To air my thoughts on the raging, unending conversation and controversy the issue of restructuring and true federalism in the country, one needs to acknowledge that there are severally identified issues critical to arriving at a desired and mutually accepted stand on Nigeria’s geo-political, ethno-religious and socio-cultural composition, and a sustained unity and stability. These are sought in the name of restructuring being peddled by elite and political merchants’ prime interest in power and resources which have shaped and dominated the country’s restructuring agitations.
Calls by proponents of restructuring Nigeria began in the early days of the first tenure of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. It is not quite clear what type of restructuring such proponents want as opinions are as varied as the proponents themselves depending on what side of the divide they belong and their motives. I share the view by a northern elder and a politician of the First Republic, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, that Buhari lacks the powers to restructure Nigeria. “President Muhammadu Buhari lacks the constitutional powers to re structure Nigeria”, he said.
He advised proponents of restructuring to channel their energies towards ensuring their representatives in the state and federal legislatures to perform their statutory functions by providing the necessary legislative framework required to restructure the country in a democracy. What is, however, possible is that President Buhari can initiate a bill just like every other Nigerian and send same to the National Assembly for legislative action. We need to follow the necessary procedure and due process to achieve desired goals as we are currently operating a constitutional democracy which requires dialogue and consultation.
Proponents of restructuring as Afenifere, Ohaneze, PANDE, ACF, Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum, South-south Forum, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, and several other prominent Nigerians are missing the point and consequently misdirecting their prayer. In an apparent response to such views directed at PMB to restructure Nigeria, the presidency in a statement signed by Presidential Spokesman, Garba Shehu, said: “This is to warn that such unpatriotic outbursts are both unhelpful and unwarranted as this government will not succumb to threats and take any decision out of pressure at a time when the nation’s full attention is needed to deal with the security challenges facing it during the time of the Covid-19 health crisis.
“They want the president to ‘restructure’ by fiat and without recourse to the National Assembly. It doesn’t work that way. Even if Mr President succumbs to pressure and organises another National Conference today, he will still need to send the recommendations to the National Assembly for legislative action”.
Already, there is in place a joint Senate/House of Reps Committee on Constitution Review that will organise zonal public hearings and wish to advise that such proponents should avail themselves of that window of opportunity to appear before it and submit their memo to underscore their desire to restructure Nigeria politically and economically, among other issues, through the ideal process.
Proponents of re structuring should borrow a leaf from agitators of #NotTooYoungToRun. They didn’t just shout on the pages of newspapers or trended on social media, they drafted the bill, presented it to a member of the House of Reps in the 8th Assembly, lobbied those that needed to be lobbied, and today and the rest is history. It has been stated times without numbers that President Buhari is not averse to restructuring and has asked people to channel their positions to the National Assembly which has powers to review the country’s constitution.
According to the Buhari Media Organisation , BMO, in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, the president has been taking bold steps within the limit of his powers to effect some changes in the polity. “It is a matter of fact that President Buhari had issued an Executive Order No.10 (EO 10) which merely affirmed the financial autonomy which state legislatures and judiciaries as independent arms of government already have by virtue of constitutional provisions in order to make them truly independent of state governors.
“Although, its implementation has been put on hold, we see it as a bold move by the Buhari administration to ensure proper autonomy, at state level, as envisaged by the crafters of the constitution. A similar creative step was taken to affirm local government autonomy through the NFIU but just like EO 10, there is stiff opposition by governors to what is a clear constitutional provision”.
Even the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2017, set up a 23-man committee on devolution of powers and true federalism headed by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state. The committee submitted its report with 12 key recommendations to the party leadership before the 2019 elections. However, many people have failed to acknowledge that those recommendations still have to be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny.
President Buhari does not possess the power to implement the el-Rufai committee report or any other suggestion by any individual or group on restructuring of the country. However, and by coincidence, the 9th National Assembly is determined to commence a parliamentary process of reviewing the constitution which is a good opportunity for advocates of restructuring to do the needful.
Simply put, the needful is for the proponents to set machinery in motion to lobby the National Assembly to do their bidding. Issuing threats to PMB, whose job begins when that of lawmakers ends, is undemocratic. It is clear that President Buhari lacks any legal or constitutional power to restructure Nigeria. Any further accusation against PMB on this matter is obviously malicious and vindictive.
Ilallah writes from Emeka Anyaoku Street, Maitama, Abuja via [email protected]