Akinyemi: The average northerner believes in Buhari — not Atiku or IBB

Bolaji Akinyemi, a professor of political science and former Minister of External Affairs, says an average person on the northern streets believes in Buhari in the way that they don’t believe in Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President or Ibrahim Babangida, former military ruler.

In an interview with the Punch, Akinyemi said the present political system in Nigeria is skewed in favour of the North and it should be restructured to save the country from disintegration.

Akinyemi said Nigeria is driving down the road to becoming a failed state but there is still a window of opportunity to rescue it from reaching the point of a failed state through proactive restructuring of the federation to meet the desires and yearnings of different ethnic groups in the country.

He suggested that President Muhammadu Buhari is holding the key to ending the current agitations and restructuring the country.

“Apart from being the president, he [Buhari] probably right now, is the only Nigerian that can ensure that we don’t end up in a ditch; in spite of what he says at times, he is the only Nigerian. Not that he stands the chance; he is the only person. Whether he will do it or not, is a different kettle of fish,” he said.

He said Buhari has a critical role to play in averting the oncoming tragedy in the country by leading the way in arriving at the kind of federalism that will be acceptable to all.

Akinyemi said the north is foot dragging on restructuring because the current system is in its favour, but he urged Buhari to use his influence to sell the idea of restructuring to northerners who oppose it.

“The present system that we have is skewed in favour of the north and the way forward will have to be the surrender of issues from the 1999 Constitution controlled by the Federal Government to the states,” he said.

“Some issues on the exclusive list should be moved to the concurrent list and possibly, there should be a creation of the reserved list. So, it is the North that needs to make the concession.

“But if you’re going to be rational in your approach, the north has to be persuaded that it is not being asked to commit political or economic suicide and the only person right now that the north truly trusts and believes will not play politics with their interests is Muhammadu Buhari. He stands now in the kind of position that the [late] Sardauna stood in the sixties.

“An average person on the northern streets believes in Buhari in the way that they don’t believe in (former Vice President) Atiku (Abubakar) or my former boss, IBB, because those are the people who have spoken out forcefully calling for restructuring. The northern streets will conclude that these persons are playing with their interests.

“But Buhari stands in that position of trust in the estimation of the northern streets that ‘if he should say that we need to give up these issues, he’s not selling us.’”

Akinyemi declared full support for Nigeria to return to the 1963 Constitutions, which is line with the position of the south-west as recently articulated in the Ibadan conference for the Yoruba to take a stand on the restructuring of Nigeria.”

Speaking on the current agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), he said there had been few cases where separation was achieved through peaceful means but in most cases, it is through war.

“I believe that we can still peacefully resolve the issue of the Nigerian question at this stage, provided we address the twin issue of fears of domination and marginalisation,” he said.

“We must address that. We must admit that there is something wrong with the Nigerian federal system as it is. We must look at the system that we operated, using the 1960 and 1963 constitutions with the necessary amendments.

“There has to be less arrogance and intolerance shown towards constituent elements of the Nigerian nation. You cannot use the temporary acquisition of power to impose a system on others, thinking everybody will be happy about it.

“Most of the problems in the world have come about through miscalculations – not deliberate [actions]. Many wars fought in the world were as a result of miscalculations with various parties, underestimating how far-reaching their actions would be.”

Akinyemi warned that there would be dire consequences if war breaks out in Nigeria as a result of the Biafra agitation.



    “All I’m saying is that, I hope those who are in control of the Federal Government will not become complacent by ignoring the fact that other people are feeling hurt and are dissatisfied with the system that we have now,” he added.

    “We shouldn’t, because doing so will be a calamitous mistake. Who will win the confrontation, I don’t know. But what I know is that all parties will pay a heavy price – it will not be like the 1966/1967 [coup] all over again.

    “It will not be like the 1967 to 1970 Civil War all over again. Right now, there is a proliferation of weapons all over the country and the diffusion of grievances will create war fronts. The Nigerian military is stretched thin with all the challenges it’s currently coping with internally.

    “I don’t think you want to put more pressure on it. We must seek a non-violent way. We must engage in dialogue. There must be, on the part of the Federal Government, the readiness to adopt a more sophisticated approach in promoting the dialogue and a preparedness to change the country.”

    Chikezie can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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