Is Buhari dissimulating?
Not unlike many other observers of contemporary events in Nigeria, I had presumed that the conversation on whether or not Nigeria’s architecture needs restructuring has been laid to rest when President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) committee on the sensitive matter returned a verdict in support of restructuring, until recently when Aso Rock hosted a group of Delta State traditional rulers.
Buhari was reported to have told his royal guests that those calling for restructuring of the country are parochial(!) While still trying to figure out what that unexpected pronouncement might come to mean, let us recall that even though Candidate Buhari had in 2015 made a great play of the fact that APC’s Manifesto accords priority to restructuring, President Buhari, with equal measure, pretended to be ignorant of the contents of selfsame Manifesto on which he had ran for office. Buhari’s benumbing pretence only succeeded in heightening the nationwide call for restructuring.
Pressed to pay appropriate attention to the inevitable matter, and perhaps acting with an eye on 2019, Buhari hurriedly set up the APC committee which pronounced in favour of restructuring.
It would also be recalled that in receiving the committee’s report, Buhari assured Nigerians that the report will be diligently implemented.
What then informed the implied change of heart in Buhari’s recent surprise statement on the issue?
Has Buhari been dissimulating on the matter the while? Is consummate dissimulation an essential trait in the Daura born general? We shall return to these questions presently.
Now, in adjudging the calls for restructuring parochial, Buhari was also reported to have invoked the time-worn excuse that those calls are not focused – restructuring means different things to different people, etc. That excuse is nothing short of being economic with the facts.
No national conversation in decades has been more focused than the calls for political restructuring of Nigeria. And no national conversation has been more substantiated by history.
That need to restructure Nigeria became evident no sooner than the conclusion of the 1967-70 Civil War.
The creation of 12 states from the post-independence four regions (Eastern; Midwestern; Northern; and Western) at the start of war in 1967, was targeted at strategically breaking the backbone of the Eastern region which had just seceded from Nigeria.
Though the jury is still out on how the decision contributed to the Civil War efforts, but it smacks of inverted logic to observe that the solution to a country’s unity would be sought by breaking it up.
What is more troubling was that successive Federal Governments since 1970 to the late 1990s seemed to have looked to states creation as a ready political masterstroke.
As a consequence Nigeria grew from 12 states to 36 states in less than 30 years.
The petro-dollars that accrued to the national coffers in those years completely blinded the respective leaderships of the country to the critical need to make economic viability a basis for states creation.
Funding of state governments thus became the sole responsibility of the federal government – a novel concept in Nigeria’s financial management since 1967.
But the equally blinding gales of petroleum oil gluts at the turn of the century ruthlessly exposed the rump of the mother hen. Today, 20-odd of the 36 states have been officially declared non-economically viable. As they say, the rest is now history.
It is also now history that the calls for politico-economic restructuring of Nigeria is unwavering focused on both economic viability and financial autonomy.
Furthermore, it was observed that the resultant dependence-orientation in the states and the appropriation of mineral rights by the federal government have negatively impacted the entrepreneurial inclination of the states.
This is reflected in Nigeria’s virtually stagnant Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of approximately $400.00 for decades – a mere fraction of those of many less-endowed countries than Nigeria.
This unacceptably low figure indicates that the bulk of the citizenry does not actively participate in adding value to the economy.
All of these constitute the essential argument for restructuring.
Restructuring strictly defined, is a call for the reversal of the experimental decision to break up the four regions into smaller states in mid-1967. That experiment was decidedly not properly thought through; this was to be expected in a war-induced emergency.
But the Civil War lapsed over half a century ago; it’s time for reason to hold sway.
The call for restructuring eminently qualifies to be classified as a voice of reason.
Virtually every leading Nigerian patriot has lent their weight on the side of restructuring the country – the 2014 National Conference provides the proof. So why is Buhari apparently feet-dragging of the matter, even in the light of compelling reason?
Could that well-known spirit of dissimulation that has wreaked havoc on Project Nigeria since the First republic, presently playing a wicked trick on Buhari’s mind in the Fourth republic?
Recall that the first indigenous federal government was formed by a coalition of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, (NCNC) and the Northern Peoples Congress, (NPC), with the understanding that the NCNC would produce the prime minister; but NPC’s dissimulation introduced a crack in the coalition that prematurely terminated that republic.
Following the partially successful January 1966 coup d’etat, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi in Lagos, and Chukwuma Nzeokwu in Kaduna had reached an understanding, with Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo among others present at the Lagos end, on how to move the country forward.
But Aguiyi-Ironsi’s apparent dissimulation got the better of that agreement.
Nzeokwu went from wielding the command of one half of the country to being Aguiyi-Ironsi’s prisoner within minutes of arriving in Lagos.
(Yet some persons insist on propagating the fallacy of an Igbo January 1966 coup d’etat) Aguiyi-Ironsi was overthrown six months after.
In 1975 Gowon dissimulated on his pledge to handover power to civil authorities. He was forced from office few weeks after.
Ushering in the Second republic in 1979 Obasanjo would cover his own dissimulation with the sophistry of arithmetic (two-thirds of 19).
The Second republic barely lasted one term. Ibrahim Babangida didn’t spare a thought for sophistication in his own dissimulation in bringing forth the Third republic.
He shamelessly annulled the June 12th 1993 “free and fair” election even with the international community looking on. Sani Abacha was to borrow a leaf from his mentor; he dissimulated on his late-1993 promise to MKO Abiola’s fellow Social Democratic Party (SDP) stalwarts – he never handed over power to SDP.
The infamous Third-term bid was another version of Obasanjo’s sophisticated dissimulation. Unusual presidential humility compelled the former shoe-less Otuoke boy to break that cycle of dissimulation in 2015.
Is Jonathan’s successor now making to resume that cycle of destabilizing dissimulation in 2018? Incidentally, Buhari’s latest vacillation on the topical matter of restructuring lends a measure of credence to my recent suggestion (The Guardian, June 13, 2018) that the taciturn general could end up in history as a curious quantity.
This brings us back to the earlier set of three questions; but before we attempt to proffer answers to them I should suggest we ponder the reported words of a man who ought to have an inkling of the right answers, the veteran journalist-turned-politician, Segun Osoba: “Nigeria was built on deception and corruption; restructuring is the only way to make progress…”
Hopefully, Buhari would eventually command the presence of mind to heed the voice of reason on Nigeria’s political restructuring.
Nkemdiche is an engineering consultant, wrote from Abuja.
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