Last week, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of the APC, added his voice to the southern agenda for the future of this country and its political survival. His intervention which had been expected but lacking since the great debate began with the inauguration of the Political conference in 2014 now gives a considerable degree of assurance that the idea of creating a new national trajectory and direction can find political expression with the APC led federal government.
His absence at the Yoruba grand forum in Ibadan on restructuring a few week ago raised critical questions about the political viability of the issue without the support of the most politically relevant individual in the south. Since the emergence of the APC as a party and its eventual assumption of power, Tinubu has been transformed from just a politician to a national leader only second in influence to the president. There is no other politician, particularly in the south, with his control of five states, with such clout and influence. In fact without him APC would not have been in government today.
His earlier opposition to the Political Conference and the idea of restructuring the country, which incidentally is a part of the APC manifesto, took the wind out of the sail of the conference and possibly contributed to its ignominious fate afterwards. But his position was out of character and primarily determined by political expediency to probably undermine the outcome of the Confab and pulled the rug under the feet of that government. The action succeeded because the report of the confab was jettisoned by the succeeding regime; but Nigeria has been the worse for it.
Historically, Tinubu is no stranger to the idea of restructuring the country for better and effective performance and greater prospect of survival. Since the NADECO agitation, which he was shining light, following the June 12 presidential election annulment by the military, restructuring had been on the south west political agenda. Even his defunct party, ACN, campaigned vigorously for it. As a two time governor of Lagos state, he challenged the federal government severally over issues of devolution of powers and constitutional autonomy for states.
In a 2004 Annual Zik lecture, he had this to say by Nigeria: “In the case of Nigeria, nation building is the harmonisation of the centrifugal forces and fissiparous tendencies which pervade the social and political milieu of the various contending nationalities into a homogenous feeling of common identity for the greater interest and survival of the Nigerian nation state.
From the colonial period to the present, Nigeria has faced enormous challenge of nation building. Our colonial background ensured that we inherited a baby we did not produce. Thus, it was always going to be a case of making the best out of the situation we find ourselves.
More than 250 ethnic groups inhabit the space and most with their different language, customs, beliefs and experiences. The challenge therefore is how to create a common identity for these groups with destroying and subjugating them to other groups.”
Therefore, restructuring should be an inevitable consequence of this debilitating colonial political heritage of the country, which has stifled its potential as a great and prosperous nation. So his sudden volte face during the confab was not only surprisingly shocking but actually a betrayal of what he had stood for most of his political life. And his lack of support for the idea has been its greatest weakest, which the other part of the country capitalized on to reject it because of temporary political advantage at the expense of collective development and national survival.
It is therefore immeasurably comforting that he has taken his rightful position in this all-important political issue that could make or mar the future of the nation. Let nobody make any mistake about the significance of this development. Without Tinubu, it will be doubly difficult to achieve this objective. His voice carries more weight than any other person in the south because of the resources at his disposal, both political and material. You can only discount his political contributions at great peril.
For the south, Tinubu is the man to change the country. Without him the APC government is as dead as dodo. The political resources he can muster are so enormous that he can single handedly determine the course of political events in the country. Already his tacit support for restructuring has brought a remarkable shift in northern attitude, which hitherto, had been dismissive and uncompromising. Just after his statement, some groups in the north, including the Northern Elder Forum, NEF, accepted devolution of powers. Though a half bread which may be better than none, it is still short of the main challenge.
This newspaper applauds the courage and altruism of Tinubu in setting aside political correctness and expediency and voting for future of the nation. The truth is that Nigeria has no future without restructuring and those who oppose it on whatever guise are the real enemies of the nation. Restructuring is not synonymous with dismemberment of the country; such insinuations are disingenuous political gimmick predicated on fear mongering to give it a bad name.
Agitators for restructuring believe in Nigeria but one based on justice and the right of every Nigerian irrespective of tribe and religion to aspire to his best ability and excellence without structural and institutional limitations that produce frustrations and misgivings among the different groups. No nation can survive on a long term basis with so much grievances and anger against the state. History teaches that a nation divided against cannot stand.
It is better for the north to take whatever it can get out of Nigeria in peace and stability than to risk losing everything trying to hold on to its present advantage. Nigeria cannot survive another civil war; that is the verdict of today’s world. Any attempt to keep Nigeria together by force is bound to fail most calamitously. The best way is to take what restructuring offers.