we are saying is restore us to where we are before 1966 struck when we had a proper federation, when each area of the country was able to develop at its own pace.
Production was going. Production of cotton, cocoa, groundnut, kolanut was going on about 650,000 tons of groundnut was being sold from the North and money paid directly into the coffers of the farmers. That was when we had Cocoa House in Ibadan. NTA, we watched television in Ibadan two years after Britain and before Southern France. There was prosperity. The competition was about competitive competition.
As Awo was doing Free Education in the West, Zik was granting scholarship in the East, there was that healthy rivalry. The North was doing its own.
But since they started this unitary system, relying only on Oil, what I call the Dutch Disease we have been moving in the reverse gear. Because there are a few people that benefit from this rot, and it is good for them, they cannot want a better prospect for the whole country. The government at the centre uses Command and Control system to make all the state governors to be tied to this UNITARY System that is about to collapse on our heads. Some people enjoy it because it aides their conquest mentality.
Why we ask for restructuring is because there is a better prospect for this country. Because of our Dutch disease, we are concerned with Oil & Gas. Whereas we can make money from other things which the 2014 National Conference recommended, which we were doing before 1966. We should remove Minerals from Exclusive List, bring it to Concurrent List. This will give us the prospect of a N60 trillion economy in Nigeria. Currently, we are doing N6 trillion and we cannot even fund the budget now and we are depending on just one product and the whole things is even riddled with corruption. When you look at the shrinking opportunities that are available. The truth is that, economy the Oil & Gas is too small for our population. So we use our other competitive edges to our advantage.
So, when we say Restructuring, what we are saying is to move away from Indolence to Productivity. Let every section of the country become a Productive Centre. I have the resource map of Nigeria.
There is no state in Nigeria that God has not deposited abundance of solid minerals. All the states in the North have a large deposit of various minerals. We are not touching it now because we are just doing Oil & Gas.
Honestly, if we do what we are talking about, which 2014 National Conference recommends, to use 5 percent of our federal budget to go and prospect for mineral resources, we would grow the economy and have more money to feed ourselves. But if it is on the basis of this Oil & Gas, we are doomed. Before the APC government came, I said it in many of my interviews that there is no change that will come.
What did you see at that time that made you know that nothing was going to happen when the APC comes in?
It was because I was cocksure because we had analysed all these things with facts and figures. You have 200 million people and you still want to continue to live on Oil & Gas and we are only processing crude. So we knew that there was no change that can come on the basis of that. It is so small.
Is Restructuring the same as True Federalism?
Of course. When we say Restructure.
That is when our problem started and we started chipping away and this is where we are today and Time is running out on Nigeria.
There is a clock at the United Nations which is used to measure disaster, when a country is heading towards disaster. When it is at the ticking point that anything can just ignite it, they will set that clock at Quarter to midnight. Today, it is quarter to midnight in Nigeria. That is why I think there is consensus. The South as a whole, we have taken a position. Middle Belt has spoken. They want Restructuring. The North has spoken, they want restructuring. The likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has spoken. IBB has spoken. Gen. Gowon has spoken. What it means is that we are a multi-ethnic nation, what can work for us is federalism.
We were practising Federalism before 1966 when the military government promulgate the unification decree which abrogated Federalism in Nigeria. And we have seen now that the thing is not working. So, when we say Restructure, all we are saying is take us back to the structure that had worked for us. Maybe we can call it Restoration. Restore us back to what we had in pre-1966 Federalism.
So in a way, what you are saying is that perhaps our major problem dates back to that 1966 coup?
Oh yes!1966 Coup, the day Ironsi said today, Nigeria is no longger a Federation.
They all want Restructuring. The truth is that in Nigeria today, those who are still opposed to restructuring are not up to 10. Buhari before he left, we don’t know if he has changed his mind in London. Alhaji Layi Mohammed, Malami, Oyegun, Nasir El-Rufai, Junaid Mohammed, Ango Abdullahi. You can’t even count 10. And if Nigeria survives this implosion that is coming it will be that these forces who are supporting Restructuring are able to prevail on the others. There are 3 forces in Nigeria today. (1) The Hegemonic forces that say Yes lets leave Nigeria the way it is.
The hegemonic fores say yes, lets leave Nigeria as it is. The final destination of that group is disintegration (2) There is the Separatist forces who say we are tired of this nonesense. The final destination is also disintegration (3) The 3rd group are those of us standing in between the 2 groups who are saying let us restructure. There is enough to make people happy here in Nigeria. Lets adopt a template that allows every section of Nigeria to establish their own civilisation and live their lives according to their own civilisation. Our fear today is that, if our call for restructuring fails that might be the end of Nigeria.