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From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
Any time the Igbo are agitated over any burning issue, the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, has always stepped in to offer a soothing balm on the aching bones of his people.
In recent times, Ndigbo, who said they have been marginalised in the country after the end of the civil war in 1970, have started to clamour for the restructuring of the country.
This is against the agitation by some of the Igbo youths who want self-determination.
Going by the majority stand of the Igbo for a restructured Nigeria, Ekweremadu who is representing Enugu West in the Senate recently took the campaign to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka during the Association of Nsukka Professors (ANP) third Adada Lecture.
The university community was excited when it got the wind that the deputy Senate president was coming to deliver the lecture on the burning issue of restructuring.
On the appointed day, Ekweremadu and his entourage arrived at the Nsukka Campus where he was received by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, principal officers of the university and members of the Association of Nsukka Professors.
At his conference room before proceeding to the Princess Alexandria Auditorium venue for the lecture, Prof. Ozumba noted that Ekweremadu was one of them, having graduated from the UNN, where he read Law and later taught.
He described the senator as a worthy ambassador of the institution, pointing out that his qualitative leadership style in the country, as well as in the international community, stood him out as a great Lion.
Reassuring Ekweremadu of the maximum co-operation of the university in his endeavours, Ozumba also noted that the lawmaker has given effective representation to the people of the South East at the National Assembly.
Ekweremadu thanked the vice chancellor and the principal officers who gathered to welcome him, saying that his visit was like homecoming.
He told the academics that each time he visits the institution, he feels nostalgic as it reminds him of his days as a student and lecturer in the institution.
He applauded the vice chancellor for the exemplary leadership he has brought to bear in the institution, especially in the invention of the “Lion Laptop,” describing the feat as one that would help revolutionize the science and technology sector of the country.
With the reception over, Ekweremadu, the members of the university community and those invited for the Third Adada Lecture proceeded to the Princess Alexandria Auditorium, where he dissected the topic of the lecture: “Restructuring and the Nigerian Youth.”
Before the lawmaker settled down to the business of the day, the President General, Association of Nsukka Professors (ANP), Denchris Nnabuike Onah, in his welcome address, explained that ANP is an umbrella non-governmental, not-for-profit body of all university professors of the Nsukka Cultural zone, comprising the two senatorial zones of Enugu North and Enugu East of Enugu State who are in all Nigerian universities and the Diaspora.
According to Onah, the group has as major objective “the provision of platforms for intellectual discourse on various contextual issues that challenge the society”.
He noted that the country was at crossroads and standing on a precipice currently. “There is insurgency everywhere, crime rate has assumed frightening proportions and insecurity is pervasive. Pocket groups of various ethnic nationalities have metamorphosed, some armed, and others not armed or not so armed, clamouring for self-determination and/or resource control. Sections of the country were annexed and declared a Caliphate by a group and in other cases, war songs reached a crescendo, resulting in various dances of either the python or the crocodile.
“Divergent potential solutions to the Nigerian malady have been advanced by equally divergent persons and opinions: disintegration to the component ethnic nationalities, sovereign national conference, constitutional review, jettisoning of the military imposed constitution, return to parliamentary government, restructuring etc etc. Of these, none has been so recurrent, and perhaps more generally accepted, although interpreted differently by different people and sections, than restructuring,” he said, saying that was why the deputy senate president was chosen to dissect it in the third of the series of the Adada Lectures.
Thus the stage was set for Ekweremadu to address the large audience who listened with rapt attention till the end of the lecture.
“I am indeed happy to be back to my alma mater because each visit to the University of Nigeria is a homecoming for me. Our elders tell us that a river that does not forget its source would never run dry. I, therefore, thank the Association of Nsukka Professors (ANP) and the university community for inviting me as the distinguished lecturer for the Third Adada Lecture.
“I want to appreciate the organisers for allowing me to slightly adjust the title of the lecture to ‘Restructuring and the Nigerian Youth’. This was informed by my experiences and observations on the raging national debate on restructuring. It is clear that many Nigerians do not fully appreciate the subject, just as views appear to be coloured by ethnic and sectional sentiments,” he said.
Ekweremadu noted that the comments and attacks traded by the youths on the social media have caused grave concerns because they are the leaders of tomorrow.
He revealed that his book, “Who Will Love My Country: Ideas for Building a Nigeria of Our Dreams,” which was unveiled recently partly dealt with how to make Nigeria a true federal state popularly referred to restructuring in recent times.
Narrating his experience at a youth event, he said: “I noticed that while some youths from a certain part of the country appreciated the content of the book, a few of them, from the questions they asked me, wondered why I had not written or spoken out on the need for restructuring until President Muhammadu Buhari, a member of a different political party from a different section of the country, was elected.
“I referred them to my previous lecture on the need to remake the Nigerian federalism. I reminded them that my book that they read was published while President Goodluck Jonathan was in office, even though it was officially presented in early 2016.
“Similarly, during the conferment of the Outstanding Citizen of the World 2017 Award on me by Rotary International District 9142, I expressed the hope that with the right leadership and restructuring, a man from Kano State could one day become the Governor of Imo State, while a woman from Enugu could become the Governor of Sokoto State. Several online comments agreed with me while others expectedly disagreed. Of particular interest was a youth who described my statement as a ‘future impossible tense.’”
The lawmaker had used the anecdotes to drive home to the audience, the sad truth that the youths are not only very sharply divided on the subject of restructuring along ethnic, sectional, and political lines, but also quite a lot of them have lost faith in the country and the great possibilities that lie ahead.
“We have every reason to worry because the youths represent our future and also constitute the majority of the Nigerian population. However, the youths are not really to blame; they merely mimic the prevailing sentiments in the society. History will not be kind to us if we fail to guide them aright. We have an obligation to challenge and inspire the youth to champion the cause for building a Nigeria of our dreams.