Birtus Pogu, president of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), has accused the north of opposing restructuring because it is benefitting from Nigeria’s current “lopsided arrangement”.
Pogu said the region has continued to be backward because it chose to live in a giant cage of mental slavery by choosing to stick to what’s not working, instead of listening to the concerns raised by other regions which according to him, is also for the good of the north.
He made the statement in response to the position of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) on issues of restructuring, where the forum at a meeting with northern house of representatives members last week.
The ACF had alerted the lawmakers over a possible presentation of a bill on restructuring to the national assembly by those agitating for it.
Audu Ogbe, ACF chairman and former minister of agriculture, asked members of the northern caucus of the house of representatives to be on the lookout for such a bill, in view of a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari that he would not hesitate to sign a bill on restructuring should the national Assembly passes it.
Pogu said the north has no reason to be afraid of restructuring unless it is benefiting from the country’s failed system, which he said is responsible for the many agitations in the country.
“We are not surprised if somebody like Chief Audu Ogbeh can make such an assertion. Those who are afraid of restructuring are people benefitting from the current situation that is skewed in their favour or the section of the country benefitting from this lopsided arrangement”, he said.
“Those of us in the Middle Belt strongly believe that this country needs to be restructured so that things can begin to work. Our perception of restructuring involves devolution of power, state police, among others, to make things work, probably different from those looking for fiscal federalism.
“So, we believe in true federalism. We want a process that will guarantee equitable sharing of resources, where each federating unit will generate its own resources and contribute to the centre, not the present arrangement where everybody is waiting for federal allocation.
“The Middle Belt believes in restructuring. We are telling our members in the National Assembly to discard the position of the ACF and embrace restructuring in total because that is what the people are yearning for. The present arrangement breeds insecurity, poverty and, above all, bad governance. And we are equally telling Chief Ogbeh too that he needs to have a rethink.”
Pogu urged the ACF and other groups in far north who are afraid of restructuring the country to have a discussion with the proponents on how it can be implemented and its gains.
“Chief Ogbeh is on his own. We in the Middle Belt are working with our friends in the South to ensure that Nigeria becomes a better place for all Nigerians, including the far north who want the status quo to remain.
“Quite a lot of things are wrong in this country. Our electoral system is skewed and faulty. If election results can be transmitted electronically, rigging will reduce drastically. People are clamouring for secession because things are not working in Nigeria.
“If our Northern brothers are frightening, why don’t they invite us and other proponents of restructuring to discuss it instead of trying to instigate the Northern lawmakers to toe their path?
“When one cages himself with a particular ideology without listening to other perspectives, there will be problem. I believe this is part of the problems confronting the North. The people are not ready or willing to listen to other parts of the country.
“We need to discuss. The perception of the ACF on this is faulty because the members have created a perception which only they understand. Let them listen to others”, he also stated.
He said the Middle Belt and other regional groups in the South will not relent in their efforts at getting the country restructured.
“We cannot continue like this, things must change,” he added.