The governors of the 19 states of the North have said that it was wrong to say that the region was opposed to the restructuring of Nigeria and promised to publish its final position on the contentious matter on Friday.
This was disclosed on Thursday by Borno State Governor and Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, Ibrahim Shettima, in his address at a meeting of the nineteen northern states governors and traditional rulers in Kaduna State.
This meeting is coming only days after South West governors met in Ogun State, in what has been viewed by close political observers as strategic collaboration towards fortifying South West regional interests and putting up a united front on issues central to the South West agenda, at a time when an intense national debate on restructuring rages on.
Shettima said, “It is also my expectation that at the end of this meeting today and, God willing, tomorrow’s meeting of the Governors, the Forum and our esteemed royal fathers will adopt a consensus position on restructuring of the country that will be reflective of the general overall interest of the people of Northern Nigeria and which will attract popular acceptance.
“It is of vital importance to arrive at such consensus position because it is crucial to dispel the erroneous impression created and disseminated by certain interests in this country that the North is opposed to restructuring.
“Secondly, it is important to do so not only to accommodate the mainstream of Northern public opinion, our primary constituency, but to also counter the specific versions of restructuring which generally seek to place the North in a position of strategic political and economic disadvantage, but portrayed as the only versions that can work for the nation.
“Without pre-empting the outcome of our interactions over the next two days however, permit me Your Excellencies and Your Royal Highnesses, to embark on a short reflection on the matter before hand. Agreed that being citizens of a democratic country, Nigerians are entitled to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and association, and the clamour for the restructuring of the country falls within the purview of these freedoms. However, the exercise of such rights outside the confines of responsibility is not acceptable.
“The resort to shenanigans, hate speech, and sometimes, incitement to violence by organizations such as IPOP and MASSOB must be unconditionally condemned as they are inimical to national unity, stability, peaceful coexistence and national security. In this regards, I call on all constituted authorities and responsible leaders of thought in the South East and other parts of Nigeria to rise to the occasion and call these purveyors of hate speech and inflammatory and provocative statements to order.
“These elements must be encouraged to pursue their agitations within processes enshrined in our constitution and with the full and willing participation of all parts of our nation.”
It is not clear how the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors in the north will reconcile the northern position with the party’s position.
Recall that the party only recently set up a panel chaired by Nasir El-Rufai, the Kaduna State Governor, to details and enlighten Nigerians on its unique definition of restructuring.
The southern regions of South-West, South-East and South-South have over the years been more vocal and forward in pushing for restructuring.
It remains to be seen whether the North, which many believe has been largely overtly opposed to restructuring, will make a fundamental shift in its somewhat consistent position of maintaining the status quo or only acceding to limited changes.