By Abdulwasi’i Ilyas.
The Call to restructure the country.
The Nigeria you hold so dear, is what some people are demanding to be smashed into smithereens of six tiny pieces of sovereign states. Others do not give two whoops in Hades about that proposition, they simply want to sever relations with Nigeria and gain autonomy for their region.
The saner stand may be that of some quarters in a third group calling for a restructuring of the country. Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, convened a national Conference and one of the major resolution made therein was to that effect. Our system of government they reasoned, is more unitary and accord too much powers to the center. Devolution of powers to the states and local government is therefore the only way we can ever discover true and lasting peace considering our eclectic nationalities.
Atiku Abubakar has been talking lately. He thinks our current leadership is laden with flaws of unwillingness to lead, listen and learn. Those are fundamental flaws, don’t you think?. On the 30th of may, at the launch of a book titled “we are all Biafras” held at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua center, Abuja, Atiku’s offers his magic wand for the country’s current travails as follows.
- The use of carrot and stick formula and privatization of the NNPC for the Niger Delta Avengers.
- A review of the Federal system of government to grant more autonomy to the regions as a panacea to the Biafra separatists’ agitation, thereto making the federal Government smaller and less powerful.
- An end to settler-indigene dichotomy, creation of local police and enhanced, diversified economic activities.
President Buhari and his Party, the APC, believe the country has other priorities way ahead of restructuring. Since the Confab was a Jonathan Political contraption, it should be given its rightful place in the current scheme of things: the archives.
As it is, Nigerians have gained immense expertise in the science of body language, occasioned by Buhari’s persistent invocation of that strategy. The epiphany has dawned on them that the man is not likely to attend to their calls for restructuring and they have now resort to praying that the APC factionalized with the Atiku Abubakar’s faction championing the call for restructuring. That way, Buhari will be forced to listen.
There are those whose actions can be explain as merely taking this country for granted. Joblessness, hopelessness and the lack of a strong vision for the future has made people resort to any and all means to seek relevance. Fine, a lot of things are lopsided around here, why can’t we just search for and adopt the best possible solutions to resolving the ills of our current state.
The inability of some states to pay salaries-a phenomenon which is likely to blow up further before our very eyes-is one reason some sensible minds have urge for a restructuring along the lines of true federalism to create a robust confederation.
Biafra and the agitations for self determination
The Igbos in their quest for a republic of Biafra, have taken their secessionist agitations a step further by forming a coalition of all Biafra ethnic nationalities and pro-Biafra organizations excluding all that has to do with Ralph Uwazuruike (a faction of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB and the Biafra Independent Movement) and Nnamdi kanu (Indigenous People of Biafra, BIM) who is still in detention.
The new coalition, Biafra People’s National Council, want a state built on equity and fair sharing of resources, qualities they believe eludes Nigeria in no small measure. The Biafra nation shall have several capitals spread across the whole of its states to engender an egalitarian and just society.
The Igbos nurse a long-standing distrust against Nigeria. They believe the Hausa-Fulani North intend to hold on to power forever or install someone as a puppet they can always manipulate to do their bidding. Prior to the civil war, Yakubu Gowon, the then Military Head of State was said to have reneged on the treaty of the Aburi accord, wherein the restructuring of the country was part of the resolutions.
The Igbos had been victims of reprisal attacks following the assassination of the Sardauna, the Premier of the North. They longed for justice to be meted out on the perpetrators of those attacks, but lo and behold justice never came. Restructuring was the way they thought they could appropriate powers to their region while rendering the federal government less suffocating. This never came, so the civil war and the rest of the history. Since then, the agitations had taken the guise of the quest for sovereignty not restructuring.
Marginalization of the South.
In recent times, Nigerians of all extractions have given credence to the claim that the Igbos-or the entire south, as is the argument in some quarters-are being marginalized. President Buhari constituted a kitchen cabinet with no Igbo on the list. The Igbos and the entire south make up only 5 percent and 30.5 respectively of all appointments so far made, While Buhari’s North-West and the entire North has 44 percent and 69.5 percent respectively.
The Niger Delta Avengers on their part turned their backs on the calls for ceasefire and negotiations and have threatened to carry on blowing up oil installations until the government is forced to grant them a sovereign state or the freedom to export their oil.
The Yoruba elders s are not left out in the beating of drums for restructuring. Senator Femi Okoroumu is a chieftain of the Yoruba group, Afenifere. He was interviewed by the Punch newspapers, wherein he laid bare his mind about the Hausa/Fulani intention to perpetuate power at the center. His proof is the pronouncement by the Sardauna, published in the Daily Parrot of 12th October , 1960.
“The nation called Nigeria we shall regard as the territory of our great grandfather, Uthman Dan Fodio, and we shall ruthlessly prevent any change of power. The Middle Belt we shall use as our conquered territory and the South shall never be allowed to have any control over their affairs.”
The Senator believes this is one of the reasons the ruling Northern elites abolished the June 12, 1993 elections widely acclaimed to have been won by Moshood Abiola.
A former Chief of Defense Staff, Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd), argues that without restructuring Buhari’s anti-corruption fight will come to naught, reason being that the Federal government arrogate excessive powers.
“The way out is to go back to true fiscal federalism. It is either we merge all the states together into regional blocs or make them truly independent. It will be such that what each state produces, 70 per cent will be given back to them. The structure we are operating is not working.” Mike Ozekhome, rights lawyer.
Tunes from the North
Balarabe Musa, a former Governor of old Kaduna state is also singing the restructuring song. He is taken in tow by those who nurse the sentiments that some regions are marginalized under the present arrangement. “Nigeria is too big for one man to be president” He says.
Anthony Sani was the spokesman for Northern delegates in Jonathan’s confab. He is utterly wary of the whole idea of devolution of powers to the regions and states. For him a weakened center stands the risk of being unable to bond the various units of the country together. Reducing the revenue allocations of the federal Government from 52 percent to may be 50 percent sooths his frayed nerves as far as this matter is concerned.
Nigeria’s problem Sani says is not that of restructuring but of leadership failure considering that we experimented all three systems.
Nigeria has been a bogus exercise in experimentation. We operated a confederation before Aguiyi Ironsi abolished it and put in its place a unitary government. True federalism can be likened to an ideal state; something to aspire to. A unified Nigeria, warts and all, will serve every one better. Splitting the country will be more likely to create spineless sovereign states that can only muster a trifle of influence among the comity of nations.
To avoid an imminent breakup of the country therefore, a restructuring of the polity is needful.
Please be kind to share your thoughts with us on this matter. The comment box is just right there.