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Remembering Bola Ige: The champion of restructuring

Remembering Bola Ige: The champion of restructuring
September 13
07:54 2021

BY BABS ONABANJO

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In celebrating the posthumous birthday of the great Cicero, Chief Bola Ige, on September 13, 2021, — he was born September 13, 1930 — I dug into my video archives. What I discovered nearly brought tears to my eyes.

In the course of the search, I unearthed a lot of videos on the activities of the Nigerian Alliance for Democracy (NAD) when I was the president of the group between 1993-1999. During those years, NAD was at the forefront of the fight against military rule and domination.

In one of those videos I unearthed, the late orator spoke passionately for 90 minutes in Atlanta about his intention to restructure the domineering Nigerian state the right way through regional autonomy.

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Hear him: “Restructuring is about devolution of power and greater autonomy for the regions. They are matters of liberty and justice. It is the right thing to do, let us embrace it. Without liberty and justice, any hope for unity is an illusion.”

He continued: “For heaven’s sake, were power devolved to the regions in Nigeria today, would Yoruba nation be the only one to benefit? Shall the Ogoni, the Edo, the Urhobo, Efik, Igbo, Kanuri, Tiv; not benefit from getting away from the overbearing federal might? Shall Tiv, Fulani, Kanuri not be able to marshal local strategies to issues in their locality? Is that not what federalism is about?”

He uttered those immortal words before he fell under the brutal bullets of the assassins. One can’t but wonder if Chief Ige was killed by enemies within to extinguish his relentless push for the realisation of regional autonomy.

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Though he might have made some error of judgement during the Alliance for Democracy (AD) primary election ticket tussle with Chief Olu Falae, Chief Bola Ige stood out as the voice of reasoning and restructuring. He lived and died for it.

When he resigned his position as attorney-general of Nigeria to prepare the ground to contest for the Office of the President against former President Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration, he was going to make restructuring – regional autonomy- the nucleus of his campaign.

Indeed, he was the perfect candidate for Nigeria. Chief Bola Ige was raised in the northern part of Nigeria. He was proficient in speaking all three major Nigerian languages like Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa.

I believe so much that his death shall not be in vain. He is crying from the grave and saying that restructuring into regional autonomy must be realised for peace to reign in Nigeria.

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This reminds me of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again and that the arc of the universe bends toward justice.”

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution possible. And this is evident in the country as the nation is under the yoke of insecurity and myriad of challenges.

Those who oppose restructuring – regional autonomy notably from the north-west and north-east of Nigeria and a few elements from the south will make complete disintegration of Nigeria possible. It is just a matter of time and will come sooner than later.

The strive for liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness are inherent fundamental rights and not privileges granted by the state. This must be recognised and accepted.

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We must restructure. The fraud entrenched into the 1999 constitution which concentrated power at the center must be abolished.

I would like to conclude with the thoughts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He stated: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

As we mark the posthumous birthday of Chief Bola Ige, Nigerians must rise and embrace, peace, justice, fairness, equity under the law, and freedom by demanding nothing less than restructuring – regional autonomy and the abolishment of the fraudulent 1999 constitution now.

Prof. Babs Onabanjo, President: Nigerian Alliance for Democracy (1993-1999) and President/CEO of AD King Foundation, United States.

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