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Published On: Wed, Dec 13th, 2017

I fear Nigeria might break up- Awolowo-Dosunmu

 

By Obinna Ezugwu

Dr. Awolowo-Dosunmu

Daughter of late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. (Mrs) Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu has expressed deep concerns about the survival of Nigeria, noting that the country may likely disintegrate if not restructured.

“I don’t even want to imagine it (Nigeria not being restructured) because we have come to a breaking point,” a visibly worried Dr.  Awolowo-Dosunmu reiterates as we sat with her at their Ikene country home in Ogun State. “My worst fear is that this country would be dismembered, and we would become a country where you have pockets of warlords within such a vast area.”

A former Ambassador to Holland, Awolowo-Dosunmu has been at the forefront of the campaign for restructuring. She insists it is the only thing that can save the country from collapse.

“The refugee situation would be unbearable. In fact, life would just be unbearable. Those are my very worst fears, but I’m confident that we won’t let ourselves degenerate to that level. But obviously the level of anger, pure anger that is building is worrisome, and like I said before, things won’t have degenerated to this level if things were going well, if people had jobs to do.”

Not everyone has shared this view nonetheless. There are those who insist that what the country needed was good leadership and even if restructured, the country would still have challenges if the leadership is not gotten right. But she maintained that such argument is flawed.

“When you have those smaller units like the zones and they have the powers, and the people know that this is where our solution lies, it would be much easier for us to call our leaders to order under that kind of arrangement,” she argues. “It would be easier for us to insist on accountability. Right now, because of this unitary system, we have a coalition of people who think differently from what we want. And we are all screaming but they are not hearing us.

“But if we have a bad leader in the South West for example, or a crop of bad leaders, and we know that these are the ones that we can hold accountable for our suffering, then you know how it would be. Nigerians are not stupid, it is simply because power is so far away from them and they appear helpless. That’s why it looks as if they cannot do anything.”

There has been a bit of controversy over what to restructure actually means. In arguing against restructuring, some of its opponents have maintained that the country has already undergone restructuring. In fact, President Muhammadu Buhari had when signing a recent local government autonomy bill into law, said it was part of restructuring. But for the former diplomat, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what restructuring entails.

“When we say restructuring, we are saying we want to go back to the federal system of government which we had before independence, at independence and after independence until 1966. The components of federalism are very simple; first of all, a federal structure recognises the constituent units as equal partners to the central government. You also hear about devolution of power, resource control, and so on… these are elements of federalism, it comes as a package,” she explains.

“When you talk about federalism, all those elements have to be present. If we say we are practicing federalism right now, but there is no resource control, there are not enough powers guaranteed to the constituent units to work and to deliver to the people, then you don’t have federalism, which is why we talk about true federalism. Strictly speaking, there is nothing like true federalism or untrue federalism, once you have a federal structure, it has to contain in it devolution of power.

“In order words, the constitution empowers the administrators of the constituent units to do certain things and to deliver, truly, to the people. And in order to do that, they need the funds, so there need to be resource control. Before 1966, each of the regions had its own constitution; they were able to retain a significant portion of the resources they generated in their areas. Constitution guaranteed them the powers to do so much. What I’m saying in essence is that a federal system must devolve power to the constituent units and must guarantee resource control. The federal government in those days had duties of foreign affairs, defence, ports, railways and few others, but everything else was administered from and within the constituent units which were the regions at the time.

“People also talk about what will be the constituent units this time, but those are matters of details. I think we all recognise that there are six zones now, and a lot of things are done on the zonal structure. For us in the South West, the region works best for us. You notice that all the governors have spoken about it, and they have opted that the zones should be the constituent units. Our own realities may be different from those in other zones, these are details that we need to talk about in order to accommodate the peculiarities of different zones.”

 

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