Editorial: Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 31
The ovation and ripples trailing the meeting and declaration of southern governors in Asaba have continued to dominate public affairs in the country. Recall that the governors of the 17 southern states had a meeting early this month to take a common position on certain policy issues, which included the banning of open grazing in southern Nigeria and a call on the presidency to convoke a national dialogue over a badly divided country. The responses from the Abuja players have come in the form of crude bigotry and base parochialism that testify to the backwardness of the Nigerian state.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami who ought to know the law went to town with the most asinine response by comparing the ban on open grazing with imaginary restrictions on the auto-parts traders in the north of the country. In ways unedifying, President Muhammadu Buhari also joined the opponents of the Asaba Declaration of Southern governors. Nigeria’s leader said, “It is very clear that there was no solution offered from their resolutions to the herder-farmer clashes that have been continuing in our country for generations.”
These responses have not passed without a vehement response from the southern governors. Akeredolu, who is the Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum made it known that they are resolute on the decisions taken. According to his statement, ‘‘Our decision is irreversible and will be enforced…It is most unfortunate that the AGF is unable to distill issues as expected of a Senior Advocate. Nothing can be more disconcerting. This outburst should, ordinarily, not elicit (a) response from reasonable people who know the distinction between a legitimate business that is not in any way injurious and a certain predilection for anarchy.” He, however, advised Malami to approach the court for remedy and that they would take up the gauntlet to meet him in court.
Nevertheless, the presidency is adding another twist to the matter by the so-called rehabilitation of grazing reserves across the country as from June, ostensibly to curb the bloody clashes between herders and farmers across the country. For those familiar with the irredentism of the president and the land grab propensity of the Fulani herdsmen, this announced action is perhaps a resuscitation of the Ruga project, and is bound to fail. The Chairman, Southern Governors’ forum has already replied to the presidency. In a statement, he advised Mr. Garba to disclose, this day, the real motive(s) of those he serves, definitely not the President and wonder when “the recommendations of the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, a mere political appointee like Garba Shehu, are now the ‘‘lasting solutions,’’ which eluded all the elected representatives of the people of the Southern part of the country, exposes this man as a pitiable messenger who does not seem to understand the limits of his relevance and charge.” Akeredolu went further to note that: “the decision of certain elements to take the ancestral lands of other people to settle their kinsmen, including the ‘gun-wielding’ ‘killer herdsmen’ and their families, and provide ‘veterinary clinics, water points for animals and facilities for herders and their families including schooling through these rehabilitated reserves’ for which ‘the Federal Government is making far-reaching and practical changes allowing for different communities to co-exist side-by-side,’ does not appear to him as a comprehensive plan for land grabbing, a precursor to internal colonialism.”
It is well that the southern governors have woken up from their slumber to tackle the recidivist power elite who takes the rest of the country as its colony. Elsewhere these categories of individuals will never smell the seat of power. But the Nigerian tragedy is that it is this set of persons that is steering the ship of state; little wonder why we are where we are. What is wrong when elected governors call for dialogue to discuss solutions to the endemic insecurity in the country fuelled by the parochialism and insincerity of the incumbent administration in the country? Let it be known that the mindset and attitude of the Abuja players will not conduce to the goal of peace in this country. If anything, it will incline the country towards implosion. The signs are everywhere for the discerning to see.
Without ambiguity, Nigeria is a plural multinational state, and cannot be run as a centralised entity. In other words, the sensibility of the populations in their territorial segregation must be respected by whoever wishes to govern the country well. Schemes of domination are bound to come to naught. At the worst, it will lead to war. There is ample wisdom in dialoguing to rebuild the country. We do not need to re-invent the wheel, as the federal principle of state organisation is a well-known path trodden by countries with diversities. It is a convenient tool for governability. The restructuring debate is about change, purging the extant arrangement in the country to feed it with sinews of federalism. Time is of the essence. And so on the expediency of implementing the governing party’s policy on restructuring, which this newspaper has been harping on for the Part 31 weeks, the presidency should not behave like those who would like to make peaceful change impossible and thus trigger more costly and unpleasant one.
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