Addressing a debate on “National Unity: Federal Character, Restructuring and Rotation of Presidential Power in Nigeria” organised by Igbo Leadership Development Foundation in Abuja, Gowon, who spoke through Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, maintained that God did not make a mistake in putting the ethnic group in Nigeria.
The ex-military leader noted that in a democracy, there must be fairness, justice and transparency in the leadership and governance of a country, adding that “restructuring has to be done in an atmosphere of tolerance and love for one another.”
He asserted: “I am not a friend of hate speech and bitterness but a friend of patriotism because Nigeria is dear to my heart and I believe in the bright future of Nigeria and Igbo and that together, we can make our country great.”
Expressing own view, Mailafia, who was deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), decried the alleged injustices being meted to the ethnic nationality in the country
He stressed that the most populous black nation was big enough to accommodate everyone irrespective of tribe, pointing out that the ongoing discussions on restructuring must address all imbalances for the sake of equity.
His words: “I believe that a lot of injustices have been done to the Igbo and the constitutional debate on restructuring must address all imbalances.
“Nigeria is big enough for all of us and I believe that the Ndigbo, Middle Belt and the Yoruba are the true Nigerians because if you look round our borders, people came from abroad and are still coming, but the Ndigbo and the Middle Belt have always been there, even the Yoruba have always been there.”
He went on: “People who came in yesterday and have a duty of respect are now the ones talking.
“Going forward, we must create a federal democracy that would respond positively to all the aspirations of our people not about East-West but all about working together in equality, bringing in the youths and the women together to build a new Nigeria.”
In his keynote address, founder of Gregory University, Uturu, Prof. Gregory Ibe, who submitted that Nigeria’s unitary and federal system was only in name, contended that the current model was “a clear departure from the federal system bequeathed to the country by its founding fathers and colonial Britain.”
He said: “Most of the powers that will engender real growth and development are tied in the exclusive list. Solid minerals, electricity, railway, ports, security etc. are all tied to the federal exclusive list to be executed only by the Federal Government, which has not been able to live up to the expectation of Nigerians.
“In summary, restructuring, consequentially, is returning to the states the powers taken away by the military from the regions.”