EMEKA NZE writes that the week before last, governor Seriake Henry Dickson of Bayelsa state gave further direction on the way to restructuring the country as recommended by the APC committee led by the Kaduna state governor, Malam Nasir El’Rufai
Penultimate week, Governor Henry Dickson of Bayelsa state deviated from his onerous task of reconciling his recalcitrant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and avoided comments on last week’s most contentious issue of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to the sitting President Muhammadu Buhari. He however waded into the report of the Committee on Restructuring and said it is most fundamental and that the members of the Committee and their party deserved commendation.
Dickson’s concern and excitement about the report was so palpable that within the 15minutes or so he briefed the press, he never stopped to exude lurid appreciation and commendation for the Malam Nasir El Rufai Committee.
Even when one of the journalists through his question dubbed the report as a ploy by the government in power to distract Nigerians, doubted the APC’s sincerity in implementing or pursuing the report to a logical conclusion, Dickson did not share in his pessimism but continued to say it was a step in the right direction.
Beginning the brief, Dickson reinforced the importance most Nigerians, especially, from the Southern part, have attached to restructuring the country and expressed surprise that the report is coming from “unexpected quarters.”
He said, “What I consider as more fundamental, a very serious development is not even the letter by one general to another general, which is currently in the public domain. Comments are going on one way or the other. But the development from an unexpected quarter on a matter that is very dear to some of us , a matter that some of us have been talking so much about- the subject matter of restructuring which is aimed at redressing the injustices and inequities in our nation.
“Some of us have been advocates of a just, fair, equitable and egalitarian stable Nigeria. But yesterday my good friend and colleague the governor of Kaduna state who is chairing the APC’s Committee on Restructuring submitted a report to their party.”
While we may say that we are dealing with proposals yet which is coming from an unexpected quarter especially in the light of the president’s remarks in his new year broadcast, and in the light of the opposition, and misunderstanding of the concept of the restructuring and reforms coming from some leaders from some parts of this country, I thought that what the APC committee did was quite surprising and for me unexpected but a welcome development.
So let me begin by commending and appreciating the APC Committee ably led by the governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasir El’ Rufai and the leadership of his party for making what i will call one if the most fundamental proposals for constitutional reform dealing with the issues of restructuring and led by personalities from parts of this country other than parts of this country that are always talking about restructuring . This is very refreshing and for me when I see what is right, I commend it.
There is no doubt that leaders of the Niger Delta or the South South geopolitical zone which Dickson is one has been the biggest canvasser of resource control, ostensibly, for the extraction of crude oil which is ongoing in the zone. It is therefore not surprising that the Bayelsa state Governor would show appreciation and commendation.
This is more so that his kinsman, the former President Goodluck Jonathan who ruled the country for six years, for that duration, only remembered a constitutional conference a year before the termination of his administration. Even when the report was submitted, there were not cogent or concrete effort made by the Jonathan presidency to actualise the report into a law.
This is perhaps why the Bayelsa Governor stated, “When I see somebody that is doing what is in the best interest if our people and country, I encourage it and I support it. But if it is not something i believe in I will say so because my politics is driven essentially by my convictions, I am a politician of convictions not convenience.”
What is however not clear is whether the governor spoke openly or reprimanded his brother. Jonathan when he failed to bring the issue of restructuring to the front burner despite governing the country for six years. Public feelers is that if the former president and his party, the PDP had done what the APC and its government have initiated, the issue of restructuring would have by now reached its denouement.
Considering that the Niger Delta and it’s people would be the biggest beneficiary of restructuring due to oil exploration in the zone, One can understand the showering of encomiums on the APC and its committee.
“With all that has been said and the speeches and discussions that have gone on about restructuring, with my colleague colleague chairing a team of people from other parts of this country, doing what they needed to do , making a kind of proposals, I thought I should commend and appreciate their patriotism and their commitment to building a stable, equitable and therefore Nigeria which some of us have been talking about, which leaders from other parts if the country too have been talking about for years.
Governor Dickson further tasked the Federal Government to convene a multiparty committee to harmonize the APC proposals and make a bill to be submitted to the National Assembly.
According Dickson if the bill is passed into law and accented to by the President Nigeria may have earned itself a brand new constitution.
“And so I want to appreciate them and say that at this point, if they are sincere , as I believe they are about redressing the injustices and inequities then I call for a multiparty coalition, a multiparty committee to deal with the final details of the issues that have been proposed, the critical issues – the issues of policing, the structure of our nation’s judiciary, the issues of control of land and resources vested therein and so on and so forth.
“We need a multiparty committee to discuss and agree and develop consensus on the details and possibly work on draft legislations, bills that will be jointly sponsored so that we can present this bill to the national assembly for their deliberations and all of us need to mobilize national consensus around these issues and engage the leadership and indeed all the members of the national assembly so that before the next elections, we can drive all these issues home and we have a restructured, truly federal a fairer and more prosperous and stable Nigeria before the next elections .
“That is the test of sincerity. But Even though we have a long way to go, working together to fine tune these things I thought with the steps they have taken I commend them and well meaning Nigerians need to commend and appreciate them for their commitment, for their forthrightness, for their patriotism and quite frankly with what this committee and the leaders of that party have done what it shows is that there is hope for a united, progressive indivisible, fair and prosperous Nigeria, a Nigeria where as brothers and sisters as we are, as human beings we have a shared humanity and a shared nationality as well.
“This is a demonstration of that. I take these issues very seriously and I have been at the forefront of advocating, making a case for restructuring. So that multiparty committee needs to cone on stream so that we can work out the final details and in no distant time present appropriate bills to the national assembly and jointly engage our members in the national assembly to facilitate these bills becoming laws and then and the president to sign off and we have a brand new constitution”, he said.
The questions on the lips of Nigerians is whether the government can heed Dickson’s counsel by convening what he called a multiparty committee or coalition. There is no doubt that APC is only a segment of the country and there is need for the variant sheds of opinions to be reflected in the report so that as Dickson suggested appropriate legislation can be passed on the report.
Like Dickson said, time is of essence and if Buhari must add this on his other legacies, there is no need to wait after 2019 general election to consummate this restructuring. Going by Gov Dickson’s advice , three months is enough to walk the talk instead of stockpiling the Elrufai committee report like many other past reports.