Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has called on the state governors to push for autonomy for their states in order to guarantee the welfare of their people.
He made the call on Saturday while addressing guests at the 2021 Obafemi Awolowo Lecture entitled: ‘Whither Nigeria?’ organised by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation.
According to him, it is a sign of madness for anyone to think that the current structure of governance will work, adding that there was a consensus among Nigerians that the country must be restructured urgently.
He said: “There is a consensus that this country whether in terms of governance, economic relations, security, educational policy, cultural policy, etc, requires restructuring. Even the word ‘restructuring’ has been restructured in many directions, in cogent expression which will mean the same thing for everybody.
“For me, for instance, I emphasised decentralisation, reconfiguration. We all know what we have now is not working, it’s obvious and we can’t continue along the same line and say that it will work, it is sign of madness.”
The playwright explained that a lot can be achieved by the governors if they should consult and carefully study the constitution to take advantage of power and authority from it, but noted that the governors are too timid and central minded.
He said the governors are afraid to come out of their cocoons.
“I want to make a plea to all governors, stop being so timid. Push this federal envelope as far as it can go, even while we undertake the technical aspect of restructuring whether in terms of dialogue, evolving the constitution or whatever, something has to go on, after all, we’ve had so many of these confabs.
“My plea is to governors to start with: You are charged with the immediate responsibility of the welfare of your own people in whatever term and if you study the constitution carefully, I have done this with lawyers, and it seems that a lot can be done at this moment.
“You need a season of greater autonomy for your own states and that is what I mean by pushing the federal envelope as far as it can go even with this impossible document that we have to cease what power, what authority you can derive from the constitution.
“Consult with your lawyers, I have consulted with mine and they also expressed the view that the governors are too timid, there is too much-centralised mentality embedded in their minds and they are afraid to come out of their cocoons.
“Please remember that your primary responsibility is not the centre but the people, the state. So, take in your hands any form of authority that you can even from this constitution as it stands while we are working on a more honest, a more people-oriented constitution.”
In his remarks, Emeka Anyaoku, a former Secretary-General of Commonwealth, who was the guest lecturer at the event, stated that restructuring should be in the common interest of the various ethnic groups in the country.
He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to address the growing level of threat, distrust and divisiveness coming from the religious and ethnic groups that seem to undermine the continued existence of the country.
He said: “There is no section or ethnic group that does not stand to gain from belonging to one country that is the size and resources of Nigeria. Therefore, it is and should be in the common interest of ethnic groups and component parts to sustain and nourish one country.
“The growing level of distrust and divisiveness among ethnic and religious groups are undermining the cohesion and threatening the continued existence of one Nigeria. For how can the leadership of Nigeria continue to ignore this fact?”
The event, which was held virtually, had in attendance dignitaries such as Saad Abubakar, the Emir of Sokoto; Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ooni of Ife; Muhammadu Sanusi II, former Emir of Kano; and a former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Obadiah Mailafia, among others.