Middle Belt, Afenifere, Musa, others: No, Mr. President, Nigeria needs overhaul
The president, Muhammadu Buhari has called on Nigerians to jettison the agitation for restructuring saying the problem facing the country is not the structure but the process of doing things.
Addressing Nigerians in his New Year’s Day message, the president contended that the country experimented the parliamentary system and “we jettisoned it” because it did not work.
In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the on-going debate about “Restructuring”. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments.
“We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.
“We tried the parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries for a return to the Parliamentary structure. In older democracies these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our purposes. We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose.
But many Nigerians and groups have disagreed with the president on his position on the vexed issue.
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) also criticized the president’s view on restructuring saying a system that keeps 68 items on the exclusive list, including mineral resources, which abound all over the country but which the states, whose governors are constitutionally vested with the authority over land, cannot touch needs an overhaul.
In a statement entitled ‘Nigeria in crisis: Restructuring, not processing is the way out’ and signed by Mr. Yinka Odumakin (South-West); Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South); Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (South-East), and Mr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), SMBLF maintained that with the 1999 Constitution in place, Nigeria will not move forward.
“We cannot become a productive country under a 1999 Constitution which keeps 68 items on the Exclusive List including mineral resources which abound all over the country but which the states whose governors are constitutionally vested with authority over land cannot touch.
“We need to give authority to the federating units over their resources for self-sustenance and paying all necessary dues to the federation to sustain common services.
“We must devolve more powers and authorities to them to have effective state administrations.
“The federal police has shown it lacks the capacity to deal with crimes in a multi-ethnic society like ours, the imperative of state police has never been more urgent than now.
“Restructuring means nothing else than the above. It is a call for the return to a Nigeria that worked under federalism as against the failing state we are becoming under a unitary structure.
“Nigerians must organise, mobilise and work towards building an inclusive and productive country in 2018 using all democratic and peaceful means.
“It is a year to battle for the soul of the country by the forces of federalism and upholders of a suffocating unitary system.
“May victory be on the side of those who seek the progress of Nigeria,” said SMBLF.
Continuing, the forum said the president could not resolve Nigeria’s problems by either running away from it or ascribing it to the wrong source.
“Unfortunately that is what we are doing as a country by playing down our crisis of ‘structure’ while on a wild goose chase about ‘process’.
“This is akin to a man going to Benin City while driving towards Benin Republic. The faster he runs the farther he is away from his destination.
“The truth of the matter is that our nationhood crisis has peaked and there are no further opportunities to guarantee opportunities for our citizens no matter the good intentions of leaders or even unrealistic promises packaged to offer them false hope.
“In 1983, when the Shehu Shagari administration was overthrown, its budget for a country of 80 million people was $25 billion. Thirty-five years after, the Buhari government has just proposed a $23 billion budget for about 180 million people!
“The above clearly shows that there is no way out of our systemic crisis except we resume productivity which was our hallmark in the years that we practiced federalism as an entity.
“We have exhausted all possibilities of a rent and sharing economy and all that is left is unemployment, hunger, gnashing of teeth and conflicts among nationalities over shrinking opportunities,” the forum added.
It welcomed Nigerians into the New Year after a “gruelling and harrowing 2017 in which our people went through untold hardship as the crisis of our dysfunctional structure took its worst toll”.
According to the forum, it was a hellish time when “suicide” became the “man of the year” as many citizens found life unworthy of living and jumping into rivers or hanging from ceilings became the order of the day.
It noted that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported a loss of four million jobs in 2017 with millions of those employed working without pay for several months.
The forum also stated that many citizens who fled abroad because there was no hope for them at home were subjected to all manner of degrading and inhuman treatment as the horror tales from Libya where Nigerians were auctioned for $400, turned to sex slaves, and subjected to extreme violence, continue to abound.
“On the home front, life is becoming short, nasty and brutish as death and violence are now common place in the hands of AK 47-wielding herdsmen, armed robbers, kidnappers and enraged spouses.
“It is a time when we should be having national introspection to know where the rain began to beat us, how to dry our clothes, and ensure that we are no longer exposed to rainfall.
“Unfortunately, we are not addressing the cause of our affliction and only trying to rationalise our needless failure, passing the buck and running from the solutions to our problem.
“We are in a period where empty platitudes are being offered our people instead of concrete assurances on reasoned prescriptions,” the forum added.
In its reaction, Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere said restructuring is sine qua non.
The group’s general secretary, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, said without restructuring Nigeria, the country’s problems will persist.
“I hope Buhari is not telling us he is at war with the National Assembly because; I think the National Assembly has set up a committee on restructuring. The APC too has set up a committee. So he (Buhari) should not give us the feeling that he is at war with these people.
“I think maybe he is playing on words. I believe in the long run, somebody will explain to him what we are talking about. He is talking about process and structure. It is when we have a good structure that a process can work. If there is a bad structure, there would not be good government, institutions won’t work. Structure precedes the process.
“I hope the President is not at war with the National Assembly or the good people of Nigeria who are saying let us restructure Nigeria so that every Nigerian will surely benefit. Even Buhari himself will benefit from it, he said.
In its reaction, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described president’s speech as “depressing” adding lashed out at the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled government for treating “Nigerians to another round of false claims and empty promises, which has become a routine in close to three years.”
PDP’s national publicity secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan said in a statement that it had earlier advised the president not to issue any New Year’s message knowing that doing so would heighten the peoples’ despondency.
“We already knew the pattern and we advised against it this year. We knew their New Year message would heighten Nigerians’ despondency rather than providing us hope.
“Instead of offering solutions or providing the indices for development, the Presidency deployed over 2,000 words passing the buck, begging the question, making empty claims and attempting to appropriate achievements of the PDP administration.
“What could be more depressing than the fact that the President, who is also the Minister of Petroleum Resources, did not give a clear-cut solution to the acute fuel crisis bedeviling his nation today?
“The President’s speech neither addressed how to raise the fallen value of the naira nor how to rescue the labour market from the 8 million job losses and acute unemployment being suffered by Nigerians under the APC.
“The address completely failed to respond to issues of corruption under the APC regime, including allegations of budget padding, secret oil subsidy deals, illegal lifting of crude worth trillions of naira, pillaging of Nigeria’s foreign reserve, diversion of billions of naira for insurgency related matters, all by APC interests.
“Furthermore, the speech had no assurances on the worsening economic recession ravaging families under this regime; it had nothing on the dilapidated infrastructure and attendant stress on the economy, which the APC government has caused Nigerians.
“Rather, what we heard was a boring litany of buck passing, lame declarations and barefaced attempt to appropriate and claim credit for achievements and landmark projects initiated, articulated and implemented by the PDP administration, including, the railway, electricity and agricultural projects.
“We challenge the APC Presidency to tell Nigerians which landmark project it has initiated, articulated and executed in its close to three years of governance. “Also the citizens are eager to know what work percentage that have been added to projects that were being executed by the PDP before the APC took power by propaganda and lies in 2015.
“Nigerians have now seen that the APC has nothing to offer but has only succeeded in wrecking the nation and inflicting hardship on the people. “The option before Nigerians is to kick out the APC come 2019 and return the PDP, which is now repositioned to bring the nation back to the path of national unity and prosperity we all once enjoyed.
“The PDP stands with the people to once again present a government that is serious, truthful and transparent, with an array of best hands harnessing and channeling our national resources for the good of all, as was the order before the unfortunate incursion of the APC,” said the party.
Governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa faulted the president saying the country needs restructuring.
Musa called for economic restructuring to ensure delivery of positive and impactful governance in the country.
He argued that that the problem with Nigeria had always been leadership rather than structures, explaining that regional system failed because leaders were pursuing secessionist agenda.
Although he aligned with Buhari’s position that the process of governance needed to be improved, he faulted the economic system being operated currently.
Musa said the economy was in the hands of few hands, hence the impoverishment of the masses, and suggested the restructuring of the economy to ensure that the government played a greater role.
“The economy should be restructured. What we are operating now in which the economy is in private hands cannot help us.
“We should restructure the economy so that government can play a greater role for sustainable development,” he said.
He also called on Buhari to form a government of national unity in the New Year for all-inclusiveness, adding that Nigeria would be better in the New Year if people subordinated personal interests to public interests.
Also reacting, the second vice president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, said the president must have misunderstood Nigerians’ demand for restructuring.
He said an aspect of the restructuring Nigerians were seeking was the devolution of power from the federal government to the states.
“Maybe he misunderstood what restructuring really means. The restructuring we’re talking about is removing most of the things being handled by the Federal Government. Let them be decentralised.
“States should share some of these duties in order to ensure good governance, proper structure and a well-run federation.”
Ubani who further described the president’s speech as “uninspiring” added: “Every other thing he said is very inspiring and I’m very happy that the government is making some level of progress, such as in agriculture and stabilising the naira.
“A lot of things he said really inspires hope, especially in the development of basic infrastructure. He mentioned the railways, electricity, and other key infrastructure suffering some level of deficiency.
“Those are important in restarting the economy, especially power. So I urge him to match his words with action.”