A former Governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, was on Wednesday booed by workers at a colloquium organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress to discuss the agitation for restructuring of the country.
Oshiomhole was among five discussants at the colloquium in Abuja, with the theme, ‘The Labour Movement and the future of a United Nigeria: What Role for Restructuring.”
The other discussants were Prof. Gabriel Darah, Prof. Toye Olorode, Prof. Jibo Ibrahim while the main lecture was delivered by Prof. Sam Egwu.
Oshiomhole, a former President of the NLC, drew the ire of the vast audience at the Sheraton Hotel, venue of the event, when he took a swipe at those spearheading the campaign for the country’s restructuring.
He had argued that while the current democratic dispensation started in 1999, the call for the restructuring of the country was instigated by those who lost out in the 2015 general elections.
But the audience which was initially captivated by the oratory and the jokes of the former governor cut in with shouts of “no, no, no,” as they disagreed openly with his view on the current call for the restructuring of the country.
It took the intervention of the Chairman of the event, Justice Alpha Belgore, the President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, and others to restore calm after 10 minutes of holding down the event.
Belgore’s pleas of “Please, please, please ladies and gentlemen please, comrades please,” fell on deaf ears for the first five minutes.
However, the President of the NLC was able to calm the angry crowd down and peace was restored.
Even Oshiomhole appealed to the crowd reminding the workers that they had a tradition.
He stated, “I have posed some questions, but I want to move on to the second leg of my statement. Will you please allow me to make my statement? I believe that we have a tradition of a prime conversation, and in this programme, there is opportunity for what lawyers might call cross-examination; any of you who knows me, knows that I have to speak my mind. I don’t have to be right. Allow me to state my position and then you can disagree.”
Before the workers’ anger, Oshiomhole had accused some people who he said were not employed and not capable of winning election of embracing the position of spokespersons for parts of the country.
He said that such people making provocative statement in the country would step into the position of negotiators during crisis while the populace would be in refugee camps.
He said, “They are the ones who are quick to make extremely provocative statements, they purport to speak for a section of the country and even most people in those sections of the country don’t even know them. I started by asking what is restructuring? And I think the issues in conversation are not different from where we are coming from.
“… there is no Nigeria, there can’t be any Nigeria Labour Congress. So, we do need to understand that when they talk and you are silent, the consequences of outcomes, you will not be immune from it. And these double-breasted speakers will be negotiators in foreign capitals while you will become refugees quartered in IDP camps, not induced by terrorists, but induced by political recklessness.
“Having made this preliminary comment, I just want to ask who started this debate, who and when and why? I want to plead with you to please try to listen. I didn’t intend to entertain anybody because I feel strong about these issues. I have had the privilege of working with the most subordinated positions in the past.
“If you don’t know where the rain started falling, you won’t probably know where we got the umbrella to protect ourselves and I am not talking of a tattered political umbrella. We have been in this current dispensation since 1999. Somehow just after 2015 general elections, there was a power change which Nigerians voted for, people who have simply just lost out that is how they knew those words called restructuring…”
It was at this point that workers started shouting at him. When he resumed, he said that “the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable.”
He called for power devolution, attitudinal and character review in the governance of the country.
Speaking also, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, said that the recommendations on issues discussed in the 2014 constitutional conference should be revisited by a think tank to address mounting agitations for restructuring in the country.
The Sultan said that while he was in support of productive discussions that would benefit the entire country he was opposed to calls for the disintegration of the country.
He said that it was important for Nigerians to suggest a think tank on the recommendations of the 2014 conference report as a lot of changes had taken place between when the conference held and 2017.
He said, “While we keep on talking about restructuring, I ask some questions, ‘what is restructuring, what happened in the amalgamation of 1914?’ We had North and South. Then we had some geopolitical zones, now we have 36 states.
“When people talk about restructuring, if they think that we should dismember the country, I am not in support of it, but if it is to make life better, much more conducive for all of us, then let’s sit down discuss about it then come up with a solution.
“I know Afenifere, MASSOB, South South groups and so many groups have position papers in their hands and I know that the 2014 constitutional conference, so many things were discussed even though people now say that the conference was politically motivated and whatever. But whatever happened, Nigeria came together and discussed.
“If we can take some of those issues, get a think tank, let the Federal Government, get a think tank or let the people now come together and say we need think tank, bring all these position papers because time has changed.”
The Sultan recalled that a statement he made at the Niger State Economic Summit that he would prefer devolution of the economy to devolution of power was taken by some media houses to mean that he said he was opposed to restructuring.
Earlier, prominent professor of Literature and a leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Gabriel Darah, had called for economic and political restructuring insisting that the time for resource control was now.
He said that the decision of the Federal Government to focus solely on oil to the exclusion of other resources had deprived the country of the benefits of exploiting the vast mineral resources spread in states across the country.
In his presentation, the National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Muhammadu Ibrahim, said that there was no need for restructuring.
In his remarks, Belgore, a former Chief Justice of the Federation, said that Nigeria was in need of patience to grow like India and China.