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THE NEHEMIAH SERIES — OPINIONS ON HOW TO MOVE NIGERIA FORWARD – As the Race to 2023 Commences

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Let me state that this piece with the above caption is the product of patriotism and in the national interest. We have always looked beyond narrow confines to adopt a very broad outlook that would be in the interest of 200 million Nigerians. This exercise is designed to set the agenda in motion with the ultimate goal of constructing a greater Nigeria. We most humbly appeal to contributors sending in their comments to do so with civility and avoid vitriolic statements that would never help the situation. The question of running true federalism is one that has consistently raised its head in the polity, particularly among the intelligentsia and the political class.  We have had multifarious problems over the years. It would appear that Nigerians must exercise extreme caution at this stage of our nation’s history and employ the weapon of dialogue to resolve our problems. Emotions have undoubtedly run high.  At the same time, it would be preposterous to bottle-up these emotions on account of keeping our people together at all costs.  After a good deal of heat at the negotiating table, we should, as a nation, be able to fashion out ways of going further to conduct ourselves and continue to live together in peace and prosperity. It is possible. Below are views of some eminent Nigerians that could at least help us in our quest to construct an enduring democratic culture.

AHMED GULAK: NIGERIA’S PRESIDENCY – MERIT SHOULD BE THE YARDSTICK IN 2023: ‘’There is no zoning in the constitution of the APC, adding that the North can produce the president in 2023. Those clamouring for Igbo president must know that the APC has no zoning arrangement backing such. “It does not matter to me because I am a realist and I don’t believe in this dichotomy of North, South. ‘’I will support whoever that is there and give him the opportunity to serve out his term. Some people claimed that for political balancing the APC should give the presidential ticket to the Southeast, but such zoning and rotation is not written in our constitution. ’’I can also tell you that zoning is not written in the constitutions of most big parties in Nigeria. For many persons like me, it does not matter who rules or where the next president comes from. What matters is whether the country is faring better, united and whether every part is getting its own fair share. We must learn to treat individuals for what they are and who they are. If an Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa or Fulani will rule and treat the country fairly, I don’t have problem. Anywhere we can get somebody credible, sincere and who believes in the country, I am okay with it. The supporters want Tinubu, El-Rufai, Amaechi, Kingibe, Fayemi, Adamu Bello to be president in 2023, but those are their views. When the time comes, the parties will decide who flies their flag in the primaries while Nigerians will decide who becomes  their president in 2023, after President Buhari.” – SUN NEWSPAPER

AVERTING THE APPROACHING GALES BY PROF. OLUSOLA ADEYEYE: As for Nigeria, if the truth is told, our republic creaks and moans from the battering gales that precariously dangle us on the precipice of disintegration. The American prediction has not come true. But we would be suffering from delusion-induced astigmatism, cataracts, myopia, glaucoma and macula degeneration if we fail to see that it is not too late for the prediction to be fulfilled. Problems are not solved by denying that they exist. Even so, what is most important is not our recognition that Nigeria is buffeted by ferocious problems. Rather, it is our willingness to stem and avert these gales and their centrifugal forces that perennially jolt and weaken the threads holding the seams of Nigeria. For a start, perhaps we should first convince ourselves that keeping Nigeria from disintegration is a worthwhile goal. Although I am an incorrigible believer in the unity of Nigeria, I have taken extensive time to discuss the pros and cons of Nigerian unity so as to debunk the oft-repeated fallacy that Nigerian Unity is non-negotiable. Those who tout this arrant superstition do so because of their mistaken ideology that the greatest purpose of nationhood is unity. The truth, of course, is that whenever being “united” becomes inimical to the peace and progress of a country, its citizens should summon the wisdom and courage to peacefully disunite. The unity of any country must never be an end unto itself. Rather, it should be a tool for strength through dynamic synergism, peace through necessary accommodations and progress through voluntary cooperation. In a multi-national enterprise such as the Nigerian Republic, unity must not be canonized as an end unto itself. Rather, it is a means to an end. Therefore, for us to properly contemplate and solve Nigeria’s seemingly intractable problems, we must first overcome the Gale of False Assumptions about National Unity. In this regard, let us consider one immutable and inexorable principle that unifies life. I am referring here to the very strict relationship between structure and function such that function is dependent on and dictated by structure. At all levels of biological existence, from the sub-cellular levels of macromolecules and their atomic components through increasing complexities of cells, tissues, organs, organ-systems, individual organisms, populations, communities and ultimately ecosystems, a deviation from proper structure results in the perturbations and defects of function. (AVERTING THE APPROACHING GALES By Professor Sola Adeyeye)

Rtd. Major-General IBM Haruna:  ‘’Structurally, the world has moved on from industrialization to digitalization and this is now aiming at intelligence revolution. The implication of these changes is that whichever angle you want to look at it, there is no permanent political structure anywhere. As for me, I see those clamouring for restructuring as not addressing the problems of development politically, socially and economically. I see it as a class struggle by a group of elite looking for an opportunity just to become dictators in their political enclave. We have seen communism, socialism given way and we are yet to find solutions to fix our problems. Look, there are various ways of killing a bat no matter how, what is paramount is to kill it, as for the promoters of restructuring, I see them as awaiting looters ready to join the past and present looters. It is not for altruistic reasons. It is either we outwit them or allow them to succeed and continue the looting of our collective resources. I don’t like people talking about power rotation,  as for me, power is in the hands of God. He gives to whom he wants and you can’t question it. , I see an Igbo man becoming president of this nation, but if not I can’t say. Nigeria is a big puzzle and blessed with every resources to make it one of the greatest nations on earth planet. But see where we are today, when you think it will break up, it will find its ways of indissolubility. There is a thread that strings us together and that is why we are still together in spite of the lines Power manifests in where God wants it, that is why I don’t think power should be decreed. Leadership is from God. God made Moses, Moses, he made Pharaoh, Pharaoh, so He decides. That is why I say that if Nigeria’s structure remains as it is today in 2023of our differences.

Retd Lt-GENERAL ALANI AKINRINADE — RESTRUCTURING IS INEVITABLE:  “Restructuring is unavoidable and inevitable for Nigeria. It is not a done deal yet; neither are the procedures and modus operandi cast in marble. “But with the All Progressives Congress committee on the subject turning in one of many of the cardinal imperatives of restructuring report with a bold approval and the Peoples Democratic Party buying substantially into the project through its legislative caucus, a new vista of bi-partisan cooperation has been opened. “If we cast our mind to the recent battle for restructuring in Nigeria, we see all the rich ironies of history in slow motion. Four years ago as the battle for the restructuring of the nation raged unabated, then President Goodluck Jonathan convoked a National Political Conference with the express mandate to look at the grave political issues facing Nigeria and come up with an acceptable solution. “Given the urgency of the situation, one would have thought that the convener would have acted with express resolve once the conference turned in its report. But for reasons best known to him, Jonathan delayed and prevaricated until he was defeated in a landmark presidential election, which for the first time in the history of the nation had the opposition winning by a landslide. FEDERALISM is the combination of self-rule and shared rule in compound polities…. While the government in large unitary states is to some extent decentralized, it is non-centralized in federal ones. The powers of regional governments are not delegated by a central government but are directly derived from democratic representations.” (Rainer Baubock,2000: Oxford University Press) No country in the world, where people are forced to co-exist on disagreeable terms lasts. Nigeria will not be an exception, if “true federalism” is not entrenched as a national principle of coexistence. It was clear from the beginning that a unitary system will not work in Nigeria as Lugard’s attempt to construct Nigerian unity through an amalgamation failed.’—“The blunt fact remains that this renewed ethnic restiveness is a vote against centralized tyranny and inefficiency as well as the ethnicisation of the Presidency, which have become the hallmark of the Nigerian post-colonial state, particularly in the Fourth Republic. Successful elections and the restriction of the military to the barracks have failed to resolve the National Question. In fact elections, including a historic regime change, have tended to exacerbate the regional and ethnic fault lines, opening the door to a resurgence of primordial sentiments and new centrifugal forces.” Punch Newspaper of February 13, 2018

BALARABE MUSA – RESTRUCTURE THE ECONOMY; SOLVE PROBLEM OF LEADERSHIP ‘’The problem with Nigeria had always been leadership rather than structures, as the 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. Nigerian workers should cause the impeachment of any governor who fails to pay the new minimum wage. The economy was in the hands of the private sector, 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,” The solution to restiveness in the South-east does not require violence but changing of the social, political and economic systems that have thwarted all good developments in the country. Also, the political leadership foisted by the system should be changed. Both the political leadership and the system are based on self-interest first, public interest second. That is how Nigeria is running on. You cannot do anything about this because this system has produced leadership that is not concerned with the welfare of the people. It is concerned only with the perpetuation of power and the deepening of the problems it created. It is a system that serves its interests only. Everybody is after money only, so as to get money – power.

BALARABE MUSA CONTD: PLACE SELFLESSNESS FIRST INSTEAD OF SELFISHNESS: The pursuit and ugly use of money have arrested the brains of people and development. The only way out is to change the system and the political leadership it produced. The reality in Nigeria today is that we will not abandon this decadent system and pursue a socialist system that will bring about social development. That is the reality. We need to be aware of this that it is only a change from the capitalist system to a socialist system that will make a change of direction in the nation’s affairs. The more we tend to run away from it, the more we stay at the crossroads. We should allow it to play a leading role in the economy to ensure justice, social order, dignity of the human person, and development all over the country. That is the answer. It is the only thing. That is the solution which is near, but which we have refused to grab. That is the only answer. America, Britain, Germany, China, Russia, they did it and became the most powerful people and countries in the world. We can also do it. They placed humanity above other considerations in their march to freedom. They are now the most advanced nations in the world today. They placed public-interest first.  Enlightened self-interest has no place in the development and advancement of nations. We are going through what other people had gone through and emerged stronger because of the system they put in place. For instance, for how long have we been fighting those we elected to power? For how long have we been fighting to bring about free and compulsory primary and secondary education in Nigeria? And if it is possible also, have a free post-secondary education in Nigeria, because when you have an educated citizenry, it will be easy to put in place a system that will ensure progress and development in all ramifications. All we are interested in is money-power. Nothing has been achieved; no progress at all’’

EMEKA ANYAOKU   In the West, Awolowo was able to achieve what he did by boosting cocoa production. In the East, Michael Okpara, achieved what he did because, at that time, Nigeria was the largest producer of palm produce in the world. Now we import palm oil and so on. And in the Mid-West, Dennis Osadebey, was able to boost rubber production. The Mid-West produced a lot of rubber such that Michelin decided to establish a tyre factory in the country, which was closed down some years back. In terms of education, from the primary to secondary schools, and even up to the university level, the regions were doing well and focusing on their best. The products were better than what we have now. But since the military intervened in governance, and came up with a constitution that reflected the command structure in the army i.e. the commander-in-chief gives order and everybody else follows, we lost our federalism! And then, because of the military regime, all these states were arbitrarily created with all the abnormalities involved in their creation, such as imbalance and inequity. How do you justify for example, a situation, where Lagos State, which is by far, the most populated state, has only 20 local councils, whereas Kano State has 44.  And if you add 27 in Jigawa State that used to be part of Kano, you will have 71 local councils, and resources are shared at the third tier on the basis of local councils. Then, how do you justify the fact that Lagos State produces no less than 60 percent of the revenue from VAT, and yet what it gets in terms of federal allocation is not more than six percent? How do you justify that? And then, how do you justify the fact that the centre determines what the educational system looks like? Within the polity, we have ceases to emphasis meritocracy. Because of the structure of governance that we have in place, Nigerians now shine abroad. Until he recently resigned, a Nigerian-Ogunlesi, a very internationally qualified person was a member of President Trump’s Economic Team. Everywhere you go, Nigerians are shining. – Guardian Newspaper of October 1, 2017.

EMEKA ANYAOKU — NIGERIANS AS RUGGED ACHIEVERS; EVEN ABROAD:  When I was the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, I travelled all over the world, and there was hardly any place I went to that I didn’t see a Nigerian community. In 1995, I went to Papua New Guinea, one of the remotest countries from our own point of view. After my arrival was announced in the morning, that evening I received a telephone call from a Nigerian, saying, ‘Sir, we, Nigerians in Papua New Guinea would like to come and see you, sir.’ I said, ‘Nigerians in Papua New Guinea? How many of you? He said, ‘we are 19 professionals.’ In Papua New Guinea? I exclaimed. I hold a strong view that there is no part of this country that does not benefit from belonging to a country of the size and resources of Nigeria. This means that every part of this country has an interest in this country remaining one because when Nigeria joined the comity of independent states in 1960, there was jubilation in Africa, and in all parts of the world with black people that here is a big black country that will help to elevate the standing of black people throughout the world. I want us to remain a country with that capacity. It is true that at the moment, we have serious domestic challenges, but sometimes, I worry that our leadership does not show sufficient awareness of the seriousness of the challenges we face in this country. I would encourage them to be more aware of the seriousness of the challenges we face. They should also be more aware of the need to address those challenges, which in my humble view, should mean restructuring the architecture of governance because there are agitations and militancy going on in different parts of the country, the most pronounced being the Boko Haram.

WE ARE AGAINST RESTRUCTURING – NORTHERN ELDERS DELEGATES:  Northern leaders, who were members of the 2014 National Conference, in a meeting in Abuja, spoke on the platform of the Northern Delegates’ Forum, NDF. They said:  “The North was not given fair representation in the conference with 189 delegates despite its landmass of 70 percent and 55 percent of the country’s population. Therefore, we were not happy with the report and have come out with this second report and communiqué.” A former Minister of Power and Steel in the Sani Abacha regime, Bashiru Dalhatu, while presenting his keynote address also said, “The 2014 national conference had 492 members and the north which constitutes about 70 percent of the country’s landmass and 55 percent of its population was allocated 189 delegates while the South with only 30 percent of the landmass and 45 percent of its population was given an incredible 305 delegates. “This went against sensible demographics, law, and practice, which could have hardly been done in good faith. Certainly, it was designed to put in particular our delegates and the North in general at a disadvantage. “All attempts to get the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, including pleas by well-meaning Nigerians who genuinely wanted a national conference to reflect the diversity and complexity of the Nigerian society, fell on deaf ears. “To reiterate and maintain our position that the report of the confab is of questionable legal validity, the outcome of a process that lacks popular mandate or support and major decisions were arrived at by undemocratic means or at variance with due process“To disassociate the NDF from any attempt by any group to seek to implement or force the federal government or any of its institutions to use the report of the conference, under any guise for the purpose of restructuring Nigeria. “To call upon any group of sponsors or individuals agitating for any form of restructuring of the federation, first and foremost, to respect the existing constitutional order and to seek to do so within the bounds and parameters stipulated under our constitution and law. To suggest otherwise would lead to chaos and anarchy,”  — DAILY POST OF APRIL 13, 2017

CHIEF RICHARD OSUOLALE AKINJIDE: NIGERIANS ARE THE PROBLEMS; NOT THE CONSTITUTION: “What we are practicing in Nigeria is neither unitary nor federalism. What we are practicing is meaningless. In one way it is a unitary system masquerading as a Federal system because the military rulers who gave us the constitution were scared that another Ojukwu or another Biafra might come. So they created a centrifugal constitution. No amount of amendment of the constitution can help us. We’ve already had about five constitutions and the problem has not been solved. When America had its constitution about 235 years ago, the population of America then was about three million people, now they are over 250 million and they are still using the same constitution. So you will see that the problem is not the constitution, it is just the people. Britain has no written constitution and yet the management of the system is working very well. Look at China with a population of 1.4 billion people. Look at the size of the constitution; it is less than that of Nigeria. So the problem here is that we have got a country not a nation. The Ibos see themselves as Ibos, not Nigerians. The same goes for the Yoruba and Hausa, The Deltans also see themselves as Deltans. Lord Lugrad did this deliberately, Lugard said: “Amalgamate the country but not the people.” That is the cradle of the problem of Nigeria till today” Nigerian Guardian Newspaper)

TERRIFIC HEADLINES ON THE WAY FORWARD: DIALOGUE! DIALOGUE!! DIALOGUE!!! The current political class apparently constitutes beneficiaries of the struggles of the founding fathers of Nigeria. We must, therefore, spare moments like this, to examine salient issues that would enable our society to cultivate more progressive attitudes and approaches for operations of government business for the overall good of our country and its people.  Those matters which have obtruded themselves and may very well constitute solutions to the myriad of problems confronting our nation today must be debated and examined if we must progress. After all, governance is about seeking solutions to problems.  It is patently clear that costly errors were committed in the past by both civilian and military regimes.  The intelligentsia in our society cannot also be absolved from blames arising from this unfortunate development.  I wish to recall the postulation of former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku in a paper presented in 1991: “The General expectation then,(at independence) both among the party political parties which led the nationalists to struggle for independence and of the departing colonial powers, was that the largely democratic system of government established at the time of independence would endure indefinitely”.

Given the foregoing, require the entrenchment of a lasting democratic culture through the seriousness of political parties, institutions, and organizations, as well as the economic framework adopted by the people of a defined territory. We must, of course, recognize the fact that the people themselves perhaps form the strongest point that would make democracy endure, by their conduct and their ability to organize themselves.

EXAMINING THE PAST: It is noteworthy that Nigeria’s leaders at independence recognized the importance of running a true federal system. In a speech delivered by Late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in Parliament in September 1957, he said: “we must recognize our diversity and the peculiar conditions under which the different tribal communities live in this country.  To us in Nigeria therefore, unity in diversity is a source of great strength, and we must do all in our power to see that this federal system of government is strengthened and maintained”. Admittedly, the form the constitution of any nation takes will depend upon the nature of the country being governed-its history, geographical position, social structure, economic development, religious beliefs, and racial composition.  But since the constitution exists primarily to protect the rights of citizens and to limit the powers of those entrusted with authority, it stands to reason, therefore, that its character will ultimately be determined by what rights and powers are conventional by the community are allowed and practiced.

 IMBIBING THE RIGHT VALUES AS SOLUTION:  Building a sound polity must take time to yield positive results.  We have to ponder and reflect on both our successes and failures from time to time. The general citizenry, all of us, must, therefore, imbibe positive values and attitudes which are required for attaining the desired goals that are set out in the Constitution. And of course, one of these steps must be our ability to rise above situations in our growing democracy. The first step towards entrenching an enduring democratic culture appears to be a review of the constitution that we currently operate to take into account our differences and modern-day realities.  It is evident that fear occasioned by mistrust is one element that has strongly worked again democracy in Nigeria.

THE WAY FORWARD: Firstly, we must consider the highly important issue of national integration and nation-building vis-à-vis the development of democracy.  In this connection, we cite the submission of Benson Osadolor who argues that  ’there must be the will to evolve a coherent policy and ideology of national integration and nation-building instead of the ad-hoc solutions to natural problems such as the cake-sharing syndrome which has made Nigerian leaders ignore the problems of national integration”. (From Federalism and Political Restructuring in Nigeria P45 edited by Kunle Amuwo and others) Secondly, another identifiable problem is that of leadership. Obafemi Awolowo posited that: “What we lack very much is a sufficient number of powerful leaders with calibre, character and qualities, requisite for uniting and keeping happily together, the diverse elements in our nation”. The incontrovertible fact remains that society breeds the type of leaders it wants.  This position tallies with that of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who at a Presidential Forum on Solid Minerals held in Abuja on March 16, 2006, submitted that: “….we have abundant human and material resources to position Nigeria among the greatest nations in the world.  To do this effectively and in a sustainable manner, we must get our policies, bearing, management systems and political structures and processes right.  We must develop and master new technologies, create wealth, develop skills, enhance innovation and creativity, and promote output in every sector on a sustainable basis.  The context in which these innovations take palace must be characterized by social justice, transparency, accountability, discipline, good governance, patriotism, and the can-do-spirit.”

It, therefore, goes without saying that  we must discuss as brothers and sisters and our return to the conference table to examine such issues as the sovereignty of the will of the people, respect for human rights, equity, devolution of powers, justice and fair play as the basis of our relationships as people of Nigeria.  If we must as a matter of necessity adopt constitutional amendments, highly sensational issues such as fiscal responsibility and sharing of political offices in a federation are some of the knotty issues that would demand paramount attention, in addition to issues like zoning, federal character, etc.

May the Good Lord bless Nigeria.

 

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