The Horizon By KAYODE KOMOLAFE, Email: email@example.com. Tel No: 08055001974
It is an important step in the restructuring debate when proponents call on President Muhammadu Buhari to seize the moment and give leadership in the process. At least, there has been a suggestion that the President should set up a commission on restructuring. In a way, that seems to be an expression of lack of confidence in the National Assembly where the business of constitutional amendment is already afoot. This is because on his return from his medical trip, Buhari directed those interested in restructuring to take their case to the National Assembly. The divergent approaches to solving the problem should interest the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
After all, restructuring is ultimately a constitutional matter. While the proponents of restructuring are pushing for a new constitutional entirely to be legitimated by a referendum, the National Assembly seems comfortable to be addressing the extant issues of the Nigerian federalism by means of amendments of the 1999 Constitution. The huge deficit in both perspectives is that the focus is almost exclusively on the vertical issues of Nigerian federalism – devolution of powers (to the states or regions as the case may be); fiscal federalism, resource control, state police, contents of the legislative lists etc. There is hardly any corresponding passionate argument on the horizontal issues of the socio-economic rights richly embodied in the Chapter II of the Constitution. How many proponents of restructuring are making the case for socio-economic rights to be justiciable in their proposed Constitution of “True Federalism.” Why is there not so much agitation for the socio-economic empowerment of the people guaranteed constitutionally as proponents of restructuring push for greater powers for governors and state and regional parliaments? It is simply because making Chapter II work can only be a pan-Nigerian struggle and not an ethnic, regional or religious effort.
So when proponents of restructuring dismiss the 1999 Constitution as one imposed by the military they are silent on the remarkably humane content of Chapter II. They ignore the material power that Chapter gives to the people while they hanker after the powers of governors relative to that of the President and the powers of state/regional parliaments relative to those of the National Assembly. Even if the British imposed the welfare and humane content embodied in the Chapter II of the 1999 on Nigeria at their departure in 1960, it would be worthwhile for the working people of Nigeria to defend those provisions called the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.” You don’t need any referendum to implement the policies of access to basic education, primary healthcare, social housing, food security, mass transit, water, sanitation etc. in Chapter II.
What is not being said in this debate is that merely redrawing the political map of Nigeria by means of a restructuring legitimised by a referendum does not on its own provide the magic wand for the achievement of the great objectives encapsulated in Chapter II. It requires massive political economy efforts including competent and modern economic management to realise those objectives regardless of the structure that may be finally agreed upon by the ethnic and regional champions. Otherwise, the real marginalisation will persist, that is the socio-economic marginalisation of the poor who constitute the overwhelming majority by the tiny minority of the economic and political elite. The poor and the elite alike belong to all ethnic groups, regions and religions. This is the yet-to-be- unanswered class question in the restructuring debate.
It is important to reflect deeply on the interplay of forces between democracy and federalism in the Nigerian context. Politicians and their publicists talk so much about “dividends of democracy”; yet the meaning of the phrase has become imprecise. Depending on who is engaging in propaganda, the meaning could range from the construction of an expressway to the filling of potholes on a road built 40 years ago. The dividend could also be massive waterworks providing millions of litres of water a day to some communities or simply the construction of boreholes. Similarly, there is a lot of imprecision about the benefits of restructuring as a democratic and federalist proposition.
However, those who at least still harbour some social democratic convictions should insist that the gains of democracy should not be trivialised or perverted. For the real dividend of democracy is freedom including freedom from poverty, disease and ignorance. Therefore, we cannot seriously talk of dividends of democracy in a social order in which the basic human rights are not protected.
It must be emphasised that these rights include the socio-economic rights. So when next a politician tells you his story about “dividends of democracy”, steer away the conversation from propaganda and ask him or her pointedly what he or she has done in terms of policy execution, articulation or legislation to ensure that the socio-economic rights of the people are adequately protected. The struggle for the protection of basic social economic rights guaranteed in the constitution is a legitimate struggle ultimately towards the inauguration of a humane social order in Nigeria.
The proponents of restructuring argue that “true federalism” would make Nigeria more democratic. But their idea of democracy does not envisage the social democracy guaranteed in Chapter II. It is the duty of lovers of genuine democracy and anti-poverty activists to stress the centrality of socio-economic rights to a “true federalism.” A few years back, this reporter made this point on this page when an anti- poverty bill was proposed in the House of Representatives. The bill was aimed at empowering the citizens to sue government officials for failing to provide basic needs in education, healthcare, security, water etc. These are the issues that should be raised with strident voices in the present conversation about Nigeria’s constitutional future. Of course, the social Darwinists in our midst (and some proponents of restructuring are among given their ideological background) would jeer at such a proposition and dismiss it as “utopian”.
The state and society do not owe anybody a living in their limited comprehension of the inherent contradictions in this inhumane social order. To those with this philosophical bent, socio-economic life is all about competition; those who cannot compete may as well disappear from the face of the earth. The authors of austerity budgets and theoreticians of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) abhor social spending. By the way, economic policies in the over 30 years in this country have been consistently ideological mutants of SAP. However, the fact they often ignore is that if the resources lost to massive treasury looting, corruption, leakages and other forms of economic crimes are applied to social welfare programmes, poverty will be reduced and society will be safer.
Inequality is not only regional or ethnic. The primary question is about social inequality. Even in the metropolis of capitalism, theoreticians are having a rethink about social inequality. Nobel Laureate in economics, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, once argued that when policies bridge gaps created by social inequality the economy will grow better. The policy process in favour of people’s welfare would be enhanced when the basic law of the land backs it up. That is why those who are not outraged that more than 13 million children are out of school or that thousands die yearly in remote villages because of lack of access to basic medical care that could cost less than N1, 000 should be reminded that there is a Chapter II in the constitution. It is part of the basic law of this country.
Millions of Nigerians are denied socio-economic rights that are fully guaranteed as “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles” of policy in Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution that is currently under review. However, the weak point in the constitutional provision which those who are cynical about social justice always exploit is that these socio-economic rights are not “justiciable”. A six-year old citizen who is denied primary education cannot go court to enforce his socio-economic right to education.
That has been the obstacle to the advancement of the frontier of this aspect of human freedom in Nigeria. The National Assembly could make their process of constitutional amendment relevant by removing the obstacle in the way of the enforcement of socio-economic rights. The Senate and the House of Representatives should take the initiative of advancing this restructuring debate by deepening the socio-economic rights in the constitution. If the National Assembly toes this line, it would be making a significant contribution towards building social democracy. It is when socio-economic rights are made justiciable that democracy in this land would mean more than calling on the people periodically to queue up to vote for competing candidates in elections.
To be sure, there is no illusion here that the poor will have a better deal in a selfish society by merely amending the constitution to make socio-economic rights justiciable. It would take a greater battle to be waged against the predominant ideology of governance that is opposed to government’s investment in welfare programmes. It takes a genuinely anti-poverty president or governor to focus more on those policies that would democratise access to basic needs rather engaging in propaganda of executing “projects” all over the place. For instance, more than four years ago a civil society organisation, the Socio-Economic Right Accountability Project (SERAP secured a judgment against the federal government in ECOWAS on the child education.
The court upheld the right of child to education; but the government has treated the judgment with contempt while not disputing the jurisdiction of the court. As the people’s lawyer, Femi Falana, often reminds his compatriots, even the idea of justiciability in the present situation should be tested.
For instance, the constitution guarantees right to life and that of free movement. But lives are being lost daily on scandalous roads including the so-called expressways because of the social irresponsibility of governments at all levels that refuse to fix these roads. There is constitutional right to life yet thousands of children are dying of hunger and preventable diseases. Yet all what our bourgeois lawyers can tell us is that the citizens who use these hazardous roads and starving children cannot go to court because the rights involved in these instance are not “justiciable”.
Hence, in several public interest cases, Falana has gone to court to test the justiciability of the rights. Such advocacy should be embraced by all those committed to making the people reap the real dividends of democracy.
Although poverty might not be merely legislated out of this land; yet the law could be employed as a weapon in the important anti-poverty war. Devolution of power to states or regions and resource control by governors would not automatically eradicate poverty. The structure of poverty plaguing this land should also interest the advocates of restructuring.
Culled from ThisDay
A keen follower of the perennial debate on the state of the Nigerian union would have noticed some patterns by now: your diagnosis of the problem inevitably determines your prescription. If you think the problem with Nigeria is the 1914 amalgamation, your prescriptions will most likely be built around “de-amalgamation” or creating a loose union — what they call “open relationship” in the Western world. If you think the problem is federalism, you will vigorously push for “true federalism” and such like. If you think the problem is revenue allocation, you will fight for the Nigerian definition of “fiscal federalism” — by which is meant “higher derivation payment”.
If you are sold on the argument that the problem is the presidential system of government, your prescriptions will naturally focus on that. If you are convinced, like me, that the root cause of our underdevelopment is the absence of good governance, you will inevitably spend your time campaigning for quality leadership that will build strong institutions, design good systems and inspire patriotic followership. I have seen countries develop under various conditions and systems — unitary, federal, quasi-federal, presidential, parliamentary, democratic, dictatorial, homogeneous, heterogeneous, etc — but I am yet to see a country develop under poor leadership.
Your diagnosis logically determines your prescription. My bias is always evident in my writings. I always blame leadership. But I am not demanding that Nigeria should become like Japan by Christmas. I am a little realistic. All I seek is a leadership that is determined to deliver the basic things of life: potable water for the poor, hospitable hospitals for the lowly, good education for underprivileged, regular power supply and motorable roads. Pardon my naivety, but I do not think we need Sharia to end meningitis and cholera in Gusau, or balkanisation to build roads in Aba, or 1963 constitution to run good primary schools in Ibadan. But that’s me.
In any case, while we await the manifestation of the Nigeria of our dream — either the “balkanised” Nigeria, or the “1963 Nigeria”, or the “good governance” Nigeria — there are other critical issues we can devote a fraction of our energies to along the line. We just can’t fold our arms and do nothing simply because the Nigeria of our dream is yet to materialise. In the meantime, we can revive some critical conversations that focus on our common challenges, irrespective of “tribe and tongue”. I have chosen three of such today: one, the Armageddon in the education sector; two, the doom among the youth population; and three, the calamity awaiting the federation revenue.
Some statistics need to sink in properly. There are about 13 million Nigerian children who will never attend primary school — that is the highest number of any country in the world today. That is more than the entire population of the Republic of Benin. Among the lucky ones who attend primary schools, millions do not attend class regularly and the poorest don’t make it to secondary school. They terminate at Primary 4, 5 or 6. Where are they now? And about 70% of those who manage to write WAEC fail. Where do those who fail go? About 1.6 million candidates write UME every year, and only 450,000 places are available in the universities. Where do the rest go?
These statistics need as much attention as the clamour for state police and regionalism. In the year 2017, nearly 180 years after missionaries introduced Western education to Nigeria, there are still over 13 million children who will never see the four walls of a school. They will never learn to read and write. Over 13 million of them! If this does not tug at your conscience, nothing else will. What is the future of these illiterate generations? What will they become tomorrow? Are they among those we call leaders of tomorrow? Sadly, most of our leaders are busy accumulating obscene wealth while a horrible future unfolds before their very eyes.
And, I want to ask, even for those who attend school, what is the quality of instruction? How many teachers know what they are teaching? What is the quality of classroom infrastructure? Are there desks? Are there books? Do the poor pupils eat the basic proteins — meat, fish and milk — which are necessary for brain development? We are teaching Chemistry without chemicals. We have libraries without books. As Beautiful Nubia sang, “Why do we lie to the children about their future when we are not building good schools?” And we have many leaders — Muslim, Christian, north and south, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa — who are looting the treasury while our education system rots.
Our today is like this because of what we failed to do yesterday. But what are we doing today to prevent a more tragic tomorrow? We are already reaping the fruits of the wickedness in high places. The doomsday is no longer a prediction. Some 91 million Nigerians are under the age of 30. That is more than the combined populations of Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Republic of Niger and Burkina Faso. How many of our U-30s have the basic skills to make anything meaningful out of their lives? And among those who manage to pull through all the way to the university, where are the jobs? It is one thing to be unemployable; it is another for there to be vacancies.
Do we ever make a link between these horrifying statistics and the growth of Boko Haram, IPOB, Badoo, Niger Delta militants, kidnappers, internet fraudsters, political thugs and armed robbers in the country? The jobless youth are getting employed somewhere! Do these statistics mean anything to us at all as we continue to focus our energies on “tribe and tongue”? Are these statistics significant enough to engage the energies of the political elite who are busy bickering over the distribution of plum jobs in government? How many of their children attend public schools? How many of their children are enrolled in Nigerian public schools with no desks and no teachers?
I have just highlighted the Armageddon in the education sector and the doom among the youth population, but we seem to have forgotten our conversation on the imminent calamity in the oil-based federation revenue. We had a foretaste in 2015 and 2016 when crude oil prices hit the floor and we could not pay salaries and the exchange rate went haywire and the stock market caught fire and the country fell on its knees. The message was very clear: without oil revenue, we cannot breathe. Only Lagos state could pay its workers without bleeding; the rest 35 states fainted. The federal government went into more debts. We were badly exposed as petro-parasites.
But that is just introduction to trouble. The real trouble is that the future of oil — which we have been talking about without really talking about it — is doomed. Many more countries are discovering hydrocarbon and reducing their dependence on imports while many are developing alternatives that are cheaper and more environment-friendly. To add insult to injury, some of the biggest energy consumers have set deadlines to phase out vehicles that use our oil. But you know what we are busy doing in Nigeria? We are looking for oil in Borno and Sokoto states. Who is going to buy it? We are still sleeping. We are not ready to wake up yet. It’s called the sleep of death.
If we are wise in this country, we should be worried that our future is under serious attack and begin to act immediately and collectively. Most of our public schools, from primary to tertiary, are a disgrace. We have an exploding youth population that is mostly unskilled, underemployed, unemployable and unemployed. We should be concentrating our energies on building the human resources that will take us a better future. We are still building our hopes on natural resources. We do not appear to care about tomorrow. Most of our conversations are contrived to heat up Nigeria. Those who should give us direction are leading us astray.
Most of the people who direct public discourse are hardly interested in these issues. They are more excited about ethnic and religious issues — that is where they get their adrenaline from. When you raise issues about potable water, maternal mortality, infant mortality, sanitation, roads, malnutrition, unemployment and police brutality, they say you are living in denial or trying to be politically correct. Their real interest is the elite struggle for political power and personal share of the national cake. Who cares about the tens of millions of unschooled children and unemployable youth all over the federation? Yet, these are the conversations we should be having.
AND FOUR OTHER THINGS
My alma mater, the University of Lagos, represents everything that is wrong with Nigeria. After postponing its post-UME test, it still emerged that the school was not ready. Hundreds of teenagers were subjected to traumatic conditions on Wednesday at the test centres. After arriving at the school as early as 7am, many of the candidates did not write the test until 7pm. And to think some came from outside Lagos! Some of these youngsters, denied food and water, fainted. Many computers set up for the test did not work. Some candidates were beaten by soldiers for being “unruly”. And now we would be told the candidates failed. Is this a human society? Rubbish.
GOD BLESS ZAHRA
My star of the week is Zahra Buhari, daughter of the president. A few hours after she posted a message on social media criticising the sickening state of the state house clinic, there was a response from the appropriate quarters! Newspapers have been doing the story for a while, but the state house permanent secretary, Mr. Jalal Arabi, could not be bothered. Now he’s bothered! Can Zahra please drive on a few federal roads across the country and help us post the pictures? Can Zahra please help us comment on the state of other hospitals in Nigeria? A visit to ABUTH, LUTH and UNTH (yes, federal character) will help. Keep posting, Zahra, we love you. Impact.
Is Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum resources, on his way out? His weighty letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on the conduct of Mr. Maikanti Baru, NNPC GMD, paints the picture of someone who is frustrated and ready to call it a day. Truth be told: Buhari’s government is in disarray — there are too many cases of insubordination, power play and unpunished impropriety. As the chaotic APC government continues to mess up, I’m further amused that the pathetic PDP is equating the award of contracts by NNPC with the diversion of security funds to 2015 electioneering. But, then, what is the difference between APC and PDP? #OneChance.
What is happening in Edo state? It is one tale of woe after the other as criminal gangs unleash horror on the state. A professor was killed last week. Kidnapping is becoming rampant. It is believed that all hell has been let loose since Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the governor, began to dislodge touts and extortionist gangs from the streets. Meanwhile, the police commissioner, Mr. Haliru Gwandu, has a lot of question marks on him. He has been transferred out of the state since July but Mr. Ibrahim Idris, the inspector general of police, has chosen to retain him there for reasons we can only speculate, in the light of the weighty allegations against Idris himself. Bemusing.
At last, our young friend, Festus Keyamo, has been honoured with the laurel of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, the highest honour of the legal profession in our country. If you are not a SAN and you are a lawyer, you remain a member of the crowd. Once you are a SAN, you are now a red-cap chief and your bank alerts would indicate your new status. Since the return of democracy in 1999, the SAN club has witnessed many worthy entrants and few could be more worthy than Keyamo. In his set this year was Olusola Oke, former governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy in the last election in Ondo State. Oke, a modest man of spectacular professional achievements, practices his law mostly in Ondo State.
Indeed, few professions have been able to create a special elite class as the lawyers have done with the SAN club. I remember those days of serious legal combats between two giants of the bar, Chief Rotimi Williams and the irrepressible Chief Gani Fawehinmi. Many times, Chief Williams would be the only one on the front row reserved for senior lawyers with the SAN title, while Fawehinmi and other lesser mortals occupied the second and other rows.
Once at the Supreme Court in Lagos, Fawehinmi was quoting from the Laws of the old Western Region to back up his case, while the judges, including Justice Kayode Eso, were listening attentively. At the end of Fawehinmi’s submission, Chief Williams was asked to respond.“We wrote those laws,” he said. The court exploded in laughter. Those were the days of Otutu Obaseki, Mohammed Bello, Eso, Chukwudifu Oputa, Bolarinwa Babalakin and other legends. When the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee would not honour Fawehinmi with the coveted laurel, students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, honoured him with the title of Senior Advocate of the Masses, SAM. I cannot remember now whether any other lawyer won that title which was like tee-shirt Number 10 in the Brazilian football team, meant eternally to represent the incomparable Edson Arantes do Nascimento, alias Pele.
Of course, Keyamo represents a new kind of Fawehinmi. He is courageous, sometimes reckless, often combative and always in support of the underdog. Keyamo graduated from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, in 1992 and was called to the bar in 1993. At the height of the June 12 struggle, he joined the chambers of Fawehinmi where he learnt the art and science of legal wrestling. As we have seen, he was an outstanding student of the Fawehinmi school. Since he established his private practice, Keyamo has attracted many politically sensitive cases. He was the one who got the taped confession of the alleged killers of Chief Bola Ige. He was also the one who took the Presidency to court over the appointment of Service Chiefs.
Indeed, Keyamo is a revolutionary of a different kind. However, he may not have agreed with the iconic Chinese revolutionary hero Mao Zedong that “power grows out of the barrel of the gun.” Keyamo is a democrat who prefers the eloquence of the ballot box. It would have been good if we could send Keyamo to China to learn more about Mao, the revolutionary, and why our country is so different from China now.
In recent weeks, we have been learning more about the ability of the Chinese to perform wonders of engineering. They are building the largest dam for Nigeria on the Mambilla Hill that, in six years time, promises to generate 3,050 megawatt of electricity. The dam is estimated to cost $5.8 billion with China paying for 75 per cent of the cost. Nigeria is going to bear only 15 per cent. Great bargain you will say.
The government-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, which is handling the dam project, is also involved in many other constructions across the country. It is the flagship of the Chinese involvements in our country, especially in the building of public projects. They are building the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. They have projects across the country. Indeed, there is probably no governor in Nigeria who has not visited China. We are told now that the future of Africa is in China.
It was Mao, however, who secured the future for China. At the beginning of the 20th Century, China was as backward as Nigeria. The country was divided by several colonising powers, especially Japan and Britain. Though the puppet emperor was toppled, foreign influence was still dominant despite the nationalist uprisings. Mao became one of the founders of the Communist Party in 1927, the year the Chinese Civil War started, and the fledgling movement was soon pitched against the entrenched regime of the Kuomintang led by Generalissimo Kai-Shek. The Civil War was fought with profound ferocity and after 22 years of struggle, the Communists came to power on October 1, 1949. That day, at the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing, Mao declared: “The Chinese people have stood up.”
Mao was a communist and he believed that the communist super power, the Soviet Union, would help China to industrialise. Soviet experts came in to help build roads, rail lines, airports and schools. They not only wanted to control China, they wanted to own it. China-Soviet split was inevitable and by 1958, China was struggling for freedom from its strong friend, the Soviet Union. The country was an anathema to the West at that period, which recognised Taiwan, the small island where the Kuomintang had established a government, and now it was facing a painful ditching by the Soviet Union. It was this split that made China to re-discover itself.
As they were pulling out, the Russians dismantled factories, ripped off rail lines and destroyed electric pylons and rendered the Chinese economy comatose. China became an isolated country, with only Albania, as its friend as most of the other communist countries sided with the Soviet Union. Faced with this great crisis, Mao decided on both the short term and the long term solutions. In the short term, China decided to rely on its inner strength, knowledge and resources. In the long run, it sent its students to study in the best universities in Europe and the United States, to acquire knowledge that would help to transform China into a modern country. By 1972, American President Richard Nixon visited Beijing and ended the era of Chinese isolation.
Today, China is the second largest economic power. Its investment in knowledge acquisition all over the world has paid off. Its students continue to dominate many top universities in the world. The rulers of China focused on the imperatives of planning, persistence and implementation. They know that for China to join the league of developed nations, it must provide employment, encourage skill acquisition and improve the standard of living. Today, China manufactures everything from toothpicks to torpedoes, from cars to aircraft carriers. Today, Nigeria imports everything, including power generating sets and the ceremonial uniforms of its generals.
But in Nigeria, it is our governors and other top officials who keep going to China “to attract foreign investments!” They want the Chinese to come and help us build our country; build our dams, our roads, our hospitals, our bridges, our airports and our industries. We did not ask the simply question: Was it the Americans who developed China? Or was it the Japanese or the Koreans?
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of the defunct Western Region (now balkanised into Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Oyo) said the first requirement for good leadership “is the capacity to think.” He called it “mental magnitude.” I have no doubt that our leaders have the capacity to think. The problem is what they are thinking about. Are they thinking about the future of Nigeria or just the next election? Or are they thinking of what Diezani Alison-Madueke used to think about in that era when she was the Dragon-Queen of the Jonathan Court?
We have now seen where a state governor would decree the establishment of a university without any thought about the future of that institution and what would happen to its products. In one of the states where the number of vehicles is not more than 20 per cent of those owned by the Dangote Group, the state government has already committed a substantial part of the state resources to many years of building an overhead bridge. Yet, the governor, a frequent visitor to China, has not been able to attract one Chinese investment (or any foreign investment for that matter) into his state. Yet this is a state where at least 60 per cent of youths are unemployed. It is one of the states where many okada riders are university graduates.
Mao was ruler of China for 27 years until he died in 1976. For that long reign, he travelled outside China only twice. Let us start by putting a six-month moratorium on foreign travels for our governors and ministers and let us see whether we might save enough foreign exchange to import rice for one year. By 1979 when Shehu Shagari was elected our President, Nigeria was the largest producer of rice in Africa. Today, we are the largest importer of rice on the continent, spending an average of One Billion Naira daily on the importation of the magic grain.
Let us send Keyamo to lead our youths to China and acquire knowledge on how to build a country. If we do this, we may learn to build many things instead of consuming so many things, including tea from China. We may even end up building military vehicles that would be useful for the future Operation Tortoise Speed.
PRAGMATIC STEPS TOWARDS RESTRUCTURING NIGERIA BY
PASTOR ‘TUNDE BAKARE
Fellow citizens of Nigeria, Happy Independence Day to you all.
At crucial moments such as this, I have, by the grace of God, stood on this platform to bring timely admonitions to our beloved nation. I stand here once again at this defining period in the evolution of our nationhood to bring the mind of God to a nation in the valley of decision. I stand here today as a patriotic citizen of Nigeria, as an ardent believer in her great future, and as an unrepentant optimist in the God-given potential of the Nigerian people to surmount the present challenges and build a great nation.
Let me begin this address with gratitude to God for the recovery and return of our dear President Muhammadu Buhari. As I have done privately, I once again congratulate Mr. President on this pleasant climax to a trying period in his personal life and that of the nation. Together with all well-meaning Nigerians, I pray for a continuous supply of health, vitality and wisdom as he resumes his duties. Let me also use this opportunity to commend the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who, as Acting President, courageously held the fort and steered the ship of state with grace and skill on behalf of his principal.
Furthermore, I congratulate the nation on the victory of constitutionalism over conspiracies. The correspondence between the president and the National Assembly in line with section 145 of the constitution each time the president left to attend to his health indicates some progress in our democratic experience, compared with almost eight years ago when a cabal hijacked power in circumstances bordering on the health of a sitting president. In this regard, credit must be given to President Muhammadu Buhari for his compliance with due process, and to the leadership of the National Assembly, including the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, for making the most of the constitution despite its flaws. This evident growth is a shimmer of hope at a very sensitive period in which the destiny of the nation is at stake.
The State of the Nation and the Quest for Leadership
Undoubtedly, Mr. President has returned to a nation hanging in a precarious balance. Indeed, our nation is enmeshed in a prolonged war against the retrogressive effects of a structure that was created by the fear of the past, has become institutionalized by the fear of the present, and is being perpetuated by the fear of the unknown. These fears have morphed into a horde of agitations which, in an address upon his return in August, Mr. President charged aggrieved persons to channel to the National Assembly and the Council of State.
However, due to the reputation that members of the hallowed chambers have created in the minds of Nigerians, many have expressed doubts as to the ability and willingness of the National Assembly to midwife the structural, institutional and constitutional solutions demanded by Nigerias historical and present circumstances. As a result, Nigerians from all walks of life are questioning Mr. Presidents recommendations as to proper channels for agitations, even though the National Assembly and by extension the State Houses of Assembly are the only available constitutional avenues for making peaceful change possible and violent change inconceivable.
We can only keep hope alive by reminding ourselves that the National Assembly has, in the past, risen to the occasion and intervened at crucial moments such as this. From the decisive death blow dealt the third term agenda of the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, by the 5th National Assembly, to the doctrine of necessity invoked by the 6th National Assembly, the 8th National Assembly has sufficient precedents on how to act in the best interest of Nigeria. We believe that the distinguished and honourable lawmakers will rise to the occasion and work closely with the president to pilot Nigeria into stable and prosperous nationhood.
Having laid the foundation of the need for legislative responsibility, I must state that, as far as championing the far-reaching structural, institutional and constitutional changes necessary to salvage the soul of our nation is concerned, the words on the desk of the 33rd president of the United States, Harry Truman: THE BUCK STOPS HERE!, are relevant to President Buhari whose legacy is at stake. Mr. President, the buck stops at your desk and, as always, my earnest prayer is that you find the courage and political will to do what is right at this momentous period in the history of our nation.
Against this backdrop, we shall now examine the latest buzzword in Nigerias political lexicon with a view to distinguishing the noise from the voice, separating the wheat from the chaff, and presenting practical steps towards building a strong and stable nation.
The Clamour for Restructuring
Some years ago, the word restructuring was the exclusive lingo of pro-democracy groups like the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO), and The Patriots. The leading individual voices in this call emerged mainly from the southern part of the country, including the likes of Chief Rotimi Williams, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Chief Anthony Enahoro, all of blessed memory. Others included the likes of Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Prof. Wole Soyinka and Chief Emeka Anyaoku. However, in more recent times, leaders from the northern part of the country have increasingly lent their voices to this call. From former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who has aired this opinion since around 2012, to a former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, and, most surprisingly, former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babanginda, the call for restructuring appears to be reaching a tipping point.
Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that the restructuring of the polity is implied in the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the government has, for a long time, been silent on the matter and has, very often, drawn the attention of Nigerians back to the tripodal policy agenda of President Buhari, namely, anti-corruption, security, and job creation through diversification. However, after much evasion, the APC, two months ago, eventually constituted a ten-member committee headed by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the current Governor of Kaduna State, to address the increased agitations for restructuring.
As we await the submission of that committee, I acknowledge that some opponents to the call for restructuring, including serving officials, have ascribed ulterior selfish motives to those calling for it. Whether or not this is the case, not only must we not allow the counterfeit overshadow the genuine, we must also not allow the voice of cynicism drown the voice of reason. Thus, the words of David, the shepherd boy, when he was confronted by his brothers as he was about to take on Goliath, should be the response of every genuine advocate of restructuring to the criticisms. David said, and I quote: Is there not a cause? (I Samuel 17:29; NKJV)
Moreover, the hue and cry over President Buharis address to the nation on August 21, 2017 suggests Mr. President is perceived by some stakeholders as opposed to restructuring. But, from my interactions with the president in the past seven years as an advocate of a properly structured polity, I am convinced that this is not the case. Not only does the president want agitations managed through appropriate constitutional channels, he also wants a clarification of demands in concise terms, as well as propositions on practical pathways towards achieving those demands. That is the essence of this address and I believe that Mr. Presidents expectations are valid.
However, before I proceed to elucidate on the practicalities of restructuring, permit me at this juncture to cast our minds back to our consistent calls for the restructuring of the polity, long before the current bandwagon effect.
Our Calls for Restructuring
In 2010, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) presented a Contract to Save and Transform Nigeria to President Goodluck Jonathan which, among other demands, made a case for devolution of powers, called for a review of the revenue formula, and advocated the convocation of a national conference towards the creation of a draft constitution that would be adopted through a referendum. Following the inaction of the government, we subsequently convened a Dialogue of the Nobles attended by Donald Duke, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, and Fola Adeola, among others. As part of a series of dialogues, in a bid to seek the best of the North and the best of the South as an alternative to the then incumbent administration, we also engaged the major candidates ahead of the 2011 elections in search of commitment to the restructuring of the nation, among other desirables.
General Muhammadu Buhari stood out among the available contenders and, on October 10, 2010, we expressed our conviction that he was best suited to lead. On January 15, 2011, I was invited by General Buhari to be his running mate and I initially declined because I had engaged the polity not with the intention to contest elections but to midwife genuine national rebirth. My eventual acceptance was contingent on the mutual understanding that the restructuring of Nigeria would be top on the agenda. This was reflected prominently in the manifesto of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in which we promised the initiation of action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench Federalism and the Federal spirit. This provision subsequently made its way into the APC manifesto.
In 2014, we took our demands for restructuring to the National Conference, where a case was made for a unicameral parliamentary system of government to reduce the cost of governance, and for a federal structure comprised of a strong central government with six geopolitical zones as federating units. In addition, we sponsored a Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration as the basis of our union as a nation, as against Decree 24 of 1999 by which the current constitution was promulgated.
Following heated debates, in the spirit of trustful give and take, the conference adopted a modified presidential system that would harness the separation of powers inherent in the presidential system, while guaranteeing the needed cooperation between both arms of government as intended in the parliamentary system of government. We recommended the selection of the Vice President from the legislature and advocated the institutionalization of the principle of zoning in the Electoral Act. Furthermore, the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration was unanimously adopted. This address will use the propositions at the National Conference as a springboard but will necessarily include bolder and more far-reaching recommendations given the current state of the nation.
On January 4, 2015, in a message titled The Gathering Storm and Avoidable Shipwreck How to Avoid Catastrophic Euroclydon, I sounded a note of warning at the height of the electioneering campaign. I charged the nation not to place the cart of elections before the horse of restructuring, proposing “true federalism under Zonal Commissions as well as fiscal federalism
Rather than pay heed to the warnings, many of our politicians kept on with their business as usual” attitude that brought the nation very close to the brink of disaster. Fortunately, by divine intervention through the efforts of distinguished Nigerians, the international community, and through a demonstration of statesmanship unprecedented in Nigerias history, we scaled through the 2015 elections by a hairs breadth. Mindful of our narrow escape and the festering socio-political and economic challenges, soon after the inauguration of this administration in 2015, we submitted to Mr. President an extensive document that called for a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring comprised of eminent Nigerians, and guided by the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration which was adopted by the 2014 National Conference.
Our submission anticipated the need to reconcile contentious interest groups, foster the integration of the diverse sectional groups into true nationhood, and facilitate the evolution of an acceptable functional governmental structure for Nigeria. We proposed that the new structure would be contained in a new constitutional framework which would come into effect by way of an executive bill to be submitted to the National Assembly by Mr. President and decided upon by the Nigerian people through a referendum.
All our efforts have been inspired by our belief that, as a nation, we are better off together and should find acceptable ways to stay together. We are driven by an urgent responsibility to find, within the constitution, pathways to a more perfect union. Having laid this background we shall proceed to further simplify the seemingly complicated but, indeed, simple concept of restructuring.
Understanding Restructuring: The Basis
Restructuring simply means to change the way an entity is organized or arranged. In the corporate context, restructuring is a management term for the act of reorganizing the legal, ownership, operational, or other structures of a company for the purpose of making it more profitable, or better organized for its present needs. In the context of a nation, restructuring requires redefining the relationship between the people and the government, including taking another look at the structures and systems of governance as encapsulated in the constitution. The diverse positions on the restructuring debate are being championed by at least ten categories of advocates, give or take a few overlaps, namely:
The Economic Structure Reformists
The Non-Structural Constitutional Reformists
The Political System Reformists
The State Creation Advocates
The Resource Control Activists
The Regional Federalists
The Regional Confederalists
We shall now examine these positions and then proceed to present our prescription on the way forward for Nigeria.
Category #1: The Conservatives
The Conservatives are generally satisfied with the systems and structures of governance, current challenges notwithstanding. They generally hold the view that attitudinal adjustments, not necessarily systemic or structural changes, are required. This position is held by the likes of former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, who believe Nigerians need a restructuring of the mind.
Category #2: The Economic Structure Reformists
The economic structure reformists frown at the focus on politics and emphasize the need to restructure the systems and structures of economic governance, in order to diversify from an oil-based economy, reduce the size and bureaucracy of government, and loosen governments grip on the economy through the privatization of key sectors while the government simply plays a facilitatory role. Proponents include policy and economic experts like my friend and sister, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, who has said: We need economic governance as the basis for any political grouping the country may need”, or, in the words of James Carville, chief strategist for the Bill Clinton campaign in 1992: Its the economy, stupid.”
Category #3: The Non-Structural Constitutional Reformists
These are those demanding amendments in certain aspects of the constitution that have no direct bearing on the structure of governance. They include young people advocating a reduction of the age qualifications into certain political offices through movements such as Not Too Young To Run; they include advocates for such affirmative action that reserves a percentage of political offices for women; they include those advocating the removal of the Land Use Act from the constitution, as well as those advocating the separation of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation from that of the Minister of Justice, and so on.
Category #4: The Political System Reformists
Political System Reformists make a case for such constitutional changes that include a unicameral, rather than a bicameral, legislature to reduce the size of government. Others prescribe part-time legislature while some make a strong case for the parliamentary system of government or, as the 2014 National Conference resolved, a modified parliamentary system.
Category #5: The Devolutionists
These are multi-state federalists making a case for ceding more powers to the federating units even if such units are the current 36 states. Many of the current advocates of restructuring, including former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, belong to this school of thought. The devolutionists envisage a constitution with a leaner exclusive legislative list, a more robust concurrent list, and a workable residual list. Also on the agenda of the devolutionists is the review of the revenue sharing formula in favour of the states and local governments.
Category #6: The State Creation Advocates
At the last National Conference, 18 demands for state creation were approved, taking the possible number of states in the nation to 54. Some advocates are regionalists deploying multi-state strategies in the quest for equitable allocation of resources to the respective regions from the centre, including the leaders of the South-East calling for one more state so each region would have six states apiece except the North-West, which has seven. The Middle Belt states seeking regional autonomy from the North-Central also fall into this category. They recognize that, given the current revenue allocation system, the more states a region has, the more allocation goes to that region or geopolitical zone. Other advocates of state creation are motivated by the need to give geographical expression to ethnic identities.
Category #7: The Resource Control Activists
This is a more radical group that swings between devolution and secession. They include the Niger Delta activists and militants demanding outright resource control, which is the exclusive right to regulate the exploitation of resources in a geographical area. Their clamour simply reminds us that we need a more pragmatic resource distribution and management system.
Category #8: The Regional Federalists
The Regional Federalists argue not only that the current system falls short of true federalism, as the devolutionists point out, but also that the vast majority of the current 36 states are not viable. Recent reports indicate that Lagos State, where the commercial activities of Nigeria are concentrated, generates more internal revenue than 32 states combined. This school of thought therefore makes a case for the integration of states along geopolitical zonal lines to create economies of scale. A number of options have been thrown up as to possible number of zones but the six geopolitical zonal formula featuring the North-West, North-Central, North-East, South-West, South-South and South-East, has been the most advocated. Proponents envisage a strong central government catering for matters like defence, foreign affairs and monetary management, with six strong zonal federating units having concurrent legislative powers in such matters as policing, mineral resource management, electricity generation, and transportation. Groups such as Afenifere are inclined in this direction, taking a cue from the 1963 Constitution.
Category #9: The Regional Confederalists
These also advocate a regional or geopolitical zonal arrangement. However, advocates of confederacy prefer a weak central government and strong regional governments with each region having its own army and as such able to defend itself in cooperation with other regions.
Category #10: The Secessionists
These are those calling for Biafra Republic, Oduduwa Republic, Arewa Republic, Ijaw Republic, Ogoni Republic and so on. This is because sectional identities have survived independence and are still reflected in our social interactions and intensified by perceptions of marginalization. Decades after the civil war, we are yet to forge true nationhood and Nigerians still tend to think of themselves as Yorubas, Igbos, Hausas, Fulanis, Kanuris, Tivs, Idomas, Nupes, Ijaws, Edos, Urhobos, and so on, within the Nigerian state.
Some of the ongoing calls for restructuring are motivated by the aim of finding geographical expressions for these sociocultural identities. Although we can compel statehood by show of force, we cannot force true nationhood into existence. Relationship cannot be legislated; it can only be cultivated. Nationhood can be built only through good and equitable governance.
Therefore, those asking for the opportunity to negotiate their existence within the Nigerian state based on their ethnic or cultural identities have a right so to do, as captured in international legal instruments such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Nigeria is a signatory.
However, these negotiations must be handled with decorum and all the sensitivity required so that the Rehoboams in the polity do not play into the hands of the Jeroboams and push the nation from bad to worse as it happened to Israel of old (I Kings 12:1-24 & 14:1-11, 14).
As for those calling for secession, they should bear in mind the fact that, before the creation of the Nigerian state, there was no Yoruba nation, there was no Igbo nation, there was no Hausa nation, neither was there an Ijaw nation. We must not be misled by nostalgia for a spurious harmonious past or the myth of homogenous ethnic groups that is far removed from reality. The area around the Niger was marked with unrest, continuous intergroup conflict, subjugation, enslavement and oppression of the weaker by the stronger until Nigeria provided the possibility for peaceful coexistence. For this, we must appreciate the Nigerian state, we must celebrate our Nigerian-ness and we must gravitate towards strengthening our nationhood rather than cursing our blessing.
Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the current structure cannot hold the greatness that awaits the nation but could hinder it. The demand, however, should not be for secession. The question should be: How best do we organize ourselves for equitable, peaceful and productive coexistence? This takes me to our position on the pathway to a stable and prosperous Nigeria.
Pathway to a New Nigeria
Each of the schools of thought on restructuring reminds one of the story of blind men who visited a zoo to “see” an elephant. One grabbed its trunk and concluded the elephant was like a snake. Another touched its ear and concluded the elephant was a fan. A third touched one of its legs and concluded the enormous animal must have been a pillar. Rather than resolve that they were all wrong, we believe there is a measure of wisdom in the various perspectives and that, like a jigsaw puzzle, the bits must be put together to achieve a desired objective.
For those who care to know where I stand in all this, I am an advocate of progressive and pragmatic restructuring; progressive because ours is a long-term approach, and pragmatic because the interests of every segment of the country are taken into consideration. It is to this end that we reiterate, and even expand the scope of, our call for the creation of a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring by the president through an executive order, in full consultation with the Council of State and the National Assembly.
The Presidential Commission should be given the mandate and the powers to facilitate, within ten years, the evolution of a functional and acceptable geopolitical structure subject to constitutional provisions while the 1999 Constitution is progressively amended. This Commission shall undertake a geoeconomic and geosocial path to geopolitical restructuring by creating geoeconomic frameworks, mending geosocial faultlines, and attaining a geopolitical climax.
Creating Geoeconomic Frameworks
The Nigerian economy is clearly regional in structure with comparative advantages defined by climate, geology, biogeography, population and culture. It is why, in the era of the regions, even though agriculture and mineral production were the mainstays of the economy, there were areas of specialization.
The six geopolitical zones not only roughly reflect six sociocultural zones but also mirror six geoeconomic zones that can be deliberately cultivated over a period of about ten years within which political structures can be designed. The ten-year window is meant to cater for the concerns of parts of the country where the notion of restructuring is opposed due to perceived economic disadvantages. Within the ten-year period, the six zones would have been aided to develop areas of comparative advantage. Therefore, in the interest of sustainable economic development over the next ten years, we propose the following seven-point agenda:
The federal government will progressively devolve powers to the existing 36 states, which will themselves progressively evolve into a zonal arrangement. To facilitate this, we propose the creation of 6 zonal commissions to be headed by zonal commissioners appointed from each zone, to work with the 36 state governors to facilitate integration. The zonal commissioners will be charged with a mandate to map out the economic potential of each zone, design or update, as the case may be, a zonal economic master plan, and coordinate federal and state efforts towards transitioning into zonal economies within ten years, thereby harnessing the comparative resources of each zone to achieve globally competitive economies of scale and scope;
Instituting a social bond to fund the transition to zonal economies, thereby attracting local and international investments to the possibilities of vibrant zonal economic clusters;
Within the financing framework, instituting a 5-part Transitional Zonal Economic Fund focused on key sectors with unique expressions in each of the six geopolitical zones, including extractive minerals, agriculture, industrialization, creative and cultural development, and human capacity development;
A progressive increase in percentage of funds from mineral extraction accruing to the state from which it originates such that, by the tenth year, either by derivation or by partial resource control, subject to constitutional provisions, 50% of revenue will be returned to or retained in the zone of origin as it was at independence and in the First Republic;
Consequently, a progressive shrinking of the distributable pool account over ten years based on recommendations by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission in line with the restructuring thrust;
Aside the Transitional Zonal Economic Fund, the creation of a special Internally Generated Revenue Grant aimed at rewarding the efforts of the states in each zone at generating internal revenue as against compensating non-viable states for economic laziness. This grant will be in the form of counterpart funding;
The national infrastructural development thrust will thus be managed by the federal government in conjunction with the Zonal Commissions and the state governments towards ensuring seamless linkage.
Mending Geosocial Faultlines
While the economic component of the restructuring agenda is being implemented, the geosocial component, which calls for a resolution of the inter-zonal and intra-zonal aspects of the Nigeria Question, should be immediately activated. This will entail harnessing the collective strengths of statesmen and nation builders across the nation to reconcile historical and current grievances and to reintegrate the diverse components of our nation into united nationhood. The details of this component are beyond the scope of this address but are contained in the framework for a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring.
3. Attaining a Geopolitical Climax
The climax of the work of the Presidential Commission will be to codify the geoeconomic and geosocial outcomes and facilitate their evolution into vibrant geopolitical zones as federating units, each with rich sociocultural expressions and viable, world class economic clusters, all knit together by a strong federal government. The geopolitical zones will have the power to organize the constituent states and local governments as districts and counties based on the models created by the geoeconomic and geosocial aspects of the process. By the tenth year, the codified outcomes will be presented to the president who, in conjunction with the National Assembly, will have, within the ten-year period, championed the necessary constitutional amendments for progressive development of good governance, including allowing for a referendum in which the Nigerian people will eventually adopt the framework as a new constitution for a New Nigeria.
The proposed ten-year transitional window is expected to kick in from 2018 to 2028. I understand that this translates to the administrations of at least two, or at most four, presidents spanning three election cycles. Therefore, if the policy is flagged off by the current administration, there is the clear danger of policy discontinuity unless the process is institutionalized. However, the 1976 Abuja Master Plan offers an example of collaboration and continuity spanning fifteen years and five administrations.
In the early 1970s, the Nigerian government began to mull the idea of relocating the federal capital from Lagos. It felt that the capital had become congested in terms of population and available land. It sought a new capital that would be sited in the centre of the country, thus providing a surer guarantee of security and ensuring a more balanced representation of the countrys ethnic and religious diversity.
To this end, in 1976, the government of General Murtala Muhammed identified a site for the proposed new capital and established the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to mastermind the process. Policy execution of this restructuring spanned the administrations of General Olusegun Obasanjo, President Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari and, eventually, General Ibrahim Babangida under whose watch the relocation phase commenced in 1991.
The fact that such policy consistency occurred during Nigerias unstable political history, characterized by successive military takeovers and a truncated democracy, shows that the right dose of political will can sustain a policy when the need is universally appreciated. Therefore,
the following points should be noted in the quest for sustainability.
We expect that the project will be flagged off under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the period leading to the next governmental fiscal year;
Alongside the kickoff of the project, the President may send to the National Assembly a Bill for the Establishment of the Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring, however so named, to provide institutionalization, continuity and legislative guarantee for the objectives of the restructuring agenda;
To further safeguard its operations and objectives, we charge Nigerians to hold as a standard for electoral decision making the commitment of aspirants and candidates towards the ten-year framework for a restructured Nigeria;
Finally, we expect subsequent holders of public office at all levels of government to demonstrate the desired political will, drawing lessons not only from the Abuja story but also from more recent policy transitional success stories, including the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), and the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which were enacted by the preceding administration but are being implemented by the current government.
Recently, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, was reported as stating that the Nigerian economy has struggled so far because it is not structured to meet demographic needs. She therefore cited, as regards respites, the governments policies aimed at diversification from an oil-based economy. However, I am confident that the success of its diversification programme is dependent on the ability of the government to embrace the zonal geodemographic nature of the economy as we have spelt out in this proposal. This entails a revisiting of existing plans and policies including the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
I believe that as we adopt these proposals and take these steps towards building a new nation, we will see breathtaking economic miracles. With the world transiting from crude oil, the northern zonal economies will become hubs of sustainable energy harnessing solar power and biomass while deploying solid minerals like lithium in the emerging electric automobile industry. Meanwhile, the southern zones will harness the huge gas reserves while optimizing the vast coastal waters for wind turbines.
The president, the National Assembly, the Judiciary, the state governments, the State Houses of Assembly, the Council of State, political parties, the private sector, and the generality of Nigerians all have a critical role to play in initiating, implementing, sustaining and defending the process and its outcomes. We must think, not as sectionalists but as nationalists; not as skeptics who only see obstacles, but as optimists, who see opportunities; not as politicians, mindful only of the next election, but as statesmen mindful of the next generation.
By the grace of the Living God, who calls those things that be not as though they are, and according to the proportion of my faith in Him who cannot lie, I call forth today, the 1st of October, 2017, the New North and the New South to come together to the table of brotherhood and negotiate the destiny of a New Nigeria with mutual respect and trustful give and take void of mutual suspicion.
Finally, I urge all Nigerians, with unassailable courage, unalloyed patriotism and unrelenting faith in the destiny of our nation, to arise and seize this opportunity to build a great nation, with the confident assurance that there is no army powerful enough to stop an idea whose time has come. (Victor Hugo). For, in the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, The government is us; we are the government, you and I.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless our country, Nigeria.
Pastor Tunde Bakare
Serving Overseer, The Latter Rain Assembly;
Convener, Save Nigeria Group (SNG)
STATE OF THE NATION BROADCAST
At last the governors of the Southeast woke up to the dangers posed by Nnamdi Kanu to the interests of their geo-political zone and the corporate existence of the Nigerian state. He is not just the newest irritating boil on the nose of the Nigerian state, but also a dangerous pied piper in Igbo land.
The governors knew this all long. But until their meeting in Enugu on September 15, they had been individually mealy-mouthed about the activities of Kanu who sees himself as the only Igbo man capable of doing what Ojukwu could not do – dismember our dear country.
The decision by the governors to ban IPOB was taken in desperation. They knew the ban would not put at end to IPOB and Kanu for two good reasons, namely, (a) their pronouncement does not have the force of law and (b) it is, therefore, patently unenforceable.
The governors, individually or collectively cannot enforce the ban. In effect, the ban amounts to nothing more than a calculated attempt by them to feebly reassure the rest of us that Kanu is on his own and does not represent the political interests of Ndi Igbo. I am afraid, it blows in the wind. It is weak, it is deceptive and it is even dishonest.
The governors are the chief security officers of their various states. IPOB activities are carried out in all the five Igbo states that make up the South-East geopolitical zone. I have seen no evidence of any by the governors taking determined steps to stamp out these activities, even when they can clearly see that they threaten peace in their political kingdoms.
Kanu does not need them or their approval to do what he is doing. Their disowning him cannot stop him. The painful fact is that the governors are fully aware that Kanu is not alone in his diabolical plans against the Nigerian state. He enjoys the tacit support and encouragement of well-placed and responsible Igbo men who believe that he is fighting the cause or causes of all Igbo people, whatever the cause or causes might be.
Ohaneze, the umbrella Igbo organisation, blows cold over the activities of Kanu. It supports him and defends him at every opportunity and drags across the path of our reasoning the tattered argument about the right of people guaranteed by our constitution to pursue their legitimate interests. Kanu is not pursuing the legitimate interests of Ndi Igbo, and therefore, what he is doing cannot be defended on that sacred ground.
Kanu was released on bail. Every bail granted by the courts has conditions attached to it. Kanu accepted the conditions attached to his bail. But he has violated every single one of them. And now he argues, and Ohaneze and other Igbo leaders agree with him, that there should have been no conditions attached to his bail. In violating the bail conditions, he treats our law and our court with absolute contempt. Yet the men who ought to appreciate this choose to make him untouchable. This encouraged him to magisterially say that if he is re-arrested, Nigeria would cease to exist. Such arrogance.
Kanu is funded by rich Igbo men who believe that their fate lies in his hands. He could do what Ojukwu could not do – and the Igbo would have their sweet revenge against the Nigerian state with a resurrected Biafra.
Kanu has hundreds of young Igbo men in uniform. What we do not see so far are the arms. But there is nothing secret about the fact that he has visited the U.S. and other Western nations for purposes of procuring arms. He has calculated that an armed conflict with the Nigerian state is inevitable in the pursuit of his cause or causes. Would the governors pretend that this is news to them?
Kanu is deified by young Igbo men who flock to worship him. They kiss his feet and he dresses like a respectable Eastern potentate. A Moses has arisen in Igbo land.
We are actually back in the dark days of Biafra propaganda. Kanu is following the same path and with crass tendentiousness, he is sensitising the rest of the world to the cause of IPOB. Last week I watched a video clip of an interview President Muhammadu Buhari had with a reporter from Al-Jazeera. The woman told the president of IPOB claims that allocation to the Southeast had been cut down by 50 per cent. This propaganda is to suggest that that zone is denied its legitimate share of the national cake and, therefore, it is a clear evidence that the Nigerian state thinks poorly of the rights of the Igbo.
Can anything be further from the truth? The sharing formula of the monthly allocation to the three tiers of government is governed by law. Under that law, it is not possible to marginalise a state or a group of states. But lies are sweet and the Western media are prepared to lap up whatever Kanu dishes out to them. Thanks to IPOB propaganda, the Western media are beginning to see and treat Kanu and his people as the under dogs taking on the behemoth called the Nigerian state. It was so with Biafra propaganda. The Nigerian state had no answer then; it has no answer now.
IPOB grew out of MASSOB championed by Uwazuruike. Neither Uwazuruike nor Kanu has articulated the grievances of the Igbo. But this has not stopped them from being seen as the new and authentic champions of the cause or causes of the Igbo people. The governors know this too well.
The two groups are exploiting two emotional feelings of the Igbo as a people. These are (a) a sense of entitlement and (b) a sense of injury. The first led to the January 15, 1966 coup that has forever changed the architecture of our national politics; the second led to the secessionist bid by Ojukwu. And this has scarred our national psyche for which we have for ever been in search of, a salve with endless political experiments and constitutional provisions to achieve an airy something called a sense of belonging.
Biafra was wiped off the map of the world in January 1970. But it has stuck in the throat of the Nigerian state like a fish bone. It can’t swallow it and it can’t spit it out. It is an effective weapon of dastardly blackmail against the Nigerian state. I do not see it as a passing phase. If MASSOB and IPOB get off the radar, another blip will be seen on the same radar. The sense of entitlement and the sense of injury among the Igbo would always be available for exploitation by ethnic champions and jingoists.
I just hope that Buhari would not make the same mistake that General Yakubu Gowon made with Ojukwu. He thought there was nothing to Ojukwu’s boast; and that was why his response to the secession was a police rather than a military action to quash it. He woke up to how prepared Ojukwu was only when his forces took over the Mid-West and threatened Lagos.
Agitation for a return to regions seems to have a somewhat tribal assumption, the assumption that once a people of shared identities have constituted themselves into one region they would be able to confront the larger society as a united front. The history of regionalism in Nigeria especially in the defunct Western Region predominated by the Yoruba, contradicts that assumption.
The Western Region was great between 1952 and 1959 when the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was premier of the region. His achievements were outstanding and historical, especially in the field of education. Many, who otherwise would have been palm wine tappers, rose to become great professionals because the free education policy of Awolowo and his party made it possible for them to attend schools. Without any disputations, it is generally agreed that Obafemi Awolowo has a legacy that will endure in history.
However, the same Western Region crumbled into an eyesore soon after the exit of Awolowo. The regional politics of 1962-1965 contributed significantly to the collapse of the Nigerian First Republic. While not disagreeing that external influences had a hand in what eventually became of the region, the honest truth is that key politicians of that era did not have the discipline that marked out Obafemi Awolowo as an historical leader. Regional politicians publicly told prospective voters that their votes did not matter because their political party would still win without them. Non-collaborative traditional rulers had their salaries reduced to a penny a year. The post-election disagreements of 1965 were expressed in the burning of houses and killing of political opponents.
Even during the leadership of Awolowo, political competition in the Western Region was evenly balanced between his Action Group and the rival National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, headed by the great Nnamdi Azikiwe. In fact, the latter won the 1954 federal election in the region. Awolowo was not the most popular politician in the regional headquarter of Ibadan, that honour belonged to his bete noire, the crowd-pulling Adegoke Adelabu of the NCNC.
A renewed Western Region will not be an El Dorado, as being canvassed by proponents. As against just two universities in 1965, there are now over 20 universities in the former region as well as scores of polytechnics and colleges of education. The problems of unemployment and delayed payment of salaries will not disappear simply because states have merged into a region. Neither will the competition or rivalry that are inevitable between the sub-groups-Oyo, Ekiti, Egba, Ijebu, Ondo etc.
The assumption here is that creation of states by the military has reduced the tensions that once existed within regions. In the Eastern and Northern Regions in particular, there were serious conflicts between the majority ethnic groups and the minority ones. Those who experienced those tensions arising from the domination of the majority ethnic groups would not be too keen about any suggestion of a return to regional government. A preliminary survey of public opinion indicates that the majority of Nigerians would rather cling to their states than return to regions.
Thanks to money from the oil producing territories, creation of states seems to have resulted in the growth of more urban cities. It can be said that prosperity has been evenly distributed than it once was. Gone were the days when the good things were the exclusive preserve of regional headquarters-Enugu, Kaduna, Ibadan. The states will have to fend for themselves once a possible restructuring of the Nigerian federation has visited them with new economic implications or realities. Oil may not be the most attractive commodity in a couple of decades and that is one reality staring us in the face.
States do not have to be equally endowed in financial terms. There will be rich and poor states, as it is the case even in the United States of America. The Nigerian states will have to learn how to generate wealth, as well as cut their coats according to their sizes. The erstwhile culture which assumes that citizens can enjoy governmental facilities while they do not pay tax will have to change. Tax-paying is a reciprocal obligation which arms the citizenry with moral authority over the running of state and society. One reason why corruption has become a monster in our society is the perception of oil money as free money.
Be that as it may, the one semblance of regionalism canvassed by this writer is the constitutional recognition of the six geopolitical zones for the purpose of leadership rotation and the balancing of political appointments. It is wasteful having 36 ministers, one minister per state, when 24 or less will do. America would have had 50 ministers if, like Nigeria, every state must have a minister. States that have a special affinity can always cooperate in many respects without endangering the drive towards a more cohesive Nigerian federation.
Akinola is the author of Rotational Presidency, and Party Coalitions in Nigeria-History, Trends and Prospects. He wrote this piece from Lagos
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has never hidden his ambition to be Nigeria’s president. In 1992, during the Babangida transition under what was called Option A4, he even took his first shot at the seat, under the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Chief MKO Abiola eventually emerged the presidential candidate of that party with Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as his running mate. Under the guidance of his political mentor, General Shehu Yar’Adua, Atiku rightly kept his cool and bidded for another time.
Politically, Atiku has always been a creation of Generals since he joined late Gen Yar’Adua. And so it happened that when the Nigerian establishment who are indeed the Generals that were victorious during the Nigerian civil war decided in their wisdom to hand over power to one of their own, General Obasanjo, during the 1998/1999 transition to civil rule organized by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, they invited Atiku, who was then already the governor- elect of Adamawa state, to become the Vice President to Obasanjo.
Effortlessly the Generals made Atiku Nigeria’s Vice President for eight years, the longest serving VP so far. That first political seat Atiku occupied brought out his true colours. The VP seat which could have made Atiku ended up unmaking him. In the first term, Obasanjo, that ultimate master of the game, gave him free hand. Atiku even assumed he was the de facto president of Nigeria. He virtually formed that government at least in the first term appointments.
In 2003 when it was time for Obasanjo to seek for second term, Atiku aligned with some of the governors of the ruling party with the aim of challenging Obasanjo. Obasanjo stooped for them, as it turned out, to conquer them forever. Atiku forgot that ambition and treachery are two sides of the same coin. He broke the thirteenth commandment which says thou shall not get caught. As it turned out, those whom he helped to make helped in unmaking him. In his efforts to satisfy personal and vested interests he found too late that he had no constituency anymore.
In Obasanjo’s second term, Atiku’s wings were clipped. He was side-lined and frustrated, so frustrated that he left the PDP on which platform he became Vice President to Obasanjo and joined a new party, the Action Congress (AC). By joining the AC, for the first time, Atiku was not under any General but independent. The AC offered him a platform on which he contested for the presidency for the first time in 2007 as a candidate. But, as a sitting Vice President, with his protégé Boni Haruna as sitting governor of Adamawa, the AC could not even get Adamawa governorship as Admiral Nyako defeated it hands down to emerge governor under the PDP in that 2007 election.
The 2007 elections marked the beginning of the demystification of Atiku as a politician since it became obvious that without the support of the Generals who made him what he is, Atiku is politically inconsequential. He subsequently returned to the PDP and even quietly went to Obasanjo to beg for forgiveness. Obasanjo made sure the media publicized the visit. Since then Atiku never had any real platform as he keeps jumping from one party to another, conclusively proving that he has neither political ideology nor philosophy but joined politics just to seek for raw power and patronage.
And so it soon turned out that he went back to the PDP to contest for the presidency again. The AC supporters and leaders felt betrayed by his going back to PDP after they gave him their platform. With some old brigade regionalists, they concocted what they termed a “northern consensus candidate” to enable Atiku become the sole northern contender in the PDP presidential primaries against President Jonathan in 2010/11. With the Generals behind Jonathan, Atiku could not even muster one third of the PDP delegates’ votes. Thus a former presidential candidate in one party has turned out to be a failed presidential aspirant in another.
Not done with his burning presidential ambition, Atiku engineered a rebellion within President Jonathan’s PDP and pulled the faction to join the merger talks that gave birth to the APC. Atiku the perennial presidential aspirant contested for the APC presidential primaries in 2015. It turned out that Atiku could not even beat Governor, now Senator, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano not to talk of General Buhari who eventually emerged as the APC flag bearer. Was the last APC presidential primary not enough indicator for Atiku to call it quits as far as this ambition is concerned? No one thinks so as Atiku wants to be a recurring decimal as far as presidential contest is concerned.
For the first time in Nigeria’s history an incumbent president was defeated when Buhari led the APC to victory in the 2015 presidential election. But, since Buhari became the President, Atiku has become an unofficial opposition to the government. He attacks government policies at the slightest opportunity. He claims that he has been side-lined even though Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, was Atiku’s spokeman for years, and at least one cabinet minister was honest enough to say she belongs to the Atiku camp. Atiku is set to commit a final political harakiri as he prepares to re-join the PDP one more time clearly to contest again in 2019. This is despite the fact that in its entire history, PDP has never offered Atiku its presidential ticket tried as he did to get it.
Meanwhile, in his official biography written by late Dr. Onukaba Ojo, Atiku claimed that his father was from Wurno in Sokoto and mother was from Jigawa, all in the northwest. There is a crisis of identity here as people get confused as to what Atiku really mean by all these claims. Atiku must come to terms with the fact that Adamawa in particular and the northeast in general provided him with a comfortable home and base. But if he thinks he is not from there or does not belong there he should relocate to where he thinks he belongs. After all migration is a function of push and pull factors.
Although Atiku has legitimate right to aspire to any office he wants, the mood of the nation is not for any 70 year old anymore and Buhari may be the last president from that generation. At over 70 years now, Atiku should give support and mentor the younger ones and pray for his children and grandchildren if he really loves Nigeria. He has amassed so much wealth to make him and his family comfortable for life. He joined the Customs Service and retired as No 2 in Nigeria. He joined politics and emerged the No 2 citizen in Nigeria for eight years. He joined the traditional institution and has recently been appointed the No 2 in Adamawa Emirate. He should thank God as he appears to be destined for No 2 positions with or without the support of Senator Aisha Alhassan. This is an honest advice from one who wishes him well. History is on the side of the oppressed.