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2023: Restructuring and the APC manifesto – Part 2

By Editorial Board
18 January 2023   |   4:10 am
But concerned Nigerians would not let it be forgotten that they gave APC the job and an opportunity to govern on the strength of its promises that include to ‘‘entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.’’ Sustained agitation forced the party to set up, in August 2017, a 23-person Committee on Federalism headed by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State.

APC chairman, Adamu

But concerned Nigerians would not let it be forgotten that they gave APC the job and an opportunity to govern on the strength of its promises that include to ‘‘entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.’’ Sustained agitation forced the party to set up, in August 2017, a 23-person Committee on Federalism headed by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State. The step was hailed by some as good for Nigeria; some doubted its sincerity and termed it a diversion and mere political gimmick. Hopes were raised that the APC would redeem its honour. Party chairman at the time, John Oyegun said while receiving the four-volume report on January 25, 2018 that ‘I am going to promise that before the middle of February 2018, it will be considered and decided upon by the major structures of this party…and whatever is thereafter agreed will be presented to the authorities as the considered views and decisions of the APC for appropriate implementation.’’ Even a leading member of APC, Chief Olusegun Osoba was reported to say after a meeting with Buhari on July 11, 2019 that ‘‘the President endorses[s] the outcome.’’ But Buhari had made his mind known the previous year. In this connection, Mr. Lade Bonuola had to admonish in a May 2, 2019 article that ‘‘until Buhari dismounts from his high horse, throws away the toga of obstinacy and reflects deeply on the ideas of his compatriots outside his immediate circle of advisers, there is not likely going to be any light at the end of the dark tunnel. He must be persuaded of the urgent imperative of the state police and the country must be restructured.’’

The Nasir el-Rufai Committee made recommendations that more or less aligned with the two promises of the APC manifesto quoted above. It reportedly considered 24 issues of national concern and made recommendations on 12 of them. On merging of states, it was recommended that the party should ‘‘propose a bill that allows states to merge …; on derivation principle, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act be amended to give the commission the power and responsibility to periodically review the derivation formula; on devolution of power, the committee ‘proposed that the Second Schedule of Part One and Part Two of the Constitution be amended to transfer some items that are now on the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List…’; on Fiscal Federalism, the committee noted that a majority of Nigerians want an increase of revenue to states. It therefore proposed that Section 162 sub-section two of the Constitution, as well as the ‘‘revenue allocation of the revenue Federation Account Act’’ [sic] be amended ‘‘to give more revenues to the states and reduce the Federal Government’s share of revenue.’’ On State Police, El-Rufai and his team recommended that ‘‘Police should be both federal and state.’’

The ‘aim and object’ of a political party, says Section 224 of the 1999 Constitution, ‘shall conform with the provisions of Chapter II… that spell out the ‘Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.’ But equally important is what may be termed the great purpose of government through which a political party implements its manifesto. Section 14(2) (b) states that ‘‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government…’’ Whatever a government does within the bounds of law to advance this purpose and meet the yearnings of ‘the people’ cannot but be proper. This is to say, without any equivocation, that the loud and wide demand to restructure Nigeria qualifies, above all else, as ‘the primary purpose of government’. Indeed, this newspaper has once suggested that most of the challenges that confront this country, including the desire by some groups for separation, are mere manifestations of an insufferably inequitable, altogether dysfunctional, state structure pretending as federalism. This is not at all federalism as known, understood and practised by the rest of civilised world.

When in January 2018 el-Rufai submitted the report to the party chairman, the Action Democratic Party (ADP) warned that ‘‘Nigerians should not believe them because the APC does not believe in state merger, resource control, or state police.’’ It may be proved right after all. With only a few months to the end of the APC government, there can be no doubt its failure to, as a matter of corporate honour, fulfill even those few promises on federalism. This is a pity.

Nigeria is, in name and in law, a federal republic. The Guardian holds not an iota of doubt however that to restructure Nigeria into a truly federal form for purposefulness, productivity, and respectability is a task that, in due season, must be done. And there are two major justifications for this: One is that before independence and up to 1966 when the military struck, Nigeria, as a more federally structured country, worked and made immense progress in the development index. A gradual stop to that was occasioned following a 13-year military rule that culminated into a haphazard Second Republic that was truncated after only a term of four years. Two, no one can sincerely dispute that since 1984 till today, Nigeria has been sliding rapidly downward in most ramifications of development; the country is not working and is on the threshold of a failing state, if not a failed state. If Nigeria can be rescued and many Nigerians believe it can, the first pragmatic thing to do is to alter its structure that has failed to produce a result desired by majority of Nigerians. Fortunately, there is a surfeit of high-powered studies and conferences with impeccable recommendations, including the Nasir el-Rufai Committee’s report that can be tapped, with little cost, to give the country the hope of a rejuvenated life. As Victor Hugo said, ‘‘nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.’’ And no power on earth can stop it.