A dogged and committed Nigerian that he is, Atiku Abubakar, the Turaki Adamawa and former Vice President of Nigeria has remained in the political circuit throwing in salient issues for national political discourse. These are in addition to his many philanthropic and entrepreneurial activities which are not only creating jobs, but keeping thousands of Nigerians in paid employment.
Through his entrepreneurial and business activities, the Turaki has emerged as a supporter and soul-mate of President Muhammadu Buhari who incidentally is confronted with severe economic problems to the extent that the mantra of his administration, aside anti-corruption, is also economic diversification and employment generation. It is doubtful whether for now, President Buhari and his partyman, the Turaki would be on the same page on this Restructuring issue which the former Vice President threw to the Nigerian people recently at a well- attended book launch in Abuja. However, this writer believes like many Nigerians that President Buhari’s deep concern for a corrupt free and transparent Nigeria, and for economic diversification, puts him and the Turaki, aka Mr. Restructuring on the same page in the restructuring debate. This is so because the aim of restructuring is to make the nation, more efficient, more productive, and more well-governed in such a way that no tier of government takes more than it can handle efficiently for the general good of the people. Interestingly also, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party to which both of them belong is not antagonist to restructuring bearing in mind that the party manifesto referred to the issue. Perhaps as the APC national Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said some time ago, the enormity of the problems facing the administration in the area of the economy and the mammoth corruption in the system which the President and the party are trying to deal with have made restructuring for now , a distant problem. However, in view of the disappointment starring the nation in the face on account of the fallen oil price and the need to give the nation a new economic direction via diversification through agriculture and agro-based manufacturing brings everyone face to face with restructuring, albeit economic!
The huge gathering of elites and opinion and traditional leaders mostly from the Northern part of the country last weekend in Kaduna, provided another opportunity to the ebullient Turaki to once again advance his thoughts on the issue of restructuring of the nation for the purpose of achieving better national integration and political stability.
Atiku spoke on the topic, ‘Restructuring Nigeria for Greater National Integration and Democratic Stability’ at the lecture in honour of the late General Hassan Usman Katsina of blessed memory. Feelers obtained by this writer indicates that unlike what we are made to believe, Turaki’s paper was well received by many in the distinguished audience while most who in the past would have shouted blue murder at the mention of restructuring which to them means disintegration, stayed glued to their seats. A friend who was at the event opined that the calm and reflective reception of the restructuring message by those present could to a large extent be attributed to the realities unfolded about the country by President Buhari, and the stark realities of the sorry state of finance and governance in most of the 36 states of the federation, many of whom can no longer pay workers’ salaries! The question then arises whether it is reasonable to hold on to a 36 State federal structure when most of the States exist for the simple reason that they do not render much service to their people on account of dwindling revenue. Even the ghost of that eminent statesman, Hassan Usman Katsina in whose honour the lecture was held would cringe at what has become of his beloved Northern Nigeria that made enviable strides in development with an economy based on agriculture to what obtains today where the spectacular groundnut pyramids found in many parts of North with Kano as epicenter has all but disappeared!
One said above that restructuring, if Nigerians agree to it, is targeted at more efficiency through careful devolution of powers and responsibilities between the Federal Governmentand the constituent parts of the Federation. The constituent parts of the federation for good measure, may cease to be the present 36 States which were not originally the federating parts of the nation. Though the elite of the various states and their representatives might kick at the prospect of losing their power bases if restructuring were to take place. However, the prevailing situation where many states cannot pay workers’ salaries nor embark on the provision of social amenities and infrastructure and employment for their growing populations portend a great danger to the survival of the coveted centers of power and the privileges that go with this.
The call for restructuring demands for fast thinking on the part of these elites to reach a consensus among one another to reduce their areas of influence by giving up some of their privileges now in favour of shared responsibility and responsible governance. Bearing in mind that the present 36 States conveniently fall into one of the unofficial six geo- political zones of the country, would it not be better in the long run, that States in each zone come together and have one administrative structure and civil service and be able to survive, govern effectively and engage in profitable economic activities that will ensure the modest survival of their people than hanging on to the present uncertain and precarious existence? The truth is that the present precarious existence cannot be sustained for so long. States might need to come together to be able to provide the expertise, financial muscle and competence to extract their natural resources and control their destiny. The spoon-feeding by the Central government as one can see now is undependable and in lean times, can lead to the collapse of governance.
Another issue which restructuring will address for the good of the nation which will enhance national unity, stability and security, is the struggle for power at the center. When geo-political zones become constituent parts of the federation with viable economic activities under their control while paying taxes and royalties to the Central government, the desire to be President and the power of a President to control the lives of everyone would be reduced. The situation would now arise where before a President takes or contemplates critical decisions, he would consult with and seek the support of the Premiers or Governors’ of the Constituent parts. As time goes on, devolution would have so relaxed the minds of the citizenry that there may be no need in the long run for the criminally-expensive national elections organized by INEC that leads to the emergence of rapacious characters as leaders. A situation could develop where Nigeria as a harmonious country would like the Swiss people ask each region to elect someone who would be President of the Federation for a specified number of months or years while the national legislature would become part- time and easy to maintain unlike the albatross which we call National Assembly today!
Therefore the call by the Turaki and other prominent Nigerians is a call for a better nation that works like a well-produced machine with all its parts working well and focused on the same goal – efficiency and prosperity. Efficiency would mean that the people and their regions or states have their destiny in their hands and freely decide in what areas they collaborate one with another. In this kind of society, there would be no time to seek domination by any group as every group would work, produce and justify its position in the Commonwealth.
Restructuring has many ramifications and it is only when a majority of Nigerians understand it and buy into it that the decision would emerge through consensus about what aspects of it to adopt and those to disregard. Therefore for now, Mr. Restructuring, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, like John the Baptist of ancient Israel, is calling on Nigerians to change their ways and think of the future of their country. As he told his audience in Kaduna, it might take time, but ultimately, to have a more enduring and stable union that can take care of its population, Nigeria would inevitably have to look to restructuring of our country, socially, economically and politically. The stewardship of PMB has shown that restructuring is a desiderata.
Written by Louis Okoroma, a Public Affairs Analyst.