The commitment of the two major political parties to the restructuring of the country is doubtful, as they have not been able to match words with action.
In the last couple of days, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been engaged in a verbal war over the restructuring of the polity, with the latter accusing the former of attempting to beguile Nigerians with promise of restructuring the country. The restructuring of the country has being in the front burner of public discourse recently, with both the ruling party and members of the PDP expressing support for an overhaul of the polity.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena had said earlier in the week that the federal government will implement the report of the committee on true federalism, which it set up sometime ago. On the other hand, presidential aspirants on the PDP platform for next year’s general elections have been promising to restructure the country if they are elected.
The APC Committee , which was headed by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai had made a 24-point recommendation to the APC National Working Committee (NWC) on how to restructure the polity. Nabena said machinery has already been set in motion to work out a modality for the implementation of the El-rufai report. But the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan believes that the ruling party is not sincere. Apart from the two political parties, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has been on a war path with one of his predecessors, Abubakar Atiku over the restructuring of the country, lately.
However, in spite of their posturing, the commitment of the two major political parties to the restructuring of the country is doubtful, as they have not been able to match words with action. If both parties are interested in restructuring the country, as they would want the public to believe, how come the Power Devolution Bill, which was intended to empower the states as a federating unit failed in the National Assembly last year, with both the APC and PDP lawmakers voting against it?
What efforts did the parties make to mobilise their members in the legislature to support the Power Devolution Bill during voting on the last alteration of the 1999 Constitution as amended. If the PDP is so passionate about restructuring, as it would want the world to believe, what has it done to actualise it. Why didn’t it push for it in the 16 years it was in power? Why has the opposition party not mandated its members in both chambers of the National Assembly to sponsor a fresh bill on the devolution of power in the country?
On the hand, how come that the APC that promised to restructure the country if it was elected in the 2015 general elections, is just realising that the federal government, which it controls has to implement the report of its Committee on true federalism?
Suffice it to say that what the APC is doing with the El-rufai report on restructuring is not different from what the last PDP controlled federal government did with the report of the 2014 National Conference report. Just like former President Goodluck Jonathan failed to take any concrete action to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, until close to the 2015 general election, when he started promising that the report will be implemented if he secures a second term, the APC has deliberately kept the El-Rufai report in abeyance, probably hoping to use it to hoodwink voters in the next general election, which is less than six months away.
There is no doubt, that both political parties are paying lip service to the restructuring of the polity. The National Assembly, the House of Representatives in particular, is also not free from blame in this play to the gallery. After, the Power Devolution Bill was thrown out in the Green Chamber the House Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila admitted, in an interview, that it was a mistake. And promised that it would be revisited.
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Apparently, to give the public an impression that it is committed to the restructuring of the polity, the House set up a committee, headed by the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, to interface with critical stakeholders across the country on the issue. Ironically, more than one year after, nothing has been heard about that committee.
It is now clear that Gbajabiamila comment on Power Devolution Bill and the starting of a committee by the House leadership, were at best diversionary. However, it is not too late in the day for either of the parties to kick start the process of restructuring of the country, through the members in the National Assembly. Instead of promising to restructure after winning the election in 2019, what stops either the APC of PDP to get their members in the National Assembly to reactivate the Power Devolution Bill?
The structure of the country at present is to say the least iniquitous. There is so much inequality and imbalance in the system. Like I have stated before on this column, it is befuddling that Lagos and Kano are said to be at par in population, but the former has 20 local government areas, while the latter has 44 Council areas. What injustice can be more than that? Why would there only five states in the South East, while there other zones have at least six states? Besides, too much power is concentrated at the centre to the detriment of the states. We claim to be a federal state, but in essence what we practice is unitary system of government. It is in the interest every well meaning Nigerian for the country to be restructured.
Several times, we have been told of how the regions made remarkable progress in the first republic, when the country practised true federalism.
It is common to hear how the defunct Northern region depended on groundnut as the main source of revenue, the West on Cocoa and the East on palm oil. It is good that the restructuring is dominating public discourse, at this period when we are gearing up for the next general elections. Therefore, as the political parties get set to nominate their candidates for next year’s general elections, constituents, especially those who are card carrying members of political parties, must ensure that only persons who will be committed to the goal of addressing the imbalance in the country are nominated as candidates for National Assembly seats.
This is because the restructuring cannot achieved without the parliament. The fact that 210 members of the House of Representatives voted for the Power Devolution Bill is an indication that across the parties, there are men and women in the National Assembly, who are committed to the ideas of true federalism.
Consequently, it is our duty as electorates, who mean well for the country, to ensure that whoever we will be sending to the National Assembly from our respective constituencies are men and women, who can help actualise the dream of a restructured Nigeria, where every federating unit would flourish.