If there is one obvious lesson political elites in Nigeria should have learned 17 years since the beginning of this current democratic dispensation, it should be that in a democracy, the opinions of the people from all ends of the country should be sourced and listened to especially in matters of national importance. That is why we are today, on the platform of Join The Restructuring Campaign, a socio-political group of eminent Nigerians, warning that the Nigerian ship will hit an iceberg should it neglect the towering calls by her citizen to restructure the federal structure of government which the country is operating on.
Unfortunately, the President of Nigeria, Mohammad Buhari had during his 2018 New Year Broadcast insisted that restructuring was not the most pressing issue in Nigeria because the country’s problems have more to do with the process. His body language is one which is not only anti to public opinions but one with a great penchant for instilling dictatorial leadership in Nigeria’s democratic process. While he is contesting to be re-elected for a second term, the Nigerian people are calling for a debate where he can have an interface with Nigerian citizens to weigh his ideas for the country side by side with that of other presidential candidates.
The emergence of Nigeria as a federal system of government came about after her independence in 1960. This arrangement resulted in the defunct southern and northern protectorates becoming one and independent polity on the agreement of having a central government for certain limited purposes where justification have been deduced for succession, interpositions and state rights. This federal arrangement should presuppose the countries nationalism. The constituent power should be on the people.
Though this postulation had preoccupied the workings of government in the early 60s to the 80s, it was tinkered by the military which invaded the system through coups and counter-coups which dominated then and has continued to be central to the shaping of Nigeria’s federal structure. Such dominance should be stopped and can only be stopped through a sovereign National convention where federating components shall have the freedom and opportunity to express their opinions about the country’s federal practices.
It is neither false nor an exaggeration to opine that the critical problem of political and economic development in Nigeria lies not in the process of governance as assumed by Buhari, but in the much centralized federal structure where unfettered political and economic powers are vested at the centre, ceding little or no measure of fiscal autonomy to the supposed constituent states thereby strangulating the Local Government system in the country.
As the case is today, the much-centralized nature of Nigeria’s federalism is convincingly lopsided owing to the many killings of innocent citizens across the country. These killings cannot be exonerated from the one-command system of the Nigerian police force where only the federal government can issue a command for law enforcement to take place in any part of the country even in parts of the country where the Inspector General of Police does not know exits. The reconfiguring of the architecture of Policing in Nigeria will make way for the much-demanded state police to be achieved
The economic prosperity and failure of a country are traced to government decisions. Government decisions cannot be insulated from the structure upon which the government runs its activities. With the independence of Nigeria, some parts of the country were adjudged to been experiencing faster development than some countries in Africa. This was possible because the federating components had a measure of autonomy. These components were working under a fair federal arrangement that they owe the federal government responsibilities which they were committed to. The failure of the arrangement has not only distorted the once giant of Africa’s peace and security but has placed the country as the poverty capital behind India which is six times her population.
Ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, in 2014 organized a national constitution conference but failed to implement the report. In a goodwill message which he delivered on the occasion of integration Summit Roundtable in Abuja in 2017 emphasized that the confab report capsules vital issues which if implemented will reshape and consolidate the necessary common grounds and shared values needed to move Nigeria forward. It is understood why he was unable to put to work such report as his administration was winding down but it is a discredit to the Buhari-led administration which emphasized on restructuring as contained in his party’s 2015 election manifesto but is yet to make any positive impact in repositioning the country’s federalism.
The president’s political party the APC maintains that the rigging of the conference is a chief reason why it will not implement the outcome of the conference. But how have they attempted to replace it with a people-oriented one than jettisoning the call with the vague adjective, ‘deeper fiscal’ federalism, as postulated by Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo? Restructuring should encapsulate every aspect of Nigeria. Evidently, Buhari is not interested in restructuring Nigeria. Nigerians should look beyond the All Progressive Congress should their wish for a restructured federal republic of Nigeria to emerge. A president who has deafened his ears to court orders and looked away while citizens are killed in cold blood cannot be seen as one who respects public opinions.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has shown great resolve to restructure Nigeria by calling for a National Conference to address the opinions of Nigerians for the federation. Such is the public expectation from a government in a democracy. Going by the political process as committed to by the party, Nigerians wish for a return of the party to douse the incessant killings and hunger across the country. Though the members and leaders of the party have been tagged corrupt and her presidency branded as one which ran the most corrupt government in Nigeria, one will ask why the citizens of the country having a fairer standard of living than depending than social safety nets. Why the country’s exchange rate was economic friendly that $1 was exchanged for N165 than what we have today where $1 is exchanging for N395? What is the cost of, Nigerian’s major staple food rice, per bag more than the country’s minimum wage than what the case was during the PDP government?
The aspirations of the PDP, though criticized contrasts with that of APC. It is without a doubt that PDP, with the coming of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar who is the main advocate for a restructured Nigeria, will see that the federal republic of Nigeria is restructured. Let’s give PDP a chance to return to power and continue from where they stopped in rebuilding Nigeria.
Izuoma Ibe is the author of Join the Restructuring Campaign. Contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @JTRCwithATIKU