Monday, June 6, 2016

Atiku Should Define ‘Restructuring’

By Ochereome Nnanna
After one year of silence, Vice President Atiku Abubakar seized the opportunity of a book launch in Abuja last week to break his silence. He reviewed the state of the nation under President Muhammadu Buhari, which is what pretty much everyone else has done in the past one week. Of all that he said, I was intrigued by his call for a “restructuring” of the federation and the shade he threw at the leadership of Buhari, when he observed: “we also have a leadership that is not prepared to learn from the past and the leadership that is not prepared to lead”. Of this snide on Buhari, observers have already determined that it was Atiku’s first step towards a 2019 challenge for the presidency.
 
*Atiku
This may well be so because we all know about Atiku’s insatiable appetite for presidential contests, of which he has made five record bids in 1993, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Atiku’s former boss, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, was the first to caper a similar political double shuffle some weeks ago when he described Buhari as a leader who is good in military matters (such as the fight against Boko Haram) but incompetent in economic and diplomatic areas. He gave the impression that after Buhari defeats Boko Haram another leader would be found (obviously the self-installed tin god of Nigerian politics, Obasanjo himself) to solve our economic problems. It is obvious that the mesmerism of Buhari is beginning to thaw as we steam towards the starting blocks of the next political transition, and it is going to be hot inside the All Progressives Congress, APC where, I am firmly convinced, Buhari will make a bid for a second term.

Atiku will definitely feature prominently in it, barring any earth-shaking circumstances. I am surprised that Atiku described himself as a “long term campaigner” for restructuring. Honestly, I have never come across that notion before. What is known to most Nigerians is that Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been a long term campaigner for true federalism and restructuring. For some quaint reasons, he has gone mute on this since the APC seized the reins of the Federal Government a year ago. It is on record that the APC had it as one of its long-winded litany of campaign promises. The party and the Federal Government it produced have backed out of many of these promises, but it’s not yet on record that the promise to establish true federalism is one of those.

Yet not a single word has been breathed of it either by Buhari, the APC or even its chief protagonist, Tinubu. If Buhari meant to implement this policy, I am sure he would have said so in his maiden broadcast on May 29th 2015. He would have seized the opportunity of his May 29th 2016 to spell out the pillars of the programme, with timetable attached. But of course, we have seen that Buhari’s fabled body language is not pointing towards any bloody restructuring of the federation. 

It is, instead, boldly signposting the strengthening of centralising tendencies. He says he wants to revive a long dead state-owned flag carrier for our airline industry and the Nigerian National Shipping Line. Leave it to Buhari, he would bring back 1984! I once asked when Tinubu will find his tongue and begin to demand from Buhari the need to implement the true federalism policy of his defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

Or has he traded it off just to be accommodated comfortably in Buhari’s neo-Sokoto Caliphate political arrangement? It is important for Atiku to define what he means by “restructuring”. He hinted at state police and admitted that his own home region – the North – has been deeply hurt by the centralised structure imposed by the military and defended with venom by most Northern political leaders. Atiku’s fellow Adamawaite, Professor Jibril Aminu, says that the call for true federalism is a concealed plot by some southerners towards disintegrating the country. That was the fib that the first man who propounded the fallacy, Prince Akenzua, a former Federal super-permanent secretary fed to Col. Yakubu Gowon in 1967 in  memo urging him to jettison the Aburi Accord. Akenzua eventually became Omo N’Oba Erediauwa Uku Akpolokpolor, the Oba of Benin who joined his ancestors recently. Atiku now says he does not believe so.

I never believed it for once. In fact, I strongly believe that the only way to strengthen Nigeria’s unity and make its economy more productive is to dissolve Nigeria into a federation of semi-autonomous six regions approximating the existing geopolitical zones, and complete with the powers of resource control but supervised by a centre that can defend country and assure the citizenship rights of its populace. Those who want to do Sharia can do it in their home region.

Those who want to do Biafra can do it within the confines of that Nigerian arrangement. When we meet at the centre, we are all Nigerians. That, in a nutshell, is my own idea of a restructured Nigeria. Atiku should please define his own for us. Let him not leave it loose. That was how APC used it to win power with its flag-bearer, Buhari, fully aware he was not for it. Let Atiku emulate the examples of the former chief protagonists of true federalism, such as the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who graphically spelt the ideological basis of their postulation. It is not enough to fly a kite.
*Mr. Nnanna is a columnist with the Vanguard newspaper  


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