Sir: I join multitudes of friends and admirers of the former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) to congratulate him on the celebration of his 75th birthday on planet earth. More importantly, I congratulate him profoundly for joining the call by many compatriots for the restructuring of the country.
IBB’s position reminds me of what Sophocles, a Greek philosopher, said in his book titled The Theban Plays:
“Do not let your first thought be your only thought. To think that your will is the only way betrays a shallow mind and an empty heart. It is for this reason that the meadows which move to and fro on a flood river remain unbroken while those that flow against the flood are broken asunder.”
I salute his courage and brilliance and his ability to position his mind having regard to the situation on ground.
This is a lesson for Nigerians who remain still and unbending on the issue of restructuring of Nigeria. I challenge them to rise up and embrace what the great Greek philosopher had espoused as far back as 441 B.C.
To say that the retired general is a different person to different people is like stating the obvious. However, what cannot be denied is that he is a courageous, fearless, highly cerebral elder statesman who could equally be controversial and often misunderstood.
I congratulate him particularly for embracing restructuring of our dear country thereby joining the ever-growing band of those of us from the North, West and East who have been clamouring for restructuring as the panacea for the myriad of problems afflicting the country today.
I have been an unrepentant advocate of the need to restructure Nigeria, so much so that I have been speaking, writing papers, delivering lectures across the country on the issue of restructuring since 2002 as the best way to achieve our aim and objectives of building a united and prosperous Nigeria.
Before 1960, our founding fathers met for almost 10 years in Lancaster House, London and took into consideration the fact that Nigeria is a country of nations with about 250 ethnic groups. In their wisdom, they made a constitution which allowed each component part to remain and practise its own culture and grow at its own pace under one umbrella of a united Nigeria and a befitting Federal Constitution.
Unfortunately, that constitution was set aside by the military who thought they knew better than our forefathers. Again, the same military bequeathed to us the 1999 constitution under which the centre had become so strong and the component parts so weak that there is virtually no meaningful developmentin almost all the states prior to the taking over by the military in 1966, our constitution allowed each component part to develop at its own rate. Consequently, there was healthy rivalry between the regions. The West was the most advanced and others followed and the country was developing at fast rate.
Although, we may not necessarily go back to the regions of 1960, we can substitute for the regions, something similar to it. Certainly, we need to restructure the country. We urgently need a forum where our problems would be discussed and arrive at a suitable federal constitution for the country. In order to solve the problem of unemployment, falling standard in education, recession, crimes including armed robbery and kidnapping, the country needs to be restructured.
I want to specially commend IBB for his new position and frank talk about the need for restructuring the country. I urge him to go a step further and persuade those still on the fringe particularly some former military rulers to join those of us in the forefront of the campaign of restructuring of the country for a true federalism.
I strongly advise the government to convey a sovereign national conference, the outcome of which will be ratified by referendum which will give birth to the people’s constitution.
For avoidance of doubt, the outcome of the referendum shall not be subject to the confirmation or approval of the National Assembly which as we all know will not take kindly to such recommendations such as legislators earning only sitting allowances.
Afe Babalola, founder and chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti.