Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Dr. Mike Okonkwo, has said that legislators in the two chambers of the National Assembly were instrumental to either a peaceful or violent restructuring of Nigeria.
Okonkwo, advised the lawmakers to make the right choices in their engagements with the ongoing agitation by different ethnic nationalities in the country, equally called on the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, to as a matter of strategy, team up with other ethnic pressure groups in the country who are calling for restructuring, to amplify the pressure on the political class to act instead of insisting on the breakaway of the South East region from Nigeria.
Speaking to journalists on the side-lines of the just ended 2017 edition of the annual Leading Edge Conference organised by TREM in Abuja, Okonkwo, explained that there was no going back on the agitation for Nigeria to be restructured, adding that it will remain a knotty national issue for as long as it is opposed.
The renowned clergyman also labelled the various political blocs; groups; and nationalities that are opposed to restructuring, as the country’s only enemies.
He said other countries have restructured and moved on to do greater development strides while Nigeria has stagnated on the back of opposition to restructuring.
“Whenever a season for something is due, you can’t hold back that season. There had never been so much agitation for restructuring like it is now. Even those who had hitherto been indifferent to it and who had never touched it are now beginning to touch it and that is an indication that the hour has come,” said Okonkwo.
He stated: “It is possible to achieve peaceful restructuring if our lawmakers, those in the National Assembly will give it a chance. It is when they say no, then there will be violence because people want it. They are there to serve the people and should listen to the people.
“Once that is done, there will be no violence. No one wants war, more especially if you have experienced it. Everything can be resolved on a roundtable and not war, because in a war, you will lose everything you have or laboured for in a day. We have done that in the 1960s and seen what it has cost us, let’s not do that, let’s give peace a chance.”
Speaking on the merits of restructuring, he explained: “I believe with all my hearts that if this nation is restructured, it will help us to be creative and will take us faster than we expect. It will make those who are in politics to begin to think about being creative because most of them just run to Abuja to collect money and squander, but now people will demand accountability.”
“Restructuring will bring healthy competition for development in different parts of this country. We have what it takes to be a giant amongst comities of nations and not just Africa.
“Other nations have moved on, and we have to move on. There is an issue, we need to restructure and for me, anyone who refuses restructuring is an enemy of this country.”
He said on the National Assembly’s recent rejection of devolution of power to states in their amendment of the 1999 constitution: “I believe they will come back to the issue of restructuring. There is a limit to which you can reject people’s agitations. As long as they are rejecting it, there will still be pressure groups, people will still be talking. The wise thing to do is not to run away from it.”
“Why are you afraid of restructuring? What is wrong with restructuring and letting every state develop at its pace and let us contribute to the centre, what is bad about that? That was how the regions were developed,” he added.
In his reaction to pressures from IPOB for a sovereign state of Biafra, he stated: “I won’t advocate a geographical Biafra but a restructured country because people raise the issue of Biafra for these reasons. Even Kanu himself, I believe wants restructuring but wants to push Nigeria to take decisions through his actions and people better listen to him.
“If I have the opportunity to talk to him, my advice to him will be that he should connect to other pressure groups – Oduduwa, so that we can make our politicians know that the chicken has come home to roost.”