As the issue of the need to restructure Nigeria continues to dominate public discourse, Elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, has maintained his stand that the call was suspicious.
In this interview with VINCENT KALU, the Chairman of the Northern Elders Council (NEC), said those agitating for restructuring have hidden agenda. He challenged them to come up with a blueprint on what restructuring is all about.
In an interview with your co-elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, he warned that if Nigeria is not restructured that there shouldn’t be 2019 general elections; that restructuring should precede 2019. What’s your view on this, do you subscribe to his position?
Both Adebanjo and I, fought for the independence of Nigeria, and I’m older than him about two years, but we joined politics about the same time, some 35 years ago.
At this age, you don’t negotiate with ultimatum; you can’t give an issue an ultimatum. I’m not opposed to restructuring, and I have never heard that North was opposed to restructuring. However, my quarrel with those clamouring for restructuring is that they are yet to bring out the blueprint for it. What are the blueprints; why are those proponents of restructuring afraid of unfolding their agenda? They have a hidden agenda.
Everybody is afraid of a hidden agenda. Why hidden agenda on this matter?
This is a matter that affects the lives of all Nigerians. They should put it in black and white and what it should look like.
Going back to regions, personally, I have no problem with that, because they started complaining that the North was so big and bigger than the two regions in the South put together.
This is the creation of God. When the British came and conquered Nigeria, they didn’t know which side was South and which was North, they just started conquering one after the other. After conquering the South, they moved to the North.
There is no issue, if you want us to go back to the three regions, so be it, but put it in black and white and let it be documented that this is what restructuring would look like.
I know what they have and I know why they are hiding it, but I want them to come out with their own plans of how Nigeria would look like in their own conception and then we come out with our own position. We are not one person, we are people, and we can’t react in the same way, but each individual will then evaluate the situation.
As along as Nigerians don’t understand what restructuring means, it cannot be meaningful to them. Even what Atiku and Babangida said is only in respect of devolution of powers, which is different from restructuring. Devolution of powers, there is no problem.
What they said amounts to devolution of powers. Devolution of powers is transferring items from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List.
There was a time the Kano State Government set up a committee during the constitutional amendment exercise, I presided over a subcommittee of that committee that dealt with the devolution, we also recommended some of the items that should be transferred to Concurrent List. Devolution of powers is a different thing from restructuring.
If you look at the time of the old constitutional conferences in Nigeria, there were two things that are put as no-go areas. The first is the unity of Nigeria and the second is the federal arrangement of Nigeria.
At the time of Sani Abacha, they didn’t say it black and white but at the time of Babangida, he put it there in black and white that you cannot discuss the issue of unity of Nigeria or the federal structure or arrangement of Nigeria. Those ones were no-go area.
Do you mean since the talk of restructuring started, there is yet to be a paper on how it is going to be?
There are yet to come out with paper on how it is going to work. The clamour is suspicion and people are wondering why it is so difficult for them to come up with a blueprint on this matter that affects the future of every Nigerian.
So, if you are advocating for something that affects the lives of Nigerians, why can’t you bring it in black and white in writing for people to see.
Chief Adebanjo said Sardauna supported the Independent constitution and queried whether you that are opposed to it, are more northerner than the late premier?
I think there is a mistake there. We had three national figures – Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Awolowo and Sardauna.
At the 1953/54 Constitutional Conference, Zik went with the programme for unitary form of government, which we were operating at that time. Even members of the National Assembly- House of Representatives were elected through state electoral college because it was unitary.
After the conference, we adopted federal constitution, which we are operating till today.
The difference is that in those days, the regions had their own constitutions, but operated under a constitution that defined their certain powers in the national constitution. That is the difference.
The national constitution didn’t give any region the power to secede from Nigeria.
Secondly, it is not correct that 50 per cent of the revenue generated by the regions were given to them.
The 50 per cent revenue given to the originator regions were in respect of mineral. It was the elements of ground rents and royalty of which 50 per cent were given to the originating region, as against what is obtained now that we give 13 per cent of the total revenue to the bearing state.
The constitution we are operating now is the same constitution with the Independent and Republican Constitutions. If you go through those constitutions, you can see that the items on the Exclusive Lists now were the same then.
What happened is that they created more states, that is, instead of three or four regions; they created 36 states, which we have been operating for more than 20 years now.
In any case, that constitution he is talking about is what is in operation now. It has not changed; the only thing that has changed is the number of regions that had been replaced by states, from three to four regions and to 36 states now.
Where do we go from here?
We should respect the structures created by democracy in Nigeria.
There is also the argument that the present constitution was forced down our throats by the military and does not represent the wishes of the people?
We have been obeying the military, and nobody revolted against the military.
Ayo is a lawyer, doesn’t he go to court? Who created the court, is it not the same constitution? Is it not the same military constitution that created the court?
The court was created by the constitution done by the military. Why did he recognize it? The same constitution he doesn’t approve is the same constitution he operates with. You can’t choose one and deny the other. Anybody who doesn’t want the constitution promulgated by the military shouldn’t go to court created by the same constitution.
Rotimi Williams and Ben Nwabueze, came up with the constitution that said, ‘we the people of Nigeria …’, and signed by Obasanjo.
When the constitution was promulgated, Nwabueze didn’t go to protest, Ayo kept quiet, and I kept quiet and others. Nobody in Nigeria protested.
Our leaders, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Awolowo, Malam Aminu Kano, and others accorded recognition to that constitution, they didn’t object to it because it was promulgated by the military, and therefore, they contested elections under the same constitution created by the military.
The 1979 Constitution, equally promulgated by the military in the same way Abdulsalami signed the 1999 Constitution, and elections were conducted, where Obasanjo emerged, Yar’Adua emerged, Jonathan emerged.
Why should we accept the result, why should we respect the National Assembly, states Assembly created by the same constitution promulgated by the military.
So, there is no reason whatsoever that you say that you would not recognise the 1999 Constitution because it was created by the military.