We need restructuring, not breakup, Afenifere, Ohanaeze tell Abdullahi

The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has condemned the call for the country to break up, saying the statement credited to Prof. Ango Abdullahi is unpatriotic.

The Secretary-General of the group, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, while speaking with The PUNCH on Thursday, said there was no need for the country to break up before its problem could be resolved.

But the National Publicity secretary of the Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told Abdullahi, a former education minister, that the Yoruba were not afraid of the country breaking up.

Odumakin, during an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, declared that the chairman of the Northern Elders Forum could not “scare” the Yoruba, who he noted had sacrificed the blood of their people for Nigeria’s unity, with a break-up threat.

The Igbo pan-political group, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, however, believed only the implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference would avert the breakup of the country.

Speaking with The PUNCH, the President of the Ohanaeze Youth Council, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said Nigeria’s unity should be negotiated, adding that the component units were not satisfied with the current terms of their coexistence.

Abdullahi, a former vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, had, at a book presentation in Abuja on Tuesday, accused the elite of calling for the restructuring of the country.

He had declared that Nigeria could break up since it was becoming difficult for the people to live together, adding that he did not believe in the “sentiment” that Nigeria was indissoluble.

Arogbofa, however, said, “Our country does not need to break up. What the country needs now is restructuring, not break-up. We don’t want the country to break, we want it restructured.

“We want the country to be restructured so that every component would be able to live according to its own wealth.

“If they (North) want to go away, that is their own headache. We are not afraid to stay alone but we are not supporting that. I don’t think that is the solution to our problem.”

Taking Abdullahi’s statement seriously, Odumakin  said the Yoruba were not scared of the disintegration of Nigeria.

The Afenifere spokesman added, “Prof Abdullahi cannot scare anybody with breakup (of Nigeria); not those of us who have sacrificed the blood of our people over the years to sustain the unity of Nigeria. We have gone through so many frustrations over the years but we keep asking for a restructured country based on justice.

“But if our demand for restructuring is what is now leading to the breakup threat, let them bring it on.

“There are 50 million Yoruba in Nigeria, which makes it bigger than 20 nations in the United Nations. We obviously do not need Prof Ango Abdullahi in the mix to be able to manage ourselves.

“Many countries came out of the USSR without a shot fired. If his opinion is popular in his corner of the country, we can hold a conference in a day and everybody answers his father’s name. For now, we are calling for Aburi because Abuja has become a drag.”

Isiguzoro said only restructuring and the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, would avert an imminent breakup of the country.

He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to read the handwriting on the wall and forestall Nigeria’s breakup by immediately initiating moves for the restructuring of the country into six federating regions.

Isiguzoro said, “If the President fails to restructure the country, if he fails to look into the 2014 confab report, then I sincerely believe that what Ango Abdullahi said is very possible.

“Nigeria’s unity is negotiable; it should be subjected to periodic review.

“At the constitutional conference, all the stakeholders, all the various component units came together, they sat down and said ‘this is the best way to restructure Nigeria’.

“The answer to the problems in the polity is the implementation of the 2014 confab report.

“We want to believe that in his wisdom as a former military Head of State, and now, a democratically-elected civilian President, Buhari should know that Nigeria needs to be restructured.

“I believe what Ango Abdullahi expressed is a sentiment that is prevalent in the North because it is becoming glaring to the North that Nigeria can break up.”

The Publicity Secretary of the umbrella body for the North, Arewa Consultative Forum, Muhammad Ibrahim, said the group did not have any reaction to what Abdullahi said.

Speaking with one of our correspondents on the telephone on Thursday, Ibrahim stated, “I have not read it (what Abdullahi said). Even if I read it, I won’t comment on that. In short, no comment!”