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As Buhari loses steam to chase history

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Buhari and Osoba

On July 10, 2019, a veteran journalist and former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, not noted for frivolities disclosed to the nation that Nigeria’s leader generally believed to be foot-dragging on restructuring had at last, endorsed the 2018 report on restructuring Nigeria, presented to him by the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led All Progressives Congress (APC) committee. Aremo Osoba, a chieftain of the ruling APC, who disclosed the development to State House correspondents after meeting with the President behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, on that Wednesday, July 10, enthused that he is an ally of the President. The journalist-turned politician appealed to Nigerians, especially statesmen and other activists agitating for restructuring of the country, to be patient with the President and the APC, saying that steps would be taken to get the National Assembly to start work on legalising the relevant aspects of the report. Osoba, one time Managing Director of Daily Times said he was at the State House to present his book – ‘Battle lines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics’ – to Buhari, who featured in it prominently.

He said that the ruling APC even had restructuring as devolution of powers from the Federal Government to states, enshrined in its manifesto. According to him: “I am part of the presidency because the President is our President. I can tell you, all this noise about restructuring, we APC put devolution of power, true federalism in our manifesto and we have moved far from there to where a committee was set up, headed by the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai. “That committee has submitted its report: that report has been presented to us in the caucus and the President was there. The president endorsed the outcome. I want Nigerians to please, give us time. I hope and pray that at the right time, the government or the party would send that report to National Assembly for debate….”

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Although there is still no art to find the mind’s construction in the face, there is a sense in which it can be said that Aremo Osoba, would not have been a happy man last Thursday, April 8 when the publisher of The Guardian, Lady Maiden Alex-Ibru told the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo who graced the pubic presentation of a book on her newspaper to note that the governing party had not fulfilled the promise Aremo Osoba, claimed the President was willing to fulfil – since 2019. The reason for this is that, the publisher of The Guardian who was so grateful to the Vice President for honouring the invite to the book presentation in honour of the memory of her husband, Mr. Alex Uruemu Ibru told Professor Osinbajo:

‘…The Vice President is here with us. We are very grateful for your presence despite the fact you are busy at this time that the President is not in the country. I would like to reiterate a few points we have repeatedly made in some of our editorials. First, we would like the President and his men and women to note that restructuring of the federation in the context of federalism is an idea whose time has come and no politics can repel that idea. That is why we have been committed to a weekly commentary on the front page of The Guardian on the issue. We do this every Thursday. As you may have seen, today is the 24th edition of our ‘Federalism is the answer, after all’ serial. We would like our President to note that a return to true federalism will solve most of our security and economic challenges. It is not new. The issue of restructuring is one of the promises that the administration of President Buhari hasn’t kept. It is part of the APC manifesto and there is a report of the el-Rufai committee that the party received since 2018. There have been many more reports on this including a 2014 report on restructuring from the political conference the Jonathan administration handed over to President Buhari. We are also aware of other challenges including rampaging corruption at all levels. We know about the debt burden and ticklish but controversial fuel subsidy that have always made nonsense of our budget expectations. There are many more including health-care infrastructure challenges but the most urgent issue our leader should address at this time is ‘Nation Building…’

That is why our big daddy, Aremo Osoba should take the bold message of the publisher of the newspaper he helped in founding to our leader and leader of Osoba’s party, president Buhari who promised us through him since 2019 that he would be committed to federalism through restructuring.

Sadly, barely two years after our Osoba the Great had raised our optimism on the point at issue, federalism, the body language of the president has not indicated any enthusiasm that he is ready to make history, in this regard. This is yet another dilemma in the black race’s most populous nation. That is one other reason we need to remind the president what the oracle here noted in 2017 that he (PMB) might not go far in fighting corruption and insecurity, after all. Our president should therefore conquer himself, renew his mind about restructuring of the federation, meet with the national assembly leaders now and lobby them to fast track an executive bill on federalism. That is the only ‘weapon of mass disruption’ of the lie that we call our constitution. As it has been repeated here several times, that is the only way President Buhari can make history, after all. And failing to do that sooner than later will confine him to the dark corners of history of those who indeed under-developed Nigeria.

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Ronald Reagan who has been quoted here twice once mused: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

In the light of the above powerful words of one of America’s greatest leaders, Ronald Reagan, I would like to join good people who have been encouraging  our leader and a General, Buhari to make history by getting good people around him to do one of the greatest things – to make history: That is to set up a genuine presidential committee on restructuring of the federation that is moribund on his watch. Behold, the first thing is how to renew his mind, rally his governing party and citizens (behind him) to restructure Nigeria without dividing it.

This is possible only with a sincerity of purpose as the driving force. This is what drives me to think that at the moment, our president needs encouragement more than condemnation from any quarters: He is surrounded at the State House by only his kinsmen most of whom would not like to tell him what he could do to leave Nigeria better than he met it.

Specifically, in the beginning, as I was saying here, those who helped him to make his cabinet did not assist him in making a great cabinet. It is quite obvious that those who helped him shape the presidential bureaucracy and the cabinet in 2015 failed to realise that no leader can do well in office with a mediocre presidential bureaucracy and cabinet. This is without prejudice to the few good ones who have been unequally yoked with mediocrities (not mediocres, please) that abound in the place. We are just discussing simple points in nation building within the context of the new world that social and digital technologies daily disrupt and shape. Yes, only leaders who surround themselves with very smart managers can make history in the new world of business and politics.

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It is obvious that our president has compressed his own agenda to fighting corruption and insecurity. But there are no indications yet that the taciturn leader who is in London at the moment for some medical examination rest can make history with fighting corruption and insecurity, even in the North East and North West zones where the evil ones are resident. His reputation managers may not agree but that truth can’t be hidden in a grave anymore.

What is worse, the military establishment that we used to be proud of appears to have lost its mojo. Even the presidency doesn’t believe in operational efficiency of the police force anymore. We see the spirit of errors everywhere, especially in the northeast where the Air Force once erroneously bombed an IDP camp. How reliable is an Army that would declare an open association a terrorist organisation and proscribe it in a democracy?

Let’s look at the machinery for fighting corruption. There are three agencies comprising the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). The arrowhead here has always been the EFCC. But the President’s men sabotaged confirmation of the former EFCC acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, nominated since November 2015. The Senate could not confirm Magu for almost six years. He was disgraced out of office barely two months ago on corruption charges.  How else does one understand the politics in the presidency where the secret service director-general twice wrote to the Senate that Magu should not be confirmed? How can the president make history through his war against corruption when Magu too was saying openly that he too was losing the war? Even the ICPC leadership is somewhat in a hibernation mode: The ICPC has released so many comprehensive reports of massive corruption in the federal bureaucracy but there has been no arrest of even one suspect in any of the several organisations implicated in such reports. Where do we go from here? How would history judge the Buhari administration on war against corruption and insecurity? How can the president make history with this kind of executive inertia and ad-hocism? Can there be history making in fighting official graft without reforming the oil and gas industry, the focal point of corruption?

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That is why I feel we should begin to encourage the President to pay due attention to the Committee his party, the APC has set up to prepare a blueprint on the hurricane called restructuring. There is some sense in that critical national assignment at this time. That is the only legacy he can leave: restructuring of the federation to reflect the pre-1966 mode, which developed the country.  Our leader should not pay attention to the analysts in his domain who have been linking genuine restructuring to dismantling of the federation. Federalism, the centre-point of restructuring can be organised to strengthen the same federation. It is running away from it that can dismantle the beautiful federation, after all. I believe, in the main, that the President can make history if he can restructure Nigeria to run as a federation where the present states can leverage on the endowments in their areas to create wealth. I invite our leader to listen to iconic Dolly Parton who once noted that, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader.” Mr. President, be of good courage! You are on the verge of becoming a significant history maker through commitment to regaining our paradise lost – federalism.

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