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El-Rufai panel report a hoax, Nigerians insist

By Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt), Leo Sobechi and Seye Olumide (Lagos) and Adamu Abu (Abuja)
28 January 2018   |   4:35 am
Prominent Nigerians across diverse platforms are united in their submission that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is at its wits’ end and so is using the report of the Nasir el-Rufai...

Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai

• S’South People Won’t Be Hoodwinked, Says Wike
• Party Only Grandstanding, Okorie Declares
• Junaid Muhammed Wants Apology For U-turn
• Dismisses Move As Aimed At 2019 Election

Prominent Nigerians across diverse platforms are united in their submission that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is at its wits’ end and so is using the report of the Nasir el-Rufai committee to curry the attention of Nigerians while buying time in office.

Short of describing the party’s position as a smokescreen to deflect attention from its gross underperformance and the worsening state of insecurity in the country, South-South stakeholders insist that the report is a mere political posturing meant to mislead Nigerians ahead of the 2019 poll.

And without mincing word, renowned northern politician, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, says the APC is toying with the intelligence of Nigerians over the agitation for the restructuring of the country.

While the National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, said the ruling APC is using the recommendations of the el-Rufai committee report as new propaganda aimed at deceiving Nigerians “ahead of the election, which it would certainly lose,” his counterpart at the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said the APC was just grandstanding for election purposes.

Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State , alongside other leaders from the South-South are insisting that the country must restructure and return to true federalism as against the current unholy unitary system.

Wike in his keynote address to the South-South Summit on Restructuring organised by Project Nigeria Movement in Port Harcourt, yesterday, dismissed the el-Rufai’s report, which called for more devolution of powers to states as a hoax geared at misleading unsuspecting Nigerians.

“I urge our people not to be hoodwinked or deceived by the recent media report that showed that the Governor el-Rufia-led committee of the ruling party is now promising to restructure Nigeria. This coming close to the election can be akin to posturing to mislead Nigerians into thinking that the party that has denied all its basic promises to Nigeria can midway into election year suddenly somersault into promising Nigerians restructuring,” he said.

In his address, which was read by the state’s Head of Service, Mr. Rufus Godwin, the governor noted that since independence, the path before the founding leaders of Nigeria has been to build a united, prosperous country in which anyone in any part can have a sense of belonging.

Regrettably, he said 58 years after, this vision remains a mirage as the country has become increasingly divided, disorganised, and ridden by violence and blood-spilling across the length and breadth of the country.

Wike noted that for many people across the country, Nigeria’s multifaceted problems are rooted in the country’s current structure, which is unfortunately flawed, manifestly fraudulent and has become a drag on national cohesion and progress.

According to him, there is nothing in the existing Nigerian federal structure that acceptably advances the fundamental principles of nation building.

“Here in the South-South region, there is a high sense of grievance and resentment against the existing structure because we do not like the way the region has been denied reasonable access to our resources with which to advance our development at our own pace. Although no political structure is flawless, ours is not about a political structure that can be fixed from within through the patchwork of intermittent adjustment here and there as some people will want us to believe.”

The conveners of the submit included former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Obong Victor Attah, Prof. Kimse Okoko, former Cross River State Governor, Donald Duke, Chief Idu Amaidhe, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN), and Onueze Okocha (SAN).

Okoko, a former President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), noted that restructuring the Nigerian political system is the most peaceful means instead of revolution for preventing the country from collapse.

He argued that the current proposed amendments of the 1999 constitution by the National Assembly cannot legitimise the fraud that is inherent in this constitution.

“It is in this looming perilous slide to avoidable self-destruction that we must situate the clamour for restructuring as a compelling imperative,” he said.

First Military Governor of old Rivers State, His Royal Majesty, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, observed that the country’s political crisis started when the military modified the 1960 constitution in 1979 before handing over power to former President Shehu Shagari.

He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to heed the calls for restructuring by different ethnic nationalities, as according to him: “If there is anything to go by, knowing that the president advocates change, I am all ears to hear how the people will convince the powers that be on restructuring. Change begins with restructuring.”

Dr. Junaid Muhammed, who was the defunct Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) Minority Leader of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic maintained that the el-Rufai’s committee report is an exercise in futility.

He argued that his position was based on the antecedents of the party as well as Buhari’s widely publicised position on restructuring and the need to entrench true federalism in the country.

Muhammed who represented Kano State in the 2014 Constitutional Reform Conference believes that the APC would not make any political gains from its latest position on restructuring.

“The APC as a party, judging from its constitution, its manifesto on the basis of which it won the last election never admitted, and never accepted anything you can now refer to as restructuring and even when it was invited along with the PDP to send in two representatives each to the last 2014 Constitutional Conference, the party not only refused to send delegates, it also issued a statement to say that they do not believe in the entire exercise and so they would not send anybody.

“The chairman of the so-called committee, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai went on television and said that it was their stand and that they do not believe in it. And that was how they went into the election and won and of course they are not duty-bound to now come and revisit it.

“Now to indicate the cheeky political opportunism of the party, they made a U-turn without even the common sense and the decency to even apologise for taking the country for a ride, and they now say they believe in restructuring. They put up a panel, put themselves together, governors, a few ministers including people, who are not members of the party, including people who were serving ministers in the Jonathan administration and went for the exercise.

“But if you meet them in a small corner, they would tell you they still don’t believe in it. It is a cynical political act purely for the purpose of the 2019 election. In addition, this same issue that was discussed at the level of the party was not the same as was discussed at the level of the presidency.

“From the body language of the president, they believe he does not believe in the exercise. So, since he is the leader of the government and the de-facto leader of the party, I want to know who would implement whichever recommendation they have in mind. And how can you do it by bypassing the head of government and of course the leader of the party?

“The party is taking the country and even their own followers for a ride. And this is a very dangerous development. This is a party that believes that everything else including lives and death can be dealt with as a matter of political expediency, and that I regard as highly cynical and unfortunate, they are not going to do anything, they are going to put the report somewhere to gather dust, and behind Nigerians, they would start laughing. But someday it might come back to haunt them. And of course Buhari is a political illiterate,” he said.

Muhammed continued: “According to INEC, we have the election scheduled for February. So, we have 12 months to the election, I don’t know what magic they can do to launder themselves and win election on the basis of this issue, and since they have woefully failed in terms of the economy, failed in terms of security and the Boko Haram challenge, I don’t know how they can use it to sell themselves to the electorate.

“It is impossible to deliberate on any of the bills relating to restructuring of the country at the National Assembly before the elections. I know for now that the National Assembly has tones of bills, which have not been attended to and there are several others awaiting the signature of the president. Anyway, you can start a process and not see the end of it. I don’t believe they can see the end of the process. I know it is going to fail.”

The ADC chief Nwosu is strongly of the opinion that the “APC is not ready to devolve powers, implement state police or embrace restructuring.”

He said if in three years it failed to achieve any of its promises “what’s the guarantee it will achieve anything again?”

Nwosu, who said the country has had enough of the ruling party in three years, added that there was an underground plot by the party’s leadership to frustrate the ongoing coalition force among the political parties, civil society organisations and other credible bodies across the country that have vowed to push it out of power in 2019, and the el-Rufai committee’s recommendations were part of the agenda. “Nigeria are now wiser,” he said.

UPP’s helmsman, Chief Okorie, told The Guardian on phone that he received the recommendations with a feeling of vindication, “because when we began the campaign for self-determination and referendum, some people laughed at us, saying that what we were saying amounted to subversion or even supporting separatism, or secession.”

The UPP chairman said he was pessimistic about the credibility of the recommendations, especially regarding state police, devolution of powers, resource control among others, stressing, “These were issues the North rejected during the 2014 National Conference.”

He added that given Buhari’s stand, the NEC would not allow the recommendations “because NEC is where Buhari wields his power as the leader of the party.”

He added: “Now that most Nigerians know that this is the only way to go, what I think the el-Rufa’i committee did is a very clever way of trying to say they have now seen the light and are now prepared to be born-again politically for Nigeria to move forward.

“But, their approach is far from being credible. It is mere grandstanding, because having submitted such a report, which is intended to hoodwink Nigerians they still have to go through the same process at the highest executive body of the party, which is the NEC approving the recommendation and it does not end there.

Okorie maintained that it is only after the APC has gone the entire length, particularly amending its constitution and manifesto to incorporate the recommendations that “we will now know that it is a party governed beyond the personal views of President Buhari.”

“But so far, the APC you see is no more than the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) that Buhari owns. What happened was the gathering of strange bedfellows that came together to remove PDP and thereafter CPC took control. Any person who is not of CPC is a stranger. That is what Oyegun realised even to the discomfiture of Tinubu who supported his election.”

The Chairman, Strategy Unit, The 3rd Force/Nigeria Intervention Movement (MIM), Mr. Tony Uranta, said Nigerians have come to understand that President Buhari and his team have fallen far short of his promises and expectations.

According to him, “I try to be pragmatic in all I do; and going by history, the APC and this present Federal Government have succeeded only in calculatedly deploying lies, propaganda and deceit to manipulate us so much, that I trust them even less than I would have trusted Hitler’s Nazi or Stalin’s Bolshevik monsters!

“President Buhari, just on January 1st (barely two weeks ago!) bluntly pooh-poohed any possibility of this administration even considering restructuring; so why do you expect Nigerians to suddenly believe that both APC and Buhari are suddenly born-again and sincere about socio-economic restructuring that will, for example, inevitably end both the obscene notion that any free peoples of Nigeria will give land for cow colonies, especially in the reality of the crimes against humanity and genocidal actions of the Fulani herdsmen (possibly non-Nigerians) who continue pillaging and murdering in the name of insisting on maintaining their centuries-old perpetuity of grazing their cows, with impunity, wither they will, in this modern age of very profitable private ranching?”

He said the APC and this administration are merely desperately clutching at straws to continue bamboozling the Nigerian electorate; aware that the majority of the voters have elected to join the ‘3rd Force’ and kick Buhari and company out of office…even before 2019 if possible.”

The Spokesman, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said though they accepted most of their cut-and-paste recommendations from the 2014 conference report, they “ must say that no lover of Nigeria ought to have taken a country in crisis through this circus show when that report was passed on to the administration the same way like 2015 budget which it implemented.

“This is why the latest volte face may largely be seen as mere politicking to hoodwink the unwary as the regime is becoming increasingly unpopular.”

He, however, said the only way to show the party is serious is for a bill to be forwarded immediately to NASS on the report for a quick action.

A former federal lawmaker from Rivers State, Mr. Bernard Mikko said the el-Rufai committee report is an integral part of the APC manifesto intended to persuade and win voters.

According to him, “As the then major opposition party, their campaign was anchored on a mantra of change from the status quo that the incumbent PDP national government maintained. My doubt is whether the promised change is the same as restructuring. However, if change is measured by time, the APC is on course as politics is a mirror of the society. Remember the PDP-led Federal government opposed state police, resource control and the nebulous devolution of power, which in political essence is synonymous with unitary government.

“Popularity, like change is measured by time which can be exploited by political pundits and social commentators to the contrary. The ultimate political target is to achieve greater service to the people in line with the electoral promises.”