The division over the renewed clamour for restructuring of the Nigerian political system, to address the widespread disaffection in the country, raises suspicion of the plot by a section of the country to retain what others consider an unfair deal, at the expense of other blocs
The agitation has been on for a long time but it has never been as strident and concerted as it is now. In a country where many tribes or regions prefer a unilateral approach to issues, a surprising shift has seen many voices from across the regions professing the same thing: restructuring. The only odd voice is the north or majorly people of the region as well as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, which still views the idea with disdain. But agitations from the other regions and the voices in support appear to be increasing by the day and this is not unconnected with disaffection within the country arising from the failure of successive governments to satisfy the yearnings of the people. The agitations also appear to be a response to the tensions created by groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, led by Nnamdi Kanu, seeking to create an independent nation out of Nigeria and Niger Delta militant groups clamouring for control of the oil resources in the region or groups in the southwest asking for a fair deal in the federation. To many of its proponents, restructuring is the only way to save Nigeria, which they believe had been long tottering due to the nature of its make up. They believe there’s a lot of imbalance within the system, which hobbles it and is thus responsible for the country’s poor progress, 57 years after its independence.
The demand for the restructuring of Nigeria, over the years, has led to the setting up of constitutional conferences by previous administrations like General Sani Abacha’s and Olusegun Obasanjo’s with the latest being the one organised in 2014 by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. It is doubtful whether any of the recommendations of the conferences ever met the expectations of even those who initiated them, as some of them, like Abacha and Obasanjo, were accused of nursing secret agenda to use the conferences to achieve personal goals like tenure elongation that ultimately failed. The 2014 Conference cost the nation N7 billion but its recommendations failed to see the light of the day because Jonathan who was hoping to implement the recommendations of the conference in his second term, lost to Buhari who has refused to act on it. At a media chat last year, Buhari, in response to a question, said he had not bothered to look at the report of the conference handed over to him by Jonathan. Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress, APC was not part of the 2014 conference as it claimed that the Jonathan administration aimed to use the conference, which was inaugurated on March 17, 2014, less than a year to the scheduled presidential election, to score cheap political point and for that reason, it not only boycotted it, its top officials, at every turn since then, seek to discredit it.
But there are now some members of the APC like Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president, who have spoken out in favour of restructuring the country. Besides Abubakar, the Senate, which has majority APC members, in mid-June, asked the presidency to submit the 2014 constitutional conference report to it for deliberation. Although Jonathan’s government submitted the report to the Senate early in 2015, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President, who presided over the session on the day the subject came up for discussion, said it no longer counted given the demise of that assembly. The 898-page report was the outcome of deliberations over six weeks at a conference that lasted four months involving no less than 492 delegates representing every part of the country. Most of the delegates to the conference which held in Abuja were selected by federal and state governments. They were joined by representatives of professional groups and the private sector. Idris Kutigi, a former chief justice of Nigeria, served as chairman of the conference while Bolaji Akinyemi, a professor of political science and former minister of external affairs, was vice chairman.
So what is the attraction for 2014 report? The magazine learnt that it is considered more comprehensive, aside from the currency. To arrive at the report, members of the Conference were split into 20 committees to focus on 20 specific areas with a mandate to come up with recommendations to move the country forward. The final report states that “Conference Management ensured even distribution of the Delegates to each of the Committees in such a way as to ensure that no one section of the country had 70 per cent of members of each of the Committees so that, if it comes to voting, consensus principles would be enforced and where that is not possible the 70 per cent benchmark would not be one-sided. As much as possible, the distribution of the delegates was fairly even within respectable limits.”
At the end of the exercise, the delegates considered the report of the 20 committees and came out with certain recommendations. Under citizenship, immigration and related matters, the consensus is that “the National Population Commission, (NPC), the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), and the National Bureau of Statistics should be well funded and equipped with the state of the art modern technology for the purpose of achieving accurate census figures and Integrated Database for Nigeria.” It also seeks an amendment to certain portions of the constitution. Section 42 (2), it says, “should be amended to read thus: “A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion political opinion, social or economic status, disabilities or circumstances of birth.” Further proposals would see to it that “The right of any Nigerian citizen to be resident or domiciled in any part of Nigeria shall not be abridged. Such a resident shall enjoy all rights, privileges, and facilities in the place of his/her choice, provided that such a person meets his/her basic civic obligations.” The senators may have seen this, among others, as the answer to the current crisis in the country. That is besides the fact that the conference report also harped on the cost of governance, resources control, civil strife [like the insurgency] and public finance…