Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State on Friday shut down agitations for a Niger Delta Republic, insisting that what Nigeria needed was restructuring and not secessionist tendencies.
Dickson who also restated his position that the unity of the country remained negotiable, noted that military force would only assist in accentuating Nigeria’s fault lines , rather than cement the country’s unity.
A press release signed by his Special Adviser on Public Affairs, Daniel Alabrah, and made available in Yenagoa , indicated that the governor spoke in Calabar, Cross River State at a retreat organised by the Southern Senators Forum.
“I don’t want to be a citizen of one tiny oil-rich country that one big African country can easily overrun. Nigeria is one of the greatest nations on the face of the earth.
“Nigeria’s unity depends on us and the solidarity and support we give to it. Nigeria is not a mistake neither is it just a mere geographical expression.
“But we must break down the barriers. We have to challenge ourselves to see how we can create a Nigeria that is sustainable. The current state of Nigeria is not one we can hand over to our children”, the governor said.
Speaking on the topic “Protecting Ethnic Minorities in Project Nigeria,” the governor challenged opponents of the ongoing restructuring debate to work toward an equitable society rather than seeking solace in constitutional provisions that do not guarantee a fair and sustainable country.
He cited the example of the Soviet Union, which he described as a behemoth that was very strong militarily but eventually disintegrated into many states because of its internal contradictions.
According to him, Nigeria was facing a similar situation like the former Soviet Union.
He however explained that restructuring was not coterminous with disintegration or division of Nigeria contrary to the claim of opponents of the debate.
“Restructuring does not mean secession. It is not coterminous with a Nigeria that is divided.
“Restructuring simply means a call for constitutional reforms to guarantee a more stable country. In other words, it is a return to true federalism.
“We should not shy away from the issue of restructuring. The more the opinions the better. That is the reason we need this debate.
“Nobody should tell Nigerians that our unity is not negotiable. A lot of people talking about restructuring do not even know the issues,” he said.
He added that majority of Nigerians prefer a united country, but stressed that the basis of that unity must be renegotiated.
Dickson urged the National Assembly to develop a common template that all Nigerians could agree on, insisting that as currently constituted, the nation was not working.
“Let us start with the most basic of amendments. We don’t have to amend everything at the same time. How many amendments has America had in over 400 years of its existence?”, he queried.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to convoke a meeting of the National Assembly, the governors and the Speakers of the 36 houses of assembly in the country.
Also to be included in the national discussions, according to Dickson, should be leaders of ethnic nationalities, faith-based organisations and other opinion leaders who would address the critical issue of restructuring and true federalism.