Osinbajo’s speech, a departure from views of prominent Nigerians
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, in his Democracy Day speech yesterday, declared on a note of high optimism that Nigeria is already on the right path and that the Muhammadu Buhari administration “will not deviate from it.”
Osinbajo told the nation that the current administration has charted a course of development that has not only taken the country from the woods but also increased the hope for the kind of society that every Nigerian dreams of in terms of socio-economic and political emancipation.
He reeled out the administration’s various achievements in all sectors such as security, infrastructure, social services, agriculture and war against corruption, saying the country, for the first time in recent years, has been pulled from the precipice.Osinbajo’s optimism is however in conflict with the positions of many prominent Nigerians on how to lay a solid foundation for national growth.
Their views, which they expressed to The Guardian during various encounters across the country last week, were that the country is still on a very weak structural foundation that cannot support the kind of super structure that the Acting President conveyed to Nigerians in his speech.
Drawn from across geo-political divides, the elder statesmen include founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Fredrick Faseun, Afenifere chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo and National Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Ralph Nwosu.
Others are former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onueze C.J Okocha, former President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dozie Ikedife, member of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, founding member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh and Chief Ralph Obioha.
They are all united in their call for the restructuring of the country to reflect true federalism in accordance with the aspirations of the various peoples that make up the nation, without which, they said no real development can be achieved.
Faseun called for the implementation of the 2014 National Conference reports to lay the needed foundation for the country to grow.He said, “Let not the All Progressives Congress (APC) or any Nigerian deceives ourselves, without restructuring Nigeria, there is no way we can move forward. It is therefore unimaginable that someone will say the report of the 2014 national Conference was best for the shelves. The conference was not a waste because there were many recommendations it made that could be of help to this nation.”
Also speaking in support of the 2014 conference reports as the panacea to the country’s myriads of problems, Adebanjo urged Buhari to subject the decisions of the confab to a referendum to test the popularity of the choices made by the delegates.
Reacting to those who are against the introduction of a new constitution that will be in consonance with the principles of true federalism, he said, “I don’t think they understand what they are saying.
“For instance the Constitution of 1954, which our founding fathers, including the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the Sardauna of Sokoto agreed to, was a regional constitution, which allowed for healthy competition.
“When the military introduced unitary system of government after the 1966 coup, the crisis the country found itself up till date, started. Many other things that could have been responsible for our backwardness including corruption, arose from the military de-structured system. That is why I said we must restructure the country.
“The question of telling us that the unity of this country is not negotiable is nonsense! There is nothing more negotiable than the unity of this country and if anybody is in doubt; recent events have come to confirm the need to restructure Nigeria.”
Nwosu berated the APC for not recognizing the importance of restructuring the federation before meaningful development can be achieved.According to him, “In terms of directives, restructuring and good economy, the APC is a calamity. Its two years in power have not justified its ability to do anything good that will benefit the country.”
Speaking specifically about the “flawed” constitution that Nigeria is operating with, Okocha said, “There are several unresolved issues about the constitution that we have and the provisions therein. We are still not happy with the structure of the federation.
“We are not happy with the levels and powers given to the various levels of government. We are still not happy with the bogus or exclusive legislative list that gives virtually every authority to the Federal Government to legislate on anything in this country, including matters that should actually be on the residual list. We are still not happy with the structure of the judiciary and the mode and manner by which judges and superior justices are appointed.”
In his contribution, Ikedifie, who blamed the current Nigerian system for the alleged marginalization of the people of the Southeast geo-political zone, identified the legislative arm of government as an example of why the country should operate on a new people-friendly constitution.
According to him, “The legislators have through several actions, contributed in bringing the country down. Their duty is to make laws but when they leave that to now start talking about constituency projects, it tells you that something is wrong somewhere.
“That is why some people are calling for unicameral or part time legislature where their salaries and allowances will be prune down and through this, the burden of elections will be reduced.”
Putting the blame on the military, which intervention drew Nigeria back from the path of democracy and federalism, Yakassai called for a return to the parliamentary system. He said the presidential system is not only too costly, but it has also destroyed competitiveness among the regions that made up the country.
His words: “The military intervention created a near unitary situation in Nigeria because the Commander-in- Chief appointed governors or administrators or whatever. That is one mentally that the political development of the country created in Nigerians.
“The second point is that originally, we were dependent on our own efforts based on agricultural proceeds. Then all of a sudden in our history, we woke up to find oil money, which we do not sweat to produce. And therefore we spend it anyhow. But the money is centrally collected and donated to the states.
“This is what is bringing about the maintenance of unitary psyche in our governance. As long as states are dependent on federal allocation, we would continue with this psyche. It is not a normal case but it is the reality of the Nigerian situation. Nobody can deny it.”
Momoh, while also speaking in support of a restructured federation, said the leadership of the party is favourably disposed to the idea but that a method that would be agreeable to all Nigerians must be found to bring it to reality.
He said, “Restructuring is everyone’s dream in this country. As a matter of fact, we need to restructure everything about this country if we hope to move ahead. This administration is already restructuring the economy and that is the reason I said we are performing. Every Nigerian craves for a better and viable system but how do we achieve restructuring?
“Nobody in the party has ever said Nigeria should not be restructured. The issue is we have not agreed to the type of restructuring that we want, and more importantly, how to go about achieving it. To me, what we are calling a federation now is a mere fiction and until we restructure to decongest the political space, our economic problems cannot be resolved.
“For instance, I have always argued that there is no need for Nigeria to run a bicameral and full-time legislature. It is a waste of enormous resources because we had a part-time legislature in the First Republic and it functioned better than the two we have today. The country is spending too much on recurrent expenditure to run government and less is being invested on capital projects.
“These are the areas I believe need to be critically looked into. I am not against restructuring and other members of the party like the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, have been speaking on the matter.”
Obioha however said the reason for the country’s stagnant progress in creating a country that can face the challenges of nationhood is the lack of a leader that is prepared to raise the bar of leadership that is needed to lay a solid foundation.
He said, “What is needed in Nigeria is a transformational leader adopting what great thinkers and leaders in other climes were able to accomplish for their people. It was the emergency of Mao that transformed China; India was transformed by the sacrifice of Gandhi. Martin Luther King elevated the status of the blacks in America; the democracy in South Africa was made possible by sacrifice made by Nelson Mandela.
“These individuals were transformational and showed no primordial instincts to play on prejudices but rather, had the wisdom to forge progress for the good of the masses. Scotland, Britain adopted constitutional means to break up with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They went via the route of referendum and democratically sought the opinion of the people.”