Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Now That Atiku Has Spoken

By Abraham Ogbodo

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the one better known as Turaki Adamawa has spoken. It is not as if he had been struck dumb by a strange spirit, or something close to such and there had been protracted efforts to recover his speech and good result only came last Tuesday when he spoke at a book launch in Lagos.

In fact, the man has been talking since the beginning of this democracy on May 29, 1999. It is just that he has been saying other things that do not command hot attention. Things like how his love for the new found democracy in Nigeria pushed him and others to stop former President Olusegun Obasanjo from evolving into a life president as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

He has also been talking on his unequalled leadership prowess, and how such had put him in a better stead to occupy Aso Rock Villa in 2007, instead of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; in 2011, instead of Goodluck Jonathan, and even in 2015, instead of the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari. It was while waiting till 2019 to represent the same matter that the Turaki, launched more forcefully into the subject matter of Restructuring Nigeria.
He got the right attention for the first time since 2007. Essentially, he said this Nigeria that Nigerians love so much would vanish, leaving everybody fantastically short-changed if we continued in our ways. His words: “our current structure and the practices it has encouraged have been a major impediment to the economic and political development of our country. In short, it has not served Nigeria well, and at THE RISK OF REPROACH (emphasis mine) it has not served my part of the country, the North well. The call for restructuring is even more relevant today in light of the governance and economic challenges facing us. And the rising tide of agitations, some militant and violent, require a reset in our relationships as a united nation.”
Atiku said much more in his about 2000-word message. The choice of that quote is actually to underscore the inherent hesitation in his speech. He came close to confessing that he was being compelled (apparently by forces beyond his control) to say something he shouldn’t say as a Fulani man from Northern Nigeria. In all, ‘Restructuring of Nigeria is not among the high topics taught at all levels of intellectual engagement up North. And if it is ever discussed, it is to explain that restructuring of Nigeria into anything other than what obtains currently, is a sin against the North and Islam.
This is why Atiku, in all sincerity, shall need some support from his northern constituency to be able to stand by his big message, come rain or shine. If he remains a lone voice in this wilderness of political restructuring, his people may think he is ‘possessed by demons.’ Although Alhaji Babarabe Musa and even Dr. Junaid Mohammed have said something, voices with higher pitch are required to make the Atiku’s message get close to a reflection of Northern thinking in the light of current national challenges.

For instance, General Yakubu Gowon who has been doing the very marvelous job of praying for the unity of Nigeria can add his voice in acclamation of the Atiku’s refrain. There are actually more reasons why Gowon must say something regarding the restructuring of Nigeria. The July 29 1966 coup that brought him to power was staged to purportedly stop General Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, who assumed political leadership following the demise of the First Republic on January 15 1966 from using Decree No.34 to compress the then existing federal arrangement into a command structure.
The circumstances of the civil war, perhaps, made Gowon to forget why Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed. In mobilizing the national economy for war, Gowon promulgated the Petroleum Decree that gave ownership and exploitation of Nigeria’s key resource – crude oil – in the post independence years to the central government. The military usurpers found the law convenient and Gowon chose to forget to undo it after the war. Instead, the decree was upgraded to an act and later injected into the constitution as a super law like the Land Use Decree 78.
It is therefore, safe to say that, General Yakubu Gowon, pleading the exigency of a civil war, effectively began the ‘over centralization’ of the Nigerian federation. This is exactly why I think that in addition to his current task of praying fervently for the well being of Nigeria through his ministry, Nigeria Pray, the respected general should say something about how to recover the lost federation of Nigeria. He should say, for instance, that the conditions that necessitated his consolidation of the four regions of Nigeria into one super region called Federal Government in 1967, using the balkanization of the polity into 12 states as a smokescreen, have since dissipated and time has since actually past to return to the original form for the peace achieved on the battle field to endure forever.
Outside Gowon, a few others from the Turaki constituency should talk too. Notably, Lt General TY Danjuma (rtd), who was in the centre of the coups that enthroned and dethroned Gowon on July 29 1966 and July 29, 1975, should say something. So also are the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar IV and the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, both of whom have the capacity to stop even a raging war of the almajiris with their mere speeches.
As for President Muhammadu Buhari, his position on the matter is already well known. He told me and others in Aso Rock Villa that proposal for the restructuring of Nigeria as contained in the report of the 2013 political Reform Conference had been committed to the dustbin and that nothing, not even the threats by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) in the streets, and Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to break Nigeria into pieces, would lift the report from the trash can. He said if those children doing IPOB knew that he trekked from Abakiliki through Awka, Abagana to Onitsha during the civil war, they would not be beating the drums of war the way they are doing.
 I believe, however, that Buhari could exhume the buried document for consideration if these wise men from the North say something in support of their kinsman, the Turaki Adamawa. Although the restructuring advocacy is already strong in the South of Nigeria, a few more persons like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose voices on the subject have not been too clear can be recruited to say something more definitive.
We can approach Professors Itse Sagay, Tam David West and even Wole Soyinka to reassert their positions on the matter in view of their interventions in the political leadership in the last one year. The same questionnaire should be extended to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to know if he has shifted position after the 2014 conference, which he had opposed on ground that the exercise was ill-timed and lacked sincerity of purpose.
I am saying for Atiku to wake up one morning and be talking alone glowingly on such a sensitive subject without a backstage consensus among the powers and principalities of the Nigerian project does not call for any celebration. What, if for instance, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida rises tomorrow morning from the wrong side of his bed and say there will be war if Nigeria is restructured along the proposal given by the Turaki?
And so, we cannot thank the Turaki now for a statement well said. Who knows, he might have even spoken in tongues and saluting his courage may be as premature as the Nigerian civil war, which was fought at a time when no lessons were taught and learnt. I therefore advise that we tarry a while for that critical consensus of voices (even minus Buhari) to be formed behind the Turaki before rolling out the drums in celebration.

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