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The demand was made in a presentation by Ohanaeze Ndigbo President General George Obiozor at a public hearing held by the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution in Owerri on May 27.
“Fundamentally, what Ndigbo really want is some form of internal autonomy based on a restructured Nigeria,” Obiozor, a former Nigerian ambassador to the United States, said in an address at the hearing.
The Igbo leader suggested that, going by the country’s current structure, the federating units were not equal in status.
“That categorically stated we (Ndigbo) are of the view that the federation of Nigeria must be a union of equals and the composite units must have the ability to stand without begging the centre for survival.”
The Igbo, who make up Nigeria’s South-East region, want a federal system of government characterised by decentralisation and devolution of power among the federating units, Obiozor further explained.
He added that in the context of the imperatives and urgency of restructuring Nigeria, the focus should be on “getting the right things done for the right reasons and at the right levels of government.”
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo leader warned that only restructuring could save Nigeria from imminent tragedy.
According to him, Nigeria was ‘born’ with political tragedies waiting to happen.
Igbo leaders believe restructuring Nigeria would address the issues which encourage the agitation for Biafra among the youths, who feel aggrieved over the perceived marginalisation of the South-East.
The pro-Biafra agitation has taken a violent turn in recent times, and the agitators, led by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), are believed to be responsible for attacks on federal security formations and establishments in the zone.
In addition to Biafra struggle, a movement for the creation of an Oduduwa nation among the Yoruba in the South-West is fast gaining ground.
“Some countries are born with political tragedies waiting to happen and our history shows that Nigeria is one of them.
“All signs of national tragedies foretold are present today in full force in Nigeria. In fact, it would require a restructured Nigeria to contain the present forces and tendencies towards a synchronised national crises and even a possibility of national disintegration.
“Therefore as national leaders, we must learn the lessons of history that in societies where truth comes last, tragedy comes first.”
The perennial problem or dilemma in Nigerian politics has always resolved around the issues of justice, equity and fairness, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo leader further observed.
Making reference to the increasingly violent struggle for Biafra, Obiozor noted that “throughout history those denied justice have had no interest in peace.”
He appealled to the constitution review committee to, at the end of the exercise, “in the interest of the nation, its unity and progress,” conclude with decisions guided by love and not by hatred, and guided by collective hopes and not by fears.
Advancing the need for restructuring, the Igbo leader stressed that many Nigerians and groups felt like caged lions due to their inability to develop at their own pace as a result of inhibitions arising from the 1999 Constitution.
“Therefore, to many of these citizens across the country, states and zones, restructuring Nigeria will be equivalent to releasing the lion from the cage and it can defend itself.”