Now That They All Want Restructuring, By Emenena Bright
It is understandable that the Nigeria political terrain has become this charged as it is only about six months to the general elections. While all the elections are important, the most significant remains the Presidential election. This is because the direction of a nation is akin to the nation’s chief executive officer in our own case, the president. This is further made so by our system of government, our political structure, our form.
No doubt, every nation has her peculiarities and it is such peculiarities that determine the way the nation is governed. While the players are all warming up for the task ahead, it is important to keep focus on the issues. With the incumbent and the party in power obviously leaving no stone unturned even if it means trouncing on the constitution to ensure they retain power it appears the issues have been relegated to the back seat. On the other hand despite all the opportunities offered by the incumbent by their perpetual failures and unforced errors, the opposition has failed to take advantage and so have remained the lesser of both players. Understandably, they are the opposition and are naturally will be most likely behind in the race of who heads the affairs of government in the next dispensation. Still, in comparison to what obtained about 3yrs ago when the party in power now was in opposition, there is still a lot of ground to be covered if they are to make serious impact.
Every election has its peculiarities and the votes are driven by specific factors. They are rarely the same for every election year. In the last election, the then opposition made the most important of the factors to drive the votes the fight against corruption. So the last election became a referendum on corruption. What then should drive the votes in 2019? It is now a common rhetoric that Nigeria has never been this divided since the post civil war. This division has given rise to all manner of insurgencies thereby making insecurity to be at its peak. Daily, people get killed in droves and it doesn’t seem there is an end in sight to all these. Our government no longer mentions neither do they acknowledge. They are in perpetual denial all in a bid to perpetuate themselves in power. Our Army is regularly overrun and the dead are secretly buried without such recognition and respect befitting of soldiers who died in the battle field so the rest of us may be safe.
The issues are a myriad and will not be solved by a single action. So no one is under the illusion that restructuring is the magic wand that solves the myriad of problems. However, the problems have a nexus and identifying that nexus is a panacea for the solutions we sought. It is widely believed that most of these problems have roots that are easily traceable to the present structure. Our politico economic form has not profited us irrespective of our belief, region or religion. In his speech in July 2016, at the late Gen. Usman Katsina Memorial Conference, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar did posit that the present system which has largely evolved from the need to put us together almost at all cost especially following the civil war has not helped any region. Not even the North which is viewed by many as the only beneficiary of the present system. He has therefore continued to talk about the need to change our political structure or form. Unfortunately, while this position of his has earned him a place in the hearts of many, some persons, especially those in power have continued to deride him and tag him as merely playing politics. It is ironical that despite not turning up for the popular 2014 National Conference where the discussion of our form or structure held, the ruling party went ahead to include in its manifesto the promise to change our political structure. That this manifesto won them the election only goes to show that amongst other promises, the citizens believed their promise to restructure Nigeria. Having been in power for more than 3 years now, not a single bill or any other action has pointed to intent to fulfilling this promise. As a matter of fact, every effort by anyone to discuss the issue has been turned down blatantly by the President. Now as the election season approaches fast, they have all began to turn around. Even those who have never mentioned a word about restructuring and have openly argued that there was nothing wrong with the present system, are all now shouting “restructuring.” This is so especially as the opposition party continues its search for a worthy candidate to fly its flag in the next Presidential election. The denial and refusal to see our structure as an albatross to our national growth and development cuts across the aisle and just saying they support restructuring now should not be enough to win the votes of the delegates. It is now very important that the candidates’ long time position on the issue of restructuring be well analysed and debated. Like they dangled “fighting corruption on electorates” we must refuse that they do same with this very important issue, now that they all want restructuring.
Only a few days ago there was an ongoing debate between, the former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the same subject. What was obvious is that despite my disagreement by the Vice President’s characterisation of the former Vice President’s restructuring as merely geographic, even the little expressed by the Professor would have gone some distance in achieving fiscal federalism. Hypocrisy was in full glare that a former Attorney General of a state that led his then state to the Supreme Court on those issues as expressed by him in that article can be part of a federal administration that today has turned down every attempt and effort to have the discussion on restructuring. Having faulted his stance on restructuring by Atiku Abubakar following the Vice President’s earlier speech in the United States, the 180* about-turn is in the least defensive. It was however a worthy debate, Nigerians only wished that Atiku Abubakar (a front runner for the presidency in the upcoming election under PDP) and President Muhammadu Buhari were the ones engaging in it, considering that the Professor’s position has not affected anything in this administration.
It is hoped that Atiku Abubakar will get the ticket of the PDP and then an opportunity to debate these issues with the President who is set to be the ruling party’s candidate. We do hope that for the sake of decency, the need to deepen our democratic culture and national interest, President Muhammadu Buhari will accept the invitation to a debate when the time comes.
Dr Emenena Bright, a medical practitioner wrote from Warri, Delta State.