By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
”AS progressives, we believe that Nigeria is greater than any individual or the sum of her Federating Units, therefore the country can only succeed when all of us have equal rights, where no one is above the law, where the culture of impunity is abolished and where there is level playing field.
”Those compatriots who have lost faith in our dear country because of insufficient and corrupt leadership; count on us for we represent an Agent of change for committed, transparent and focused leadership. As a change Agent, APC intend to cleanse our closet to halt the dangerous drift of Nigeria to a failed state; with a conscious plan for post-oil-economy in Nigeria.
”To achieve this laudable programme, APC government shall restructure the country, devolve power to the units, with the best practices of federalism and eliminate unintended paralysis of the centre.”
The above is part of the preamble to the manifesto of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC taken from its website: apc.com.ng
Subscribing to and promising to preserve the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy as enshrined in chapter two of the 1999 constitution and not to abandon any ideal which will guarantee the corporate welfare and security of Nigerians, the party said it would pursue seven cardinal programmes.
The cardinal programmes are: War Against Corruption; Food Security; Accelerated Power Supply; Integrated Transport Network; Free Education; Devolution of Power; Accelerated Economic Growth; and Affordable Health Care.
Two years after assuming power, it is arguable whether or not the APC-led Federal Government is recording mileage in any or all of these cardinal programmes.
However, it is unarguable that Nigeria is currently wading through a sea of challenges. Apart from economic recession and inability of most state governments to pay salaries, there are also menace of herdsmen and recurring murderous clashes with farmers, agitation for the Republic of Biafra, restiveness in the oil-rich Niger-Delta, and alleged maltreatment of some sections of the country by the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration through appointments.
Disturbed by the deteriorating scenario, scores of eminent Nigerians across the country including APC governors and some leaders including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, have made case for restructuring of the country to address these agitations and ensure good governance.
Indeed, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, said that ongoing agitations in the country are as a result of the ror in the Nigerian state.
Stressing the need to dialogue with Sections of the country to resolve all misunderstandings and problems, he said: “In the past, a lot of things were done by some people with impunity and nothing was done. That is why you find shortage of good governance now weighing us down in the country.”
In like, former Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Professor Anya O Anya, said “we need a Nigeria that would be fair to all, peaceful and where everybody, irrespective of ethnic background, would be free. We need a country that would put its citizens to work and not war and in which all will benefit and not a few individuals.”
Former Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said time is running out and urged the government to restructure the country urgently. “If we don’t get Nigeria restructured between now and next year, we may lose this country. There is need to go back to the type of Nigeria, which our founding fathers agreed on, that is regionalism and true federating units,” he said.
APC governors back true federalism, restructuring
The All Progressives Congress (APC) governors backed restructuring and true federalism as a way out of the agitation for Nigeria’s break-up.
The Progressives Governors Forum also said that the recent agitation by some ethnic groups was a reflection of the prevalent weak governance, economy and law enforcement.
In an eight-page document containing the governors’ position on the challenges to Nigeria’s unity, entitled “There has to be a nation first”, they said that the demands for political restructuring and true federalism could be met by adjusting the federal system.
Such an adjustment, said the governors, will not on its own address the root and branch of the country’s challenges, but it is worth pursuing to meet the demands of various groups.
The governors said: “It appears that demands framed by different groups in terms of political restructuring or true federalism can be met through adjustment in Nigeria’s federal system.
“Although such adjustment will not on its own address the root and branch of Nigeria’s challenges, it is worth pursuing in order to meet the demands of various Nigerian groups. The focus of this restructuring is to restore the principle of non centralisation of power in the country’s federal arrangement being the defining element of a federal polity.”
Atiku backs restructuring
Former Vice President and Chieftain of All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar, has commended the resolution of the APC Progressive Governors Forum which called for restructuring and true federalism of Nigeria, saying the issue transcends religion and ethnicity.
The former vice president also described as patriotic the convergence of positions around restructuring by leaders from diverse regions of the country, noting that it confirms that he (Atiku Abubakar) was not just a lone voice in the wilderness in the inevitability of restructuring of Nigeria for the good of all.
According to the Mr. Abubakar, the restructuring debate transcends the ambition of any single politician in Nigeria. He said any attempt to ignore the agitations could make a bad situation more complicated.
He said the country could not afford to allow bottled up frustrations of the people to explode into violence, which threatens not only innocent lives, but also harms the country’s economic assets.
PDP Governors Forum concur
The People Democratic Party’s Governors Forum also concurred and called for as backed the call urgent restructuring of the country to stop ongoing agitations in some parts of the nation. The Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, who is also the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, repotedly said that PDP governors were on the same page with the APC governors on the need to restructure the country.
According to him the present structure lacked the provisions that could enhance national integration, cohesion and prosperity needed to create an egalitarian society where social justice, fairness, equity and equality could thrive.
His words: “The APC governors have not just been saying it; Aregbesola said it; Ajimobi and a host of others in the APC have said it; and now, they have said it as a group and we support their call for restructuring. But the problem I have is that the Presidency is deaf to the voice of reason.
“But even if the Presidency is not going to respect the governors, what about those respected national leaders who have been calling for restructuring? Gen. Abdulsalami (Abubakar), has called for restructuring; former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has called for restructuring; respected southerners and northerners have done so and even IBB has urged the government to restructure, but like I said, the Presidency is deaf to the voice of reason.
“The 2014 National Conference report is there and it contains recommendations made by Nigerians on how this country could be moved forward but the APC-led Federal Government is not interested in it and it has put the report on the shelf because everything about (ex-President Goodluck) Jonathan is bad.
“But if a government is always blaming yesterday for today’s failure and you are not showing us a promising future, then the APC government, as led by President (Muhammadu) Buhari, has failed.
“As far as we are concerned in the PDP Governors Forum and the party at large, this country must be restructured.”
Ob the kind of restructuring the PDP governors recommend, Fayose said if the Federal Government would not implement the 2014 confab report because of its “hatred for Jonathan,” it could as well organise another national conference where “Nigerians will sit together and agree on conditions for national integration, mutual understanding, cohesion, governance structure, peaceful coexistence and respect for one another. ”
We can’t make progress under current structure -Tinubu
National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, added his voice to those calling for Nigeria to be restructured, adding that no progress can be made under the current political system, which operates like a military unitary system.
Tinubu stated this at the 91st anniversary of Daily Times newspaper and the Times Heroes awards in Abuja, recently.
The former Lagos State Governor , who was represented by Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, said Nigeria was only a federation in name but a unitary state in practice.
He said, “Let us streamline governance; federalism in word and deed. Our constitution declares Nigeria a federation of 36 states however we still grapple with the vestiges of our past under the military rule. In any case, we still function like a unitary state despite the constitution. More power and resources need to devolve to the states.
“The Federal Government is taking on too much. We cannot flourish with over-concentration of powers at the centre. Some of the 68 items on the exclusive federal list should be transferred to the residual list as it was in most federal constitutions.
“In the 1963 Constitution, there were extensive powers granted to regions which allowed them to carry out their immense responsibility as they then saw fit.” Tinubu said Nigeria’s unitary political system only offered a deceptive and fake economic prosperity which was exposed when the oil price slumped.
He said even if the current recession end, the prosperity that would follow would be short-lived except structural changes were made
Why we can’t restructure now -APC
Speaking on the calls, APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi reportedly said restructuring is in the party’s manifesto but would be difficult to implement now.
His words: “I don’t think it would be a wise move to add the challenges of restructuring if you have not dealt with the problems that affect the average Nigerian.
“So when people are hungry, when people are losing jobs, when people’s salaries are not being paid I think any responsible government would consider this to be a priority even while it still believes in the restructuring of the country.
“The issue of restructuring is never a gimmick. It is in the manifesto of our party. How can that be a gimmick? That is why I said that the fact that it has not been done does not mean that it would not be done.”