Former governor of Plateau State and retired Air Commodore, Senator Jonah David Jang has weighed in on the future of Nigeria and advised that for peace and progress, constituent nationalities in the country must be given an opportunity to dialogue on the structure and ways to coexist as a nation.
He also insisted that the military lacked the capacity and fairness to gift the country a constitution, as what they did was too lopsided for fairness and equity, particularly in the creation of states and local governments, which placed decisions in the hands of the north that has more federal constituencies and representation in the National Assembly.
Jang, who was the military governor of Benue and that of the defunct Gongola State and currently a member of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees, insisted that there was no way the military could draw up a constitution that would serve a democratic set up, pointing out that some things were deliberately influenced to favour the north which other sections have found uncomfortable as they were lacking in equity and fairness.
He said: “After I retired, I attended a constitutional conference set up by the late Gen. Sani Abacha in 1994. If you bring out that document as presented to Gen. Abacha, it was very beautiful. It suggested the idea of geopolitical zones that we now have but we didn’t recommend North Central, it was Middle Belt but it came out as North Central. These are some of the things that the military tinkered with and came up with what they now call Nigeria constitution
Now, if you look at the creation of states and local governments by the military, it was the most lopsided thing they have done. The number of local governments in Kano and Jigawa, and the federal constituencies in Kano and Jigawa are more than the ones in the entire South-east. How do you balance debate in the House of Representatives?
“It is very clear that Nigeria needs to be restructured. For me, I love Nigeria as a country and as a nation and that is why we fought the civil war; to make Nigeria as one, but Nigeria is not one as it is today. People are only preoccupied with their states, their region and their ethnic nationalities.
Besides, there is complete imbalance in the National Assembly. Take Plateau State that I governed for eight years, for instance; how can you have a federal constituency of Jos South and Jos East compared to Wase? Look at the population of Jos South, which is three to four times more than the population of Wase. Yet, you bring Jos South and Jos East together to form one federal constituency, and make Wase alone a Federal constituency.
“Look at Jos North, with the highest voting population; it is joined with Bassa, another heavily-populated local government, to form one federal constituency. How can you have a balanced debate in the House of Representatives? It is the states that have the highest number of constituencies that dictate whatever happens in the House of Representatives.
Also, when it comes to joint meetings between the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass a bill or take a decision, it is what the House says that overrides because the number of the senators is far lower. So, you can see that we are running a unitary constitution in a federal system.
“What we are saying is that Nigerians should be given the opportunity and then, the government of the federation today can bring us together, based on our ethnic nationalities, interest groups and so on, to look at the restructuring of this country. It was my main agenda when I ran for the Presidency in 2019.
There is no way we can develop this country under this kind of structural imbalance where so much power is concentrated in the hands of the President.
Yet, they say we are running a federation, but in reality, the states are running cap in hand to the President for so many things.
“You can imagine that a governor, who is the Chief Security Officer of his state, cannot command the Commissioner of Police until he takes directive from the federal government. In fact, a governor is a captive in his own state. A decision can be taken about even his life somewhere and he will not know; thank God that it has never happened, but it is as bad as that. If we are going to run a federal system, then, we must share power among the federating units and the federal government should handle what is purely federal; that is the control of the armed forces, foreign affairs and other things that the state cannot directly handle.
We are trying to reawaken Nigerians to see the reason why we are not progressing; we are not progressing because power has not been given to the right areas where it should be exercised for the good of the people at the grassroots. I believe that Nigerians should be given an opportunity to debate our coexistence so that we can become a nation. We cannot just remain a country with a collection of ethnic groups that cannot really decide properly. What Plateau people want might not be what Kano people want, but when you ask Plateau people to go and push their case, they are over-ruled.”