Senate President Bukola Saraki has described the on-going national discourse on restructuring as triviality in the face of overwhelming socio-economic problems plaguing the country along with endemic poverty especially in the North.
“My idea of restructuring is when we work towards economic development in every part of the country, so that we can all take pride of place in the Nigerian project, and no region is seen as a weak link,” Saraki said, on Tuesday, at the opening ceremony of a two-day retreat of the Northern Senators Forum in Katsina.
Lamenting the reported tagging of the north as “parasitic” in relation with other parts of the country, Saraki insisted that the people of the North must go beyond the rhetoric of often repeated clichés and transform the area for the better.
He continued, “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,” noting that, “we have had to endure some severe bashing from those who question what the north brings to the table, even going as far as to suggest that we are parasites on the body of the Nigerian nation.
“Let us see the vilification, undeserved though it may be, as a challenge to us as leaders to redouble our efforts, and strive to put in place far-sighted policies that will transform the region and silence the naysayers.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“Nigeria’s ignominious distinction in this regard is not only regrettable, it is a weakness in the human assets of this country and poses a serious threat to national security.
“It is a stain on ourcollective conscience that such a huge demographic number 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. We need to change the game, to empower our people to compete on equal terms with the rest of the country, and the world.
“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.
This is a time for courageous leadership, strong enough to change the narrative of Northern Nigeria.”
Earlier in his welcome address, Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, equally decried the poverty level in the North when compared with other parts of the country as well as the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east.
As Adamu puts it, “Poverty sits rather pretty in the North and this is unacceptable.
“We have been contending with the murderous Boko Haram insurgency since 2009 and it has turned the north eastern parts of the country into killing fields.
“Despite the determination of of our security forces to cage them, they still roam at will, killing and maiming innocent people particularly in Borno and Adamawa states,” he said.
Sen. Adamu also said that the retreat would discuss the 2018 federal budget, the agitation for restructuring as well as insecurity especially in the North-East, among other issues.