Saraki meets northern Senators; speaks on restructuring, others

Bukola Saraki
Bukola Saraki [Photo: Nigerian Pilot]

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday met with Northern Senators of the 8th National Assembly in Katsina State.

While addressing his colleagues at the annual retreat, according to a press statement, Mr. Saraki spoke on various issues affecting the country ranging from restructuring to developing asset in the North.

Highlighted below are eight things he told his colleagues.

1. Approaching restructuring with ‘open minds.’

Mr. Saraki explained that the issues of restructuring can be a ‘bit fanciful’ in the North where insurgency persists.

“It is perhaps understandable if some in this gathering find the clamourous debate about restructuring a little irksome. We are, after all, meeting in a region that is, for want of a better word, beleaguered.

“In this region of ours – hurt and wounded by the cataclysm of insurgency and other problems – talk of restructuring can seem a bit fanciful. Nonetheless, we must face all issues with open minds, giving each the attention it deserves. I am confident that the Northern Senators Forum is up to the task”, he said.

2. On the North-east welfare

Speaking on the region, he admonished all lawmakers to play their roles in improving conditions in the North East.

“As we sit here today, we know that a number of challenges confront our region, one being the situation in the North-east, on which a lot still needs to be done. I am hopeful that the new North East Development Commission will go a long way in alleviating the difficulties being experienced in the zone.

“We all have a role to play in improving conditions on the ground in the North-east, so that those affected can move towards rebuilding their lives and communities – and look to a future beyond insurgency.”

3. Education in the North

While lamenting the fact that accessing education in the North is a challenge, he urged his colleagues to empower northerners to compete in equal terms with the rest of the country and the world.

He said, “It is with that eye on the future that I call our attention, once again, to the estimated 12 to 15 million children not currently in the education system – the highest number of out-of-school kids in the world… It is a stain on our collective conscience that such a huge demographic is without education in the 21st century.

“We simply cannot abandon millions of Nigerian children to the trap of ignorance and poverty. It behoves us, therefore, to come up with policies that will lead to a significant decrease in the out-of-school population, and improve on the numbers as we go along. The crisis in education also manifests itself at tertiary level.

“When it comes to private universities in this country, the statistics tell the story: the North has the least number. However we look at it, access to education is a serious challenge in the North. We need to change the game, to empower our people to compete on equal terms with the rest of the country, and the world.”

4. Creating a vibrant economy in the north

The Senate President stressed the need for peace and stability which would bring the economic objectives to light.

“We have to create an enabling environment for economic activities, and mitigate those factors that discourage investment. It is clear that, as things stand now, there is little or no incentive for an investor to pursue economic activity in locations blighted by insecurity.

“We need peace and stability, therefore, for our economic objectives to have the chance to come to fruition. Beyond the headlines, the over-arching issues of the North have not gone away… Economic diversification is not just a buzzword; it is a real-life transition that must be made, if we are to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people.”

5. Food production and self-sufficiency

While pointing out that self-sufficiency is key to economic diversification, Mr. Saraki urged the lawmakers to support the move.

“In this period of economic recovery, it is imperative that we continue to focus priority attention on diversification, with greater emphasis on the need to boost the North’s agriculture and mineral resources sectors, especially food production. We must be the food basket of the nation – and we must do so in reality, not by some oft-repeated cliché.

“We must be the source of substitution for the food importation that currently amounts to an annual bill of 4 to 5 billion dollars for the country. That self-sufficiency that is central to the economic diversification ethos, must come from the North, must be guaranteed by us, because we have what it takes to make it a reality.”

6. Framing conversations around restructuring

“Restructuring, for good or for ill, is the front burner issue in the polity at the present time. I have intimated elsewhere that one problem with all the talk about restructuring is that the discussion is not being framed properly – and certain precepts are missing.

“I have said, and it is my firm conviction, that we must give precedence to the unity of Nigeria at all times, and put the interests of the country first. We must not be afraid to think outside the box. We must not be afraid of reform”, he said.

7. Developing asset in the north

The Senate President explained that the question as to what the North brings to the table is bound to resurface in a debate about restructuring.

“As I see it, the profitable development of the North’s asset proffers its own powerful response to the question. A North led by visionary leadership knows, surely, that it has leverage; and that it ought to renegotiate from a position of strength rather than weakness.

“Few will disagree with me when I say, therefore, that a North that is economically strong and vibrant is better placed to negotiate on restructuring or whatever else”, he said.

8. His (Saraki’s) views about restructuring

The Senator said that his understanding of restructuring is, ”when everyone work towards economic development in every part of the country, so we can all take pride of place in the Nigerian project, and no region is seen as a weak link.”

“My own restructuring is when we oversee the budget process to ensure equitable spread of critical infrastructure in every corner of the country, so that no region is left out of the gains of economic recovery. My own restructuring is when we create jobs and enhance food production so our people do not go hungry.

“My own restructuring is when we educate our children so that they can realise their full potential and partake in the promise of the future. My own restructuring is when we place a premium on delivering good governance, fight against corruption, valourise honesty and live to serve the people – without betraying the trust reposed in us.”


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  • thisnigeria

    Saraki, your submissions are vague. What we really need from you is that formula that will ensure that ” everyone works towards economic development in every part of the country”. This is crux of the matter. Some of us believe the only sure way of achieving this is via true fiscal federalism that was practiced at independence.

    • Jon

      Saraki and his Northern brothers know what fiscal federalism is, in terms of restructuring – but they are playing dumb. They know what Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo and Zik agreed on before Independence. It is unfortunate that a region that contributes nothing but violence gets the largest share of National Cake by way of number of States and number of local governments given to them by their Northern Military.

      • Pluti

        What did they agree on? If they got the leadership right, they wouldn’t have lost power to some miscrrants in uniform. It’s just saying PMB is blaming GEJ, same thing goes for those so called founding fathers. “They failed Nigeria with their leadership” that’s the conclusion, nothing like northern military or soldiers took power, if you rule correctly, those things won’t happen cos there are bad eggs all over the globe. What he is glamouring for is the correction for the future and not the foolishness of the past

  • Jon

    Saraki’s definition of restructuring is to maintain the current status quo.

  • Pluti

    It’s a good starting point, if the north sit up, the south do same with an economic and administrative region. There’s bound to be more progress. I think Nigerians(leaders and followers) have lost the deep, true meaning of “division of Labour”

  • Lanre

    By Geography, Nigeria lies between latitudes 4 and 14 degrees North; Longitudes 2 and 15 degrees South. Any region between latitudes 4 and 9 degrees is South; between 9 and 14 degrees North. Therefore to all intents and purposes, Kwara, Kogi, Nassarawa and Benue States are all Southern States. Yorubas share a lot in common with Kogi and Kwara State just as Ibos have a closeness to Benue. This is part of the injustice that needs to be redressed. And it will. Just a matter of time.