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That Nigeria may survive these precarious times

Published by The Nation on Sun, 13 Sep 2020

Femi OrebeAnyone who does not yet admit that the unworkable unitary constitutional arrangement of Nigeria is the tap from which all the miseries being lamented flow, and that the solution lies in turning off the tap instead of mopping more vigorously, is either irredeemably dishonest or hopelessly ignorant. Nigerias problem is structural and not the Leadership problem being bandied around. The former is directly responsible for the latter and the solution to Nigeria lies in the fundamental reconfiguration of its damaged constitutional basis and not in changing its leadership bandwagon. It is a monumental disaster that those who should know these are still discussing political party reconfiguration (ie Restructuring of Political Parties) instead of Union Reconfiguration (Restructuring of the Country)Tony Nnadi.As you read this not a few Nigerians are now convinced that restructuring Nigeria is, in fact, too little, too late, but not this columnist who many have accused of being an incurable optimist for believing not only that the country can still be salvaged but that it can, indeed, still rise to glorious heights as well as take its place among the comity of civilised Nations.I admit though, that time is of the essence for an ailment left untreated can be fatal.As a historian, I am neither forgetful, nor unmindful of what this country was in its days of competitive federalism; the pre 66 days before the military mangled its essence, and a period that witnessed growth and development in every sphere of the economy, and in all parts of the country.Agriculturenot this oil boom turned doomwas the countrys mainstay, in education, not only did Chief Obafemi Awolowo give the West free education, each region established a University which has since been taken over by a predatory federal government. Industrialisation went apace with textile industries established in the North, and saw the very beginning of industrialisation in the East which has since emerged about the most industrialised part today, not forgetting Awo incredibly turning Ikeja and Apapa into a giant industrial complex. Among those myriad of industries is the roofing number one company in Nigeria today , Nigerite Ltd, a BelgianOdua company yours truly was privileged to have headed its board of directors.In healthcare delivery, the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, ranked amongst the best hospitals in the entire Commonwealth. Fiscal freedom facilitated all these, and more, to the extent that regions have their own envoys in overseas countries.All those read like ancient history today but with restructuring, and a return to the pre 66 era, though with some minor adjustments here and there, Nigeria cannot only be salvaged but could still rise gloriously to become a great country; not the perennially feuding one we now have with a slew of truly murderous organisations, in some instances, successfully battling the federal government for control of large swathes of territory.It is in remembrance of those days that I made it celebration galore on these pages last Sunday as I reported on how, patriotically, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) spoke in behalf of corporate Nigeria. , cogently presenting to the government of President Mohammadu Buhari what things it must now do to reverse the countrys galloping drift to Golgotha.Although my enthusiasm was, unfortunately, not shared by many, given the lukewarm reactions I got to the article, I remain persuaded, that restructuring is the way to go to keep Nigeria one.Not a few believe that NEF was out on a decoy, merely trying to lull the rest of us into a non existent revelry. They asked, for instance, how many times I heard former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, by far the most enthusiastic Northern supporter of restructuring, mention restructuring in the North during the last presidential campaign. They hold that the North unduly enjoys, by far, too many unfair advantages to care and that, indeed, popular as President Buhari is in the North, his party would suffer massively, if he toys with the idea.I, however, believe that a man who could defend his country on the battlefield, thus demonstrating his preparedness to pay the utmost price in its service, would not be put off by such puny ethnic considerations, from doing that which will stabilise his country to an era of peace and development. I do not think President Buhari needs any further lessons in patriotism.For ease of reference, let us reproduce , in bold relief, some of NEFs prescriptions for sustainable peace and progress in Nigeria.It opines as follows: Nigerias future rests largely on its willingness to address major constraints to EQUITY and JUSTICE(or where is equity when most consequential appointments go to only one section of the country, incidentally their own)a functional structure,(one being bigger than the rest put together)consistent good governance, security for all citizens(when fissiparous tendencies are now truly alarming)a credible electoral process(the least said the better since the return of democratic governance in 99)-, growing understanding between, and among all groups(like herders and farmers')- and an economy that grows and narrows inequalities between classes and regions. ,- (were this the situation, 82 million Nigerians will not be living below poverty line).The Forum recommends the alternative of leaders of thought, elders, groups and professional organisations and representatives of government, to freely discuss every element of our co-existence as a country under principles of voluntarism, genuine representationpreferably by electionmutual respect and integrity of the process.Specifically, it said: A Nigerian Peoples Conference on Review of the Constitution will benefit from past work in this direction in addition to contemporary challenges, which the country needs to address in a context that allows free and productive engagements without pre-determined ends. The outcome of this conference, it concluded, should be submitted to the two arms of government, which should provide for a referendum in the constitution so that Nigerians can directly decide on how they want their nation to be structured and function.In making a case for restructuring to the Buhari government, even though the APC disdained the Jonathan 2014 National Conference, I am not asking President Buhari to re- invent the wheel. Should he not wish to proceed along the lines suggested, or being canvassed by the Northern Elders Forum, itself an essemble of reputable Northerners who do not love the North less than the President does(since many believe that his attitude to restructuring derives from his fear of the North losing some advantages it currently enjoys)or just in case he does not agree with certain portions of the suggestions, then he should, atthe very least, be able to order that the report of his partys El Rufai Committee on Devolution of Power, be exhumed from whatever cooler it has since been consigned.The committee, while submitting its report to the APC National Chairman , Chief John OdigieOyegun, in January 2018, told Nigerians that it was making several recommendations, based on the opinions of Nigerians.Some of these are: resource control, making local government an affair of states, constitutional amendment to allow merger of states, state police, state court of appeal and independent candidacy, amongst others.These recommendations were so well received, nationally, that not only was then Bayelsa state governor SeriakeDickson, though of the opposition, PDP, literally euphoric about it, stalwarts of various NigerDelta movements equally commended it. It was therefore a rather bewildering surprise that despite these positive vibes, and the fact that the partys National Executive Committee allegedly approved it, the party still decided to remit it to a sub committee where it has, opportunistically, been gathering dust, some say in deference to the Presidents body language, if not say so.Nigeria does not deserve to splinter because the Northwest looks like dead set on continuing with the axyphisiating status quo. Apart from the wholesale advantages to the citizenry, a United Nigeria has too much to offer the world, especially Blacks all over the world, who see it as Motherland,Ghana has already extended an official invitation to Black Americans to come and settle therefor a few people not to allow it to blossom and attain its destiny.The story has become cruelly unendifying, talking about how Nigeria was at par with most South East Asian countries at a point in time, some of which have now graduated to the First world while Nigeria continues to wallow at the very nadir of the Third, and shamefully dubbed the Poverty Capital (PC) of the world. This becomes more nauseating given its natural endowments and stupendous human resourcesasthe BBC reported on January 25, 2020 there are about 4000 Nigerian doctors practicing in the USA, with another 5000 currently registered in the UK .The remaining are reportedly spread across Canada and Australia.As the Northern Elders Forum has shown, no section of this country, or least of it, individuals, has the right to unnecessarily hold Nigeria down . Not only has the presidency prevaricated, the National Assembly, though taking a large chunk of the countrys resources, has once surprisingly voted against Power Devolution.President Buhari must now, once again, demonstrate his love for the country by setting in motion the process of convoking a national committee, preferably along the lines suggested by NEF, to further add value to the recommendations of the APC Power Devolution Committee.
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