From Taiwo Amodu, Abuja
Nigerians anxious to see President Muhammadu Buhari implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference should perish the thought. Legal practitioner, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) made this submission in an interview with Daily Sun.
There has been a resurgence in the agitation for the restructuring of the country. Penultimate week, the call came from quite an unexpected quarter: former Vice-President and chieftain of the ruling APC.
Why unexpected? It is expected. I refuse to buy that argument from you that it is from an unexpected quarter. You see, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is a Nigerian, well informed, highly exposed and highly cerebral. The mere fact that he isn’t a flippant person, he doesn’t talk much, mean that you cannot take away those qualities away from him.
He understands the political arithmetic and political geography of Nigeria and he knows that the present structure cannot last us for another 25 years, to put it in a generous way. You cannot sustain this structure like this and expect it to stand.
As a matter of fact, the structure has been standing as it is because there has been no possible unity of purpose among the Southerners. The day they come together, that will be the end of the federation as it is today. As a matter of fact, Jonathan tried to bring the Southern states together under one umbrella and the Yoruba said no, because of the marginalisation of the Yoruba by Jonathan.In fact, those of us from Oyo State, we boycotted it at the confab. We felt that there was no reason for any unity between the South East and South West, because they spearheaded the marginalisation of Yoruba under Jonathan.
So, we regard those who were attending the meeting then as traitors. Throughout my stay at the confab, nobody from Oyo and Osun states attended Southern solidarity meeting. Those who attended were either PDP members or those who had sympathy for Jonathan. It was that bad.
So, there has been no basis for that unity and that has been keeping the federation going; now that there is agitation in the Niger Delta region, and there is clamour for Biafra in the South East, imagine if the Yoruba now come out.
Now, back to Atiku being a seasoned politician, who appreciates the political arithmetic of Nigeria as it is today, he knows that it is better to have small of nothing than to lose everything. He appreciates that much; he is a seasoned politician and don’t forget that even before he came out to speak about restructuring and devolution of powers, Ibrahim Babangida too said that last year.
So, it isn’t that northerners are opposed to it but the language and the level of devolution of powers is the issue.
But people have been clamouring for the implementation of some of the recommendations of the report. Aren’t there recommendations in that report that would calm frayed nerves and douse the raging agitation?
Of course, there are recommendations that could have been implemented, even by the Jonathan administration but because he wasn’t sincere. Some of the recommendations had to do with the structure of the country that would need amendment of the constitution; there are some that are administrative in nature that Jonathan could have implemented, but in his wisdom, he decided not to. He was so busy with elections and distributing money. If he had spent just two per cent of the money he wasted on elections, as we are now seeing on the implementation of the recommendations, Nigerians would have been better off under him.
As we speak today, at least, 27 states are insolvent. But he refused to do the needful. It is incongruous, it is unfair for anybody now to stand up and be blaming Buhari for non-implementation of the report because Jonathan too had the opportunity of implementing it but he never did.
But since government is a continuum, do you see Buhari as being positively disposed, or with the political will to touch that report?
No, I don’t see Buhari implementing the report. He isn’t a politician and he doesn’t understand the political arithmetic of Nigeria and he doesn’t understand the political geography. Of course, he has been Head of State before, he has been governor, he has been a minister but he still doesn’t understand the complexity of the structure.
He isn’t in the mould of an Obasanjo or a Babangida. Even when you look at his exposure and administrative style, it is a style that is patterned after his military background. Everything he does, even in speech presentation, even in body language. So, he isn’t a politician in the mould of Obasanjo and Babangida who are military-politicians. For instance, IBB knows everybody that is somebody in this country; he will address them by their first name; Obasanjo knows everybody that is somebody in every nook and cranny of the country. These are people who understand Nigeria and they know it in and out.
Buhari belongs to that old, conservative school; so you cannot cast him in the same mould with Atiku. Atiku is a seasoned politician and he has interacted and he is still interacting with people across the length and breadth of the country and he knows the danger that is ahead of us as a nation; he knows that we are yet to build a nation, that we are still a country of many nationalities and there is need for us to operate a genuine federal system of government.
There is no different federal system of government; you are either practising it or you aren’t and one of the cardinal principles of federalism is that every component part should be allowed to develop at its own pace. But see what we are having today.
Why are many states having problem? Why should states, like Gombe, Ekiti, Ebonyi, be comparing themselves with Lagos, Akwa-Ibom and Rivers? It is only mad people that will be doing the same thing, using the same method and be expecting different result. What we are practising cannot help this country and it is high time we appreciate that. For instance, I am from Oyo State; my state doesn’t have crude oil and its likelihood of it having it is remote, but we have the population, which is an asset and we have the capital base. If you practise true federalism, my state will be richer than Bayelsa and Rivers put together.
The state of California doesn’t have crude oil but it is richer than Texas. If you pass your pipeline through my line, you pay for every inch it occupies! We brought that to the fore at the confab that there is no need for any state to be afraid. It is ignorance of the principle of federalism, of the law, of the political arithmetic of the country that is causing the problem.
If people truly appreciate what federalism entails, how it is practiced in civilized world, they will know that a state like Kano should be the first to embrace it because of its huge population.
Why do you think the South African president rushed to Nigeria because of MTN? It is because of our population; they have the technological know how in Africa, they own Shoprite, they own MTN but they don’t have the market base.
So, when Nigeria sneezes, South Africa will catch cold. States like Sokoto, Oyo, Kano, have no reason to fear the oil producing states because they have what it takes to even be richer than them. Bayelsa will not drink its oil, neither will Lagos drink its oil. They need the market, but people don’t appreciate this.
So, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was talking sense and it is gratifying that it is coming from him now that we are approaching another election. Before 2019, this country should be restructured, along true federal system of government, so that all of us will not be caught napping. At the rate at which we are going, we are sitting on a keg of gun powder. Like I did say, may God pacify our brothers in the Niger- Delta, pacify our brothers of the South Eastern Nigeria and ensure that no group of young men will start similar thing from the South West. But the day it comes, simultaneously, forget it! If the South West joins the fray, then we should forget about the federation called Nigeria.