For Nigeria to prosper, we need to restore a culture of decency, integrity and prudence in public service. Leadership by election or appointment should be an opportunity to serve the people and Nigeria, not to loot public funds or abuse public office. Such mindless looting and reckless spending of our common treasury, as we have seen in the last five decades, is myopic, primitive and wicked. No country can prosper under such arrangement.
Abuse of public office and oppression of the masses are very repulsive and retrogressive tendencies. Any endorsement of corruption is as bad as the act itself, thus very unfortunate. It is so wrong to condemn truth because it is spoken by our opponents or to boldly endorse lies because it is said by our friends, loyalists or godfathers. No moral ambiguity here.
For over 50years, our public institutions/infrastructures ( schools, hospitals, roads, transportation system, power generation etc) and general wellbeing of Nigerians have gotten worse progressively. When you look around, you will agree that there is no argument about this. Since independence, we have not stopped making billions of dollars from our natural resources, but we have a huge infrastructural gap. Why? Could it be that we have not had brilliant economic teams from 1st republic to the present 4th republic? Is it that all our past civilian and military heads of government have no capacity? We cannot be that bad.
The answer to why we refuse to make progress is clear and not rocket science. Once upon a time, Nigeria got independence from the British in 1960 and we operated a true federalism, where power is not centralised. The states and regions where strong and in control of their various resources. They developed at their own pace and it was healthy. The regions sustained the central government, which did not have so much power. In 1966, that decent structure was destructured by the military to the current model of a uniitary system, peculiar to Nigeria. They suspended the peoples constitution and came up with decrees before imposing their own document called ‘constitution’.
Nigeria’s problem indeed started when the military left the barracks and came to town uninvited. This was the gate crashing that messed up the party. The current structure of Nigeria, created by the military and forced on the people, is a unitary system of government, but deceitfully presented as a federal system of government, with coloration of injustice, inequality and unfairness. It is the highest level of deceit to define a unitary system of government in practice as a federal system of government on paper. Over time, the unitary system of government has favoured mostly the Northern zones, in terms of federal appointments, states/local government councils creations and other national benefits. We have witnessed merit being relegated to the background, while quota system and federal character brought to the front burner. Such injustice and clear inequality cannot guarantee lasting peace and true unity. Any dogmatic push for status quo of this unitary system of government, with too much centralisation of power, is a fallacy that cannot fly anymore. But how do we go from here and what do we do? What advice do we give to those in leadership positions?
What shall we tell the president?
I have studied the political landscape of Nigeria and analysed the actions and inactions of all in a very objective manner, so I can understand the motives behind every action. We have four groups of Nigerians. First group wants the status quo of unitary system of government to continue. The second group wants Nigeria to be restructured to a true federalism. The third group wants to exit from Nigeria and be on their own by invoking right of self determination. There is a last group which does not have an opinion. I call it the docile (a.k.a. sidon look) group. I respect the opinion of everyone, no matter which group you belong to. But I am in the second group, calling for restructuring as the best move to make Nigeria a great nation. I am also ready to engage anyone in a public debate on why restructuring is the best option for Nigeria. Since I am a fan of president Buhari and I desire a strong united Nigeria of equity, fairness and justice, I shall tell the president to support and lead a plan of restructuring Nigeria to true federalism.
It is no longer breaking news that Yoruba nation have courageously come out with ‘ Ibadan declaration’, affirming that the entire Yoruba race want restructuring. They call for the immediate suspension of the military imposed 1999 unitary ‘constitution’ and that the peoples constitution of 1960/63 should be used as a template to prepare an acceptable constitution. They demand a return to the practice before the military take-over of 1966. This regional autonomy of the Ibadan communiqué, has always been the position of the Yoruba people, even during the era of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Before now, Ohanaeze Ndigbo (the umbrella body of Igbo worldwide), under the strong leadership of the very dynamic, cerebral, articulate, diplomatic and courageous Chief John Nnia Nwodo, have been able to advance superior arguments on why the south easterners want Nigeria to be restructured to a true federalism, so powers can devolve to the regions; resources can be controlled by the people that own them; local government councils can have autonomy and states/LGA can have their own community police. The Niger Delta people have also insisted that: no restructuring, no Nigeria. To further confirm that it is time to restructure, the middle belt region and very notable leaders of the Northern Nigeria have come out publicly to state their support for restructuring. So, who and what are we waiting for? Can it be the APC committee on restructuring, chaired by El Rufai (governor of Kaduna State)? Or is it the Northern Nigeria committee on restructuring, chaired by Tambuwal (governor of Sokoto State)? I doubt we are waiting for IPOB or Arewa youths. No restructuring through the backdoor will be accepted by Nigerians. The process must be transparent and done by the Nigerian masses, not the ruling party APC or NASS. Hopefully, members of Federal executive council, other political appointees and senior members of APC, shall tell the president to endorse a transparent restructuring.
There is no doubt that Nigeria has been put on a reverse mode and stagnation by military dictators and politicians for over 50years(from 1966). History confirms this narrative and the present does not deny it. Also true is the narrative that Nigeria, in her current model, is not structured to reflect fairness, justice and equity. When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. Injustice, inequality and unfairness are not likely to guarantee lasting peace and true unity. Hence, the demand by masses and various groups for a restructured Nigeria, is legitimate and morally correct. I am for restructuring and do not support disintegration. I love my country, the people and her diversity. But, it will also be wrong to crucify IPOB members who are demanding for a referendum for self determination. It will be a fallacy for anyone to push forward the view that a call for referendum for self determination is out of line.. We do not need dogmatic views now. We need to sit down and have a peaceful discussion. All different stand points have to be respected. It is time to debate exhaustively. Freedom of speech, movement and association should be encouraged.
Let me move to a subject that would have surprised so many Nigerians. It is a welcome concern now that suddenly the same military dictators and politicians that contributed to destructuring Nigeria and rejected restructuring when they were in power, are joining the masses to advocate for restructuring! Hmmmm. Even the ruling party, whose senior members said no to restructuring a few months ago, have keyed in. Wetin dey happen? Maybe hurricane restructuring has surged to category 5 and status quo of unitary system is left with no option but to evacuate. Shall we tell the president to quickly ignore those promoting status quo of unitary system? The president should disregard the cabals and other sycophants, then make a decisive move to restructure Nigeria. He needs to write his name in gold with such a legacy.
I do hope these same past leaders and professional politicians that are responsible for setting Nigeria back, do not see the determined call for restructuring by the masses a mere fantasy that will die down. Therefore, they (past leaders and professional politicians) may be making a plot and political gambit to embezzle our political beliefs and rob our minds to get us distracted. We are aware that 2019 is around the corner, so we are very vigilant to analyze every step taken to discern the motives. Those who are joining team restructuring with selfish motives, be warned! Hurricane restructuring is now category 5 and stronger than imagined. We suspect their main motive is to make plans for next political goals. But, they are in for a shocker this time, because Nigerian masses are so determined and resolute now than before. We must sit down and talk. It is our right to do so. Any politician that is busy beating the drum of 2019 elections and 2nd term for the president, instead of restructuring, should be seen as an enemy of a progressive Nigeria.
For those who are pretending not to understand what we mean by restructuring, I beg you to stop being mischievous and deceitful. For those who know that a restructured Nigeria is the best move, but refuse to support it because they are in government now and are benefiting from the too much money and power at the centre, they should stop being selfish and myopic. For those who are cunningly advising us to restructure our mindset instead of restructuring our country from unitary system to a federal system, I am certain in future, they will claim they were misquoted. To infer that mind set restructuring is more important than devolution of power, resource control, state police, LGA autonomy etc, is indeed an annoying and deceitful distraction, that trivialises the demand of Nigerian masses. Restructuring of mindset should be left to churches, mosques, schools and homes. Nigerian masses demand an immediate restructuring of the unitary system to a true federalism. The president should to look at building a strong legacy as the most reputable president from Africa, with a steady reputation of integrity. President Buhari is already an anti corruption champion, second to none in Nigeria. He should make his support for restructuring public, beyond the APC committee on restructuring. Mr. President should demonstrate the courage and political will that he is known for, by ignoring the sycophants and cabals who are milking the country dry through privileges at their disposal. I trust my president to take my advice and lead the crusade for restructuring, like he is leading the anti corruption fight. Time to sideline the cabals who insist on the unpopular status quo of unitary system. I do not have the same confidence and trust I have for president Buhari, for our National Assembly members and other .APC members. Therefore, I advise the NASS members of APC to cooperate with president Buhari, when he moves officially for restructuring. Any resistance by NASS will cause a stalemate and the consequences may be unpredictable. It is not the job of NASS to write a constitution. For restructuring to take place, the people will come together through a constituent assembly, to prepare a constitution of the people.
I must state that I am in full support of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. I recognise and appreciate the political will of President Buhari to deal decisively with mindless looters and corrupt office holders in Nigeria. I am a supporter of Buhari’s leadership, not necessarily APC. I am aware that we have as much very corrupt politicians in APC as we have in PDP and other political parties. But Buhari is in a different class. Nigeria is bigger than anyone of us. It is my prayer that Nigeria is liberated peacefully from the hands of evil gangsters, who are determined to suffocate Nigerians. God bless Nigeria and free the masses from bondage.
Dr. Akabuno who writes from Abuja supporter of anticorruption fight and advocate of Restructuring.
By Tony Akabuno