Key speakers at the 18th Daily Trust Annual Dialogue held in Abuja on Thursday backed restructuring of the country, insisting that the time to do so is now.

This year's edition of the annual dialogue with the theme: "Restructuring: Why? When? How?" which was held at the NAF Conference Centre Abuja, was chaired by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. 

The ex-President pointed out that Nigeria also needed an attitudinal change from its citizens to make it work.

A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, who was one of the guest speakers on the occasion, said there was an urgent need to restructure Nigeria to proactively block what he referred to as "irredentist tendencies" and facilitate stable socioeconomic development in the country, DailyTrust reports.

Jega, a Professor of Political Science at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), argued that it was necessary to find practical ways of restructuring Nigeria before the 2023 general election, saying that the country operates one of the worst models of a federal system of government in the world today.

He said, "Technically and substantively, Nigeria is a federation and operates a federal system with states as the federating units. However, among the federations that currently exist in the world (according to the Forum of Federations, about 25 countries, representing 40 per cent of the world population); Nigeria is one of the worst models of political accommodation of diversity as well as power and resources sharing."

Jega said the necessity of redressing the imbalance and inequities embedded in Nigeria's current federal system had been ignored for too long, adding that "any further neglect may imperil the efficacy and viability of the Nigerian federation."

Another guest speaker and leader of the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Pa. Ayo Adebanjo, said restructuring was necessary because the currently used constitution is fraudulent and not people-oriented.

He said, "Restructuring is to say we want the constitution that everybody agreed to, giving peace and unity in the country. And when we talk of federalism, there is a political philosophy behind it. It is not just a philosophy that you receive from the air.

"It is a well-known principle that in a heterogeneous society like Nigeria, the unitary form of government we are using now will not work, and it cannot work. Restructuring is important now; we should go back to federalism."

On his part, the immediate past President of the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze N'Igbo, John Nnia Nwodo, said there was no alternative to restructuring Nigeria because oil revenue was a fast-drying resource for foreign exchange earnings as many countries had set deadlines for the use of alternative energy sources.

He warned that Nigeria would never have a country that commanded its citizens' loyalty because it had no constitution agreed upon by the people.

Nwodo stressed that the proliferation of states and the high recurrent expenditure of running the federation "is not beneficial to anybody in creating quality life for the people."

He said, "You cannot build on quicksand; the country cannot live on falsehood. As represented by the various socio-cultural groups that formed the desire to be one country, owners of the country have to be constituted into the kind of conference that President Jonathan summoned."

Former President Goodluck Jonathan in his address at the occasion called on leaders and the citizens to first address fundamental issues of disunity, nepotism and patriotism, which he said were necessary towards restructuring Nigeria.

"We cannot restructure in isolation without tackling the challenges that polarise our nation. These include nepotism, ethnic and religious differences, and lack of patriotism.

"My conviction is that discussion on restructuring will not help except we restructure our minds because some of the challenging issues at the national level still exist at the state and local levels," he said.

Jonathan, who led Nigeria between 2010 and 2015, pointed out that it was not easy for some persons to win an election in some states because of their area, the language they speak, or their religious belief.

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