2023: Restructuring and the APC manifesto
In this season of election, electioneering, political campaign and manifesto promotion, it is only appropriate to ask pertinent (and even urgent questions) of first, political parties and second, of seekers of public offices. As one ancient adage goes, if you ask the right question, you will get the right answer. And considering that aspirants into public office through election can, as a matter of constitutional demand, only achieve their goal on the platform of recognised political parties, parties are the ones that compile a manifesto, a document of ‘promises to do’ derived from, it is reasonable to presume, rigorous needs-assessment of the electorate.
The Guardian believes that, over and above the myriad national issues flying round, the most fundamental, the most relevant, the most pressing is the question of restructuring, the reorganisation – be it holistically, or incrementally- of the corporate entity called Nigeria in order to make it more meaningful and useful to its citizens and to be more deservedly relevant in the community of nations. This is the reason that this paper devoted 61 weekly editorials to robustly define, interrogate, examine, analyse and explain Federalism, as well as make suggestions on the justified necessity for the restructuring of Nigeria for genuine federalism.
That ‘true federalism’ in popular parlance, is central to the Nigerian question and even its continued existence as a country, is now beyond doubt. It is therefore, the question that we invite every political party that seeks to take control of the different levels of governments to deeply consider and courageously explain its stand to a citizenry largely dissatisfied with the status quo.
First, what in specific terms does each party understand by ‘restructuring’ and second, how does it intend to address it. The political party currently in power, the All Progressives Party (APC) made its stand known long ago in its manifesto published for the 2015 campaign to unseat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Indeed, it can be argued that the APC, reading the mood of the generality of Nigerians at that time, strategically elevated an aspect of Federalism (albeit by incremental restructuring) to the No.1 article in its manifesto, a document of promises, to the electorate. The party campaigned on a commitment freely offered, to ‘‘Initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the federal spirit.’’
The APC went further to promise a number of other key changes to the way Nigeria operated in order to improve a sense of belonging, ownership, and justice among its diverse constituents. It would ‘‘begin widespread consultations to amend the Constitution to enable states and local governments to employ State and Community Police to address the peculiar needs of each community. This would mean setting boundaries for Federal, State and Community Police through new Criminal Justice legislation to replace the Criminal Code, the Penal Code and the Police Act.’’ At another level but nevertheless necessary for transparency and good governance was the promise to ‘‘ensure full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act so that government held data sets can be requested and used by the media and the public at large and then published on regular basis.’’ So, what happened to the APC promises on federalism?
The direct question for the President Muhammadu Buhari government of the APC is why, eight years after, it has not fulfilled its promises to deepen federalism in Nigeria. For, we dare to argue that these key commitments sufficiently endeared the party to the electorate that replaced the PDP with the APC.
A manifesto, according to The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language is ‘‘a public, official, and authoritative declaration making announcement or explanation of intentions, motives, or principles of actions.’’ Intrinsic to this definition are connotations such as open and written declaration of promise(s) willingly stated without duress, and a commitment anchored on collective, corporate honour to fulfill what is promised. As they say, a promise is a debt. To not fulfill it is to remain indebted to the addressee, the expectant benefactor. While a promise unfulfilled merely disappoints the addressee on the one hand, it is, on the other hand, a moral albatross on the neck of the one who freely committed but failed to do whatsoever. It is a burden that, as many would argue, weighs more heavily than a legal breach. For, as someone has said, a matter of moral obligation affects us more personally than a matter of legal obligation.
Alas, several years into an APC government headed by Buhari, none of these key concerns of the populace was addressed. Buhari even claimed to not understand what ‘restructurists’ were talking about. As far as he was concerned, ‘when all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure’ he said in his January 1, 2018 broadcast. Buhari thereby preempted, unhelpfully, whatever would be a collective decision of his party on a burning issue that, as all reasonable persons know, could be wished away.
To be continued tomorrow.