Concerned stakeholders have publicly declared the desire to support any candidate that has restructuring in his agenda for the 2019 presidential contest.
Without a doubt, the 2019 presidential election is going to be a defining movement for Nigeria. Hitherto, electioneering by political parties had always been characterized by mudslinging, abuse of opponents, outright brigandage and empty promises. But this time around, the critical stakeholders have collectively resolved to demand for the specific not just on the issues of economy and security, but also on the existing federal structure that gives rise to incessant separatist agitations and the attendant instability in the polity.
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Under the present democratic dispensation, two botched attempts had been made to work out an enduring solution to some of the national questions that agitate ethnic conflicts. First was the national political conference organized by former present Olusegun Obasanjo the report of which was thrown overboard because of surreptitious inclusion of his third term agenda in the document. In 2014, Ex-president Goodluck Jonathan gathered yet another array of eminent Nigerians to look into the existing structure and decide what should be the basis of peaceful co-existence among the component parts.
Unfortunately, the opportunity was again jettisoned for lack of political will to implement the far reaching recommendations submitted by the committee. Up till now, the document is in the archive gathering dusts, as President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed never to have anything to do with it.
Now that another election is approaching, the clamour for restructuring has once again taken a centre stage in the national discourse. And the general consensus is that only a reconfiguration of the existing federal structure can permanently resolve incessant ethnic conflicts, the challenge of insecurity occasioned by Boko Haram insurgency, menace of herdsmen as well as agitations for self-determination.
But the big question is: who will bell the cat? For both the apostle of regime change and the forces of status quo, this is undoubtedly a major issue that will ultimately dominate debates and campaigns for the next presidential election in the months ahead. Although there is no harmonised position yet on what form of restructuring will best serve the interest and aspiration of all ethnic nationalities, concerned stakeholders including Southern and Middle-Belt Forum, the Yoruba socio cultural group, Afenifere, Yoruba Self-Determination Advancement Forum (YOSEDAF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo, among others, have publicly declared the desire to support any candidate that has restructuring in his agenda for the 2019 presidential contest.
The YOSEDAF in its concern for credible leader who could lead Nigeria out of the woods recently held a meeting at Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, where stakeholders had brainstorming session on some of the issues causing instability in the polity.
The Convener of the Forum, Evangelist Kunle Are, in his address at the event said Nigeria was still far from the desired destination in its democratic journey due to the lopsidedness of the present federal arrangement which resulted in poor governance, faulty electoral process, insecurity and bloodletting. His words: “It is, therefore, not strange that in almost two decades of democratic rule, Nigerian is nowhere nearer the desired destination of nationhood. What we have witnessed so far is a circuitous, tortuous, and convoluted journey to nowhere sign-posted by cyclic and bloodstained electioneering processes and even bloodier social intercourse in the name of civil rule.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that in the last two decades since return to civil rule, democracy has failed woefully to deliver on good governance. Indeed, our most palpable reality during this period is the tripod failure manifested in failure of representative governance, failure to deliver dividends of governance and inability to evolve enduring democratic institutions. Development in the real sense of it has been a fleeting mirage for most Nigerians since the return to civil rule with spiraling inflation, incessant hike in prices of petroleum products, power outages, poor health care, poorly funded and plummeting standard of education and ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.”
According to him, true federalism remains the panacea to end separatist agitations, adding that the forum would only support any political party and candidate with restructuring agenda
in the 2019 presidential election. “In the coming presidential election, we would mobilize Yoruba people across board in reaffirming our commitment to fundamental change in the quality of life to support political party and candidate with a clear and feasible manifesto for restructuring and genuine federalism.
“In 2015, the prominent parties merely paid lip-service to restructuring. Therefore, for any political party and its presidential candidate to enjoy the support of self-determination platform and the people in Yoruba land, a covenant on restructuring and genuine federalism that guarantee minimum autonomy for Yoruba land has become non-negotiable. Hence our resolve that Yoruba people will not support a candidate on the basis of promises of bringing about highfalutin change. There must be a clear roadmap restructuring and federalism worth of the support of our people.
“It is only through the emergence of a leadership that shares the passion of a new Nigeria; which restructuring and genuine federalism guarantee, that the future could be secured out of the prevailing nightmares and miseries, he stated.
A chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Supo Shonibare, in an interview with Daily Sun, succinctly defined the essential components of restructuring. “What Southern and Middle-Belt Forum leaders, which I am a part of as well, and Afenifere also is an active component of, are focusing on now is not so much a regime change as restructuring. So, we have to look at who is offering us devolution that contains a structure that is as close as possible to the structure we had at independence. And you will recall that the structure we had at independence was a balanced federation. At the beginning, we had three units, which made it difficult for one of the units to dominate the other. So, what we are looking at is a structure that can ensure equality of representation between the North and the South, a structure than can enable all parts of Nigeria to generate more wealth. Whoever subscribes to true federalism and is able to publicly announce an unambiguous template for restructuring will be supported for the presidency of the country. So, it is not a matter of regime change for the sake of it. It is a matter of having someone who is able to meet all those requirements that we think is necessary for a stable polity,” he said.
It is already a settled matter that the two leading political parties will produce their candidates from the North. But the dilemma here is how to get a credible candidate among the array of aspirants from the region whose agenda fits into this description. For Buhari, who is the flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), restructuring is a no-go-area. Although the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is yet to choose its candidate, only a handful of individuals from the North believe in the whole idea of restructuring. Former vice president Atiku Abubakar had prior to his defection to the PDP adopted the catchphrase to align his agenda with the South. Speaking at the unveiling of a book entitled: “We Can’t All Be Wrong: Nigeria and the Restructuring Debate,” authored by Dr Ethelbert Okere, in Abuja in November 2017, Abubakar had declared support for the call for restructuring because, according to him, it would help devolve powers to state governments. The Waziri of Adamawa represented by Oladimeji Fabiyi warned that with the world gradually moving away from oil, Nigeria would be at the risk of extinction it fails to restructure.
His words: “I support restructuring for three main things. It will help to devolve powers to state governments, allowing the federal government to focus on a few nationally critical matters and become more efficient. This will then reduce the focus on the Federal Government and federal power. It will bring us more in line with federal systems that actually work well. And it will result in greater sense of justice, and peace and unity
“Restructuring will result in financially more viable federating units, with greater autonomy which will allow them to develop at their own paces, address peculiar local issues, and unleash their potentials, thus helping the country to reach its potentials. Competitive federalism or healthy competition among our federating units will return to our polity.
“It will help to reposition the country economically as oil loses significance as an energy source for the world and the revenue source for our country.
“Our current structure has been sustained by oil revenues. We can’t afford to wait till oil becomes insignificant before we reposition our country.”
However, there are fears that the idea may be used against him in the North, if he eventually picks the ticket of the PDP. A close ally of one of the leading aspirants of the party who did not want his name in print said: “Let me be frank with you, this idea of restructuring will be hard to sell in the North. This is without prejudice to the right of individual to profess whatever he or she believes in. But the truth of
the matter is that you must respect the sentiment of the people.”
Regardless, YOSEDAF said it would mobilize support for any political party and its presidential candidate that is ready to enter into covenant with it to ensure that the promise does not turn out to be a rope of sand. “Our resolve that Yoruba people will not support a candidate on the basis of promises of bringing about highfalutin change. There must be a clear roadmap with the prospects of delivering on restructuring and federalism worth of the support of our people. We would mobilise our peoples to support an ethnically and religiously detached presidential candidate whose emergence will automatically reduce tension and fear of subjugation, hatred and political vindictiveness, the forum declared.
Those in attendance at the meeting included Evangelist Kunle Are, the Convener of the forum, Mr. Kola Are, Secretary, George Akinola, Convener, Yoruba Liberation Movement, Tunde Adeoye, Director of Contact and Mobilisation, Francis Abayomi, Public Relation Officer PRO, and Rasak Oladosu, among others.