...I want to agree essentially that there is every need for us to sit down and talk about our future
Photo:Alhaji Atiku Abubakar
After the protracted civil war,(1967-70) General Murtala Mohammed set up the Constituent Assembly of 1978 and specifically instructed the Assembly to recommend a very strong Federal Government which no component can challenge or try to secede from. This he did, based on the perception of the urge by a region to secede, such that led to the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. General Murtala felt that the war was caused by the region which felt that it was too independent and has the power to pull out of the country. After the demise of the Murtala administration, Subsequent administrations kept amending the constitution centralising more and more power at the centre often at the dire neglect and detriment of other federating units.
This is 2017, approximately 39 years since the adoption of that constitution which was amended in1989 and adopted in 1999. This constitution which did not reflect the hearts and minds of the Nigerian people was prepared to enable the military junta retain a stronghold of the centralized system.
It was anticipated that the government that emerges in May 1999 would prepare a constitution that is in the best interest of over a 180 million Nigerians and not the one that suits the interest of elitist and selfish few that placed itself above the constitution.
...the Clarion call for restructuring Nigeria
Recently, former Vice President and Chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar, has been in the vanguard of pursuing the need to overhaul this old system that has been considered retrogressive to growth and peaceful coexistence of Nigerians. Virtually every week the 'Waziri Adamawa' has been engaged in one seminar or the other speaking at various events across the country on the need for Nigeria to be restructured from its present socio-political system.
The present socio-political system by every means seems no longer feasible in the midst of ongoing agitations by various regions of the country calling for a restructuring of the Nigeria political and constitutional system, Nevertheless not many Nigerians agrees to this decision, especially members of the political elites whom has been major beneficiaries of the confusions created by the constitution and the present political system.
Alhaji Atiku has been one specific exception for various reasons; he is a member of the political elites, from the Northern extraction, a major stakeholder in previous administrations and presently a chieftain of the ruling party, his position against the majority of his class to shift the status-quo which has and continue to benefit the interest of the political elites is somewhat grandstanding and calls for massive support from all sincere believer of a better and peaceful Nigeria.
Earlier this year Alhaji Atiku had delivered a lecture, on Restructuring Nigeria at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, he said; "no section of the country should be afraid of restructuring, adding that it was ideas in the people’s brains that should rule the world and not the minerals located in certain parts of the country."
Atiku said at another speaking engagement in Abuja that it is normal for us to have different positions on restructuring.” Citing on the indifference of certain political elites of Northern extraction who do not consider it necessary that the Nigeria constructional system should be restructured. In recurrent meetings where the need to address the diversity of the Nigeria socio-political system has been discussed, different ideas have been floated including resource control, fiscal federalism, true federalism, restructuring etc.
According statement by Alhaji Atiku "Eventually we shall sit down and discuss, negotiate and arrive at a model that will be suitable for our country and which will help ensure rapid development, mutual and respectful coexistence."
...adjusting an imbalanced Federal Structure
According to Alhaji Atiku restructuring means making changes to our current federal structure so it comes closer to what our founding leaders established, in response to the very issues and challenges that led them to opt for a less centralized system. The 1963 Constitution recognized Nigeria’s diversity, this is the only constitution which Nigerians sat down to produce, subsequent constitutions were not what the various constitutional conferences produced but what the military imposed on the people.
Restructuring Nigeria would mean, by implication, the reduction of the powers and roles of the federal government so that it would concentrate only on those matters best handled by the centre such as defence, foreign policy, monetary and fiscal policies, immigration, customs and excise, aviation as well as setting and enforcing national standards on such matters as education, health and safety. According to Atiku’s viewpoint, what is most important is the devolution of powers and resources with the various governments whether states or regions. How do the people in their regions and constituencies hold those in power accountable for the resources handed over to them?
"We are not as educated as we are today in the First Republic, He said, yet it beats my imagination how those in charge of the local governments were more efficient, honest and transparent in accountable administration. Since we have agreed to remain one successful country, it is not complicated because you can start with all the recurrent items in the constitution"
...addressing the problem of a false Nigeria constitution
Atiku Abubakar confessed that he was a member of the Constitutional Conference of 1994/1995, According to a statement obtained in one of his keynote address, "what we actually drafted was not what they eventually came out with. We proposed a presidential system with single term of six years to be rotated among the six geo-political zones of the country, by the time we won election in 1999, we saw an entirely different constitution. I was told that they set us a review committee headed by Niki Tobi (retired Justice of the Supreme Court), which tampered with the draft and ended up with the constitution we now have today. "So, I don't know what those who are against restructuring are afraid of. Those afraid must be lazy. We fought the civil war with the Igbo. Today, the Igbo have been completely rebuilt
"I want to agree essentially that there is every need for us to sit down and talk about our future. This is because the arrangements in the last 50 years or so have not served us very well.
...a government system that will work for Nigeria
I am not a product of the current structure of Nigeria. I am a product of regional government. I saw the government at work and I have also seen the current arrangement at work. "That was why I came out, to advocate for restructuring or rearrangement or whatever you call it, of the present structure of the country. I still stand by it, we cannot determine the nitty-gritty of this restructuring until we are able to dialogue and agree on how we want to continue to live together as a country.
The 'Waziri Adamawa' posits; that all the representatives of the Nigeria ethnic groups have to agree that we should continue to live together as he do not believe in the current arrangement. This is imperative!
The current arrangement according to the former Vice President is simply a unitary federalism in operation, which was a creation of a prolonged military rule.
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