The Deputy President of the Senate, Dr Ike Ekweremadu, has said that Nigeria is better as a united country and should not be dismembered.
Ekweremadu expressed the view after delivering a lecture on ‘Constitutionalism and the challenges of leadership in Africa: an evaluation of tested models’, in New York.
The event was organised by the Centre for Media and Peace Initiatives, a New York-based international non-governmental organisation, to mark the 10th anniversary of the centre.
He said “Nigeria does not require to be fragmented at this time. There is joy in being together. There is benefit in being together.
“There is advantage that is conferred on us as a country by our large population. What we need is giving everybody a sense of belonging and ensuring good governance.”
Ekweremadu, however, stressed the need for the country to be restructured from the current over-concentration of power at the centre, which was non-responsive to the citizenry.
“The central government that once appeared necessary and beneficent has compromised, even jeopardised its standing by perceived highhandedness, unfair treatment of some ethnic groups and abuse of power.
“The powerful central government has made citizens vulnerable to bureaucratic manipulation and control and left them powerless, and reminded them at every turn that the promise of self-government has been eroded.
“Nigeria, and indeed African constitutions, should espouse federalism characterised by weak centres and strong federating units.
“Currently, Nigeria has a very powerful centre, hence the need for devolution of powers.”
Ekweremadu stressed that a restructured Nigeria would be in the best interest of everyone as each geo-political zone would maximise its potentialities.
“If we start this process, it will assure the agitators that there is hope for a better Nigeria.
“We must continue to assure that the best way to go is restructuring, not dismemberment of the country.”
According to him, no argument that is both coherent and respectable can be made to support the continued emasculation of the component states by the centre.
“For example, the North will be a net exporter of solar energy and agricultural products while the West will be the hub of banking and information technology.
“The East will be the hub of industrial manufacturing and scientific innovations while the Middle Belt will be the hub of solid minerals development and tourism.
“The South-South will be the oil and gas hub as well as shipping. When this happens, there will be less pressure on the Federal Government.
“The zones will be the centres of development, the rush to Abuja will cease and the country will be able to realise it potential,” he said.
Ekweremadu called for a new constitution in Nigeria to replace the military-imposed document as had been done by Kenya, Zimbabwe and Brazil.
He said while most African constitutions provided only for amendments, not replacements, existing constitutions could be amended to make provisions for new constitutions and referendums.
Sen. Godswill Akpabio, in his remarks, stressed the need to ensure the implementation of some of the suggestions raised by Ekweremadu in his lecture to ensure a better Nigeria and Africa, by extension.
“We will go back with you and work to implement some of these recommendations because Nigeria must lead in Africa,” Akpabio, the Senate Minority Leader, said.
Sen. Bala Na’Allah, the Deputy Majority Leader, lauded Ekweremadu for the richness of the lecture and pledged that the 8th Senate would work to engender good governance through citizens-centred legislations.
The Nigerian Ambassador/Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Amb. Samson Itegboje, said Nigeria had come a long way but was a work in progress and would overcome its current challenges.
“We have the democratic structures; Nigeria is a country that now runs on the constitution, no constitution is permanent; it is a work in progress. What we need is re-engineering.”
The event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, business leaders, media practitioners, civil society leaders, academics and Africans in the diaspora.