Collapsing economy reinforces campaign for true federalism
Compelled by the seemingly unworkable structure of the Nigerian Federation, former President Goodluck Jonathan convened a National Conference in 2014 to address the country’s structural defects.
Recommendations were made but the succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari administration immediately made it clear that it would have nothing to do with it, insisting that what the country needed was good governance, not restructuring.
However, the debate on restructuring returned to the front burner following call by some elder statesmen led by Prof. Ben Nwabueze and a spirited argument in its favour by former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar during a book launch in Abuja early last Month.
It has since remained a hot topic, sustained by the activities of militant groups in the Niger Delta and the unfolding economic challenges threatening to throw the country into depression. This has led to many top political figures predicting doom as the only consequent of failing to restructure.
Few days ago, Atiku reinforced this prediction during the Usman Kastina Memorial Conference held in Kaduna, noting that restructuring was now unavoidable.
In a paper titled “Restructuring Nigeria for Greater National Integration and Democratic Stability,” he said it was either restructuring was done around a conference table or it happens spontaneously.
“I suggest we resolve today to support calls for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation in order to strengthen its unity and stabilize its democracy. I believe that restructuring will eventually happen whether we like or support it or not,” he said.
“The question is whether it will happen around a conference table, in a direction influenced by us and whether we will be an equal partner in the process. Or will it happen in a more unpredictable arena and in a manner over which we have little influence? It should be at a table and we need to be at that table. A nation is an organism; it grows, it evolves, it changes, it adapts. And like other organisms if it does not adapt, it dies.”
The former Vice President went on to explain that contrary to popular belief, restructuring would actually work in favour of the North.
“I’ve been speaking about achieving greater national integration through devolution and decentralization for some time now because I know that too much concentration of power at the centre hurts the country and the north in at least three critical ways: (1) destroying our economy and values as it does elsewhere; (2) putting too much premium on the struggle for power at the centre; and 3) creating the false perception that the north benefits from the status quo, thus presenting the north as being responsible for the country’s development challenges.”
Across the South, the campaign is gathering momentum. Last week, political leaders of the South West met in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on the occasion of 50th Anniversary of the zone’s first military governor, Adekunle Fajuyi and insisted that the country had to be restructured.
Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko in his speech during the event insisted that now was the time to restructure the country as any further delay could be dangerous.
The guest lecturer, Professor Niyi Osundare in his lecture faulted President Buhari’s insistence on the non-negotiability of Nigeria. He noted that Nigeria was already a thousand miles apart.
“No country can ever achieve nationhood when its component parts are as incorrigibly heterogeneous and so mutually antagonistic as Nigeria now is and has always been,” Osundare said.
“This is why those who blissfully aver that ‘Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable’ should quickly reconsider the dangerously complacent certitude in their avowal.
“This was one of the cheesy slogans which propelled the rhetoric of the Nigerian civil war, and it rode to victory in a crass, largely un-interrogated cavalry. But that was in another century, another millennium, another ideological ferment, long before Benedict Anderson’s idea of the Nation as an ‘imagined’ community, and the nation itself as a shiftable, shifting arrangement/artifice with its own unfair share of the profound indeterminacy that is so indigenous to the postmodernist/poststructuralist condition.
“Besides, those who talk so glibly about ‘Nigeria’s unity’ are under the perilous impression that there is a ‘unity’ to ‘negotiate’, in the first place. But a closer look tells us that we are still a thousand miles and a thousand moons from that unity, and that we need to work really hard and honestly for it to come within our grasp.”
At the end of the meeting which had in attendance notable figures like Pastor Tunde Bakare, General Olufemi Olatoye (rtd), the Alani of Ido-Ani; Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasonranti; Governor Olusegun Mimiko; Dr Kunle Olajide; Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Gen Alani Akinrinade (rtd); Chief Cornelius Adebayo; Sehinde Arogbofa, Prof Banji Akintoye among others, the leaders resolved that the only way out of the present economic crisis was restructuring to enable each federating unit develop at its own pace.
Similarly, leaders of the South East Zone had during the Igbo General Assembly held last week in Owerri, Imo State decided that restructuring was the only way forward.
In his address at the event, Professor Anya O. Anya, the President-General, Ndigbo Lagos Foundation noted that as liberal people who love to explore, Ndigbo cannot make progress in the present structure of the country.
“Ndigbo will not flourish in the Nigerian pseudo federation until federalism with its mandatory devolution of powers is restored,” he said.
Same was the key topic during the South East Ministerial Town Hall Meeting in Enugu which saw notable participants like Dr. J Nwodo making a strong case for restructuring.
Individuals of note across the country, including former head of state, Yakubu Gowon; former Anambra State governor, Chief Emeka Ezeife; Afenifere Chieftain, Yinka Odumakin, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, President General, Aka Ikenga, ACF’s Mohammed Adulrahman and AYCF’s Shettima Yerima have equally at various times stated that restructuring was the only reasonable thing to do.