Saturday, 2nd December 2023

Setting the agenda for electioneering

By Alade Rotimi-John
05 May 2022   |   3:56 am
Even as the agenda for the impending 2023 elections appear tailor-made, circumstantially determined or pre-ordained, the required nimbleness of mind or the insightful peroration for sincerely declaiming the nation’s sorry plight has been curiously absent in the discourse...


Even as the agenda for the impending 2023 elections appear tailor-made, circumstantially determined or pre-ordained, the required nimbleness of mind or the insightful peroration for sincerely declaiming the nation’s sorry plight has been curiously absent in the discourse of the pretenders to the crown of Pontifex regarding the 2023 elections. But the chances of the candidates for Nigeria’s most coveted political prize are inextricably bound up in the Nigerian question. An unsatisfactory measure or none at all, would damn the chances not only of the candidates but the future of the country.

Only a self-intoxicated egoist would think of the presidency without trembling at the burdens and responsibilities attaching to it. From observable facts, some of the prominent aspirants yet are prepared to surrender themselves to be used as a stalking horse or a cudgel for knocking out other people’s chances. Their respective ambitions are egged on by an indulgent pre-arranged cheering crowd saying, for instance, that it would be wrong for their aspirants to step aside.

Their nominations have to ignore or be blind to the reasoned formulation inherent in the zoning or rotational template that has hitherto ensured certainty and stability. These desperadoes fail to understand that to be an actual heir of this administration would be to suffer a heavy handicap.

Going by the pervasive paralysis of governance in Nigeria particularly under this government, it is proper to scientifically locate the true reason for the emergence of the state of anomie and explore the panacea for its immediate termination. The candidates that are fitting or appropriate in our circumstance would be those who contend for justice for all Nigerians, for right and reason; they will be those whose personal qualities have won the friendship, confidence and admiration of the people they touched; they must be those who have a groundling with the people’s plight. The issues that confront the Nigerian state require a proper understanding of and empathy with their thrusts.

An intellectual identification of the thought, feelings or state of being of the ordinary Nigerian is just one arm of the equation. The other is the ability to render oneself to be part even of the resolution of their unspoken manifestations. Without equivocation, the Nigerian question revolves around the questionable nature of our un-classical federalism or the queer practice of a quaint version thereof.

Deriving therefrom are issues of derivation, fiscal federalism, resource control, state police, minerals, mining, corporate affairs regulation, etc. These are the real issues that ought to be the compass around which all debates, all contributions, etc. should revolve.

Straightforwardly, all candidates in this election must offer their considered dis-approval or their views on the propriety to continue with our curious understanding or inappropriate application of the principles of federalism. The infusion or drafting of suggested new and interesting personalities to participate in our public life, of persons of marked ability and a well-trained mind is hardly doubted as necessary. The resolve to frontally confront the Nigerian question with a view to providing solution to its convoluted manifestations to the benefit of the people must be shared by all patriots and so the need to scout for suitable materials far and wide.

But there have been some ominous rumblings in certain quarters opposing the requirement to play according to the acknowledged rules of federalism. They have deplored the single-minded commitment of certain people in the sustained advocacy for the practice of true federalism. It must be conceded that much of the opposition to the practice of true federalism is from quarters that feel threatened or fear that their present inequitable advantage will be taken away from them at the emergence of a just, objective and responsible application of the avowed principles of federalism. The foremost item regarding the agenda for the forthcoming elections should be the sincere advocacy and adoption of the practice of true federalism which itself is an integral part of a vaunted package of socio-political reforms otherwise referred to as restructuring.

A reasoned recourse to the practice of true federalism is sure to have an immediate or instantaneous effect on a sorely distraught and utterly worried populace; even as a consequential palpable relief is evident all over the polity as a matter of course. This magic moment is in the horizon if only requisite recognition can be accorded the practice of a universally-acknowledged model.

It will set off a rave of infective development all over the country. The current burgeoning wave of tributes and adulation regarding the preparation for the 2023 elections is deceptive of the danger that awaits an un-restructured Nigeria along the lines of the dictates of the principles of true federalism. It is merely positioned to lull the good people of Nigeria to sleep: so they may believe all is well. The first real surge of hope will come when Nigeria truthfully bears the name which she has pretended to be.

There is requirement for an immediate end to the country’s unitary constitutional order which has been forcibly maintained by a section of the country in flagrant negation of the federal basis upon which Nigeria became a political union at independence in 1960. Under the present perverse practice, the Nigerian state has fraudulently appropriated the respective sovereignties of her composing entities.

Even as the diversities of the various peoples of Nigeria dictated the adoption of a federal constitutional model at independence, the federating units as Regions (namely, Eastern, Western and Northern Regions) wisely adopted federalism as the basis of entering into the political union. The union has however been fractured as the military incursion into politics truncated the federal arrangement and imposed on the polity, a unitary structure akin to the military command system. As the 1999 constitution is a wholesale adoption of its 1979 edition and as the powers of the federating units have been weakened or deprived of virility by a 68-item Federal Exclusive List that robs the federating units of all key economic assets and governmental powers; and also to the extent of the document’s derogation from the basic tenets of federalism. It is fatally flawed. There is a general consensus regarding its unworkability.

The present constitutional order has only been sustained by a regime of deceit, a divide-and-rule tactic, brute force and untold impunity. There is a general repudiation of its thrusts and of its purpose or intendment.

Thankfully, there is a new federating consensus against the prevailing unitary constitutional order. We are afforded ample relief, for instance, in the 2006 draft People’s Constitution meticulously put together by PRONACO, the 2014 National Conference proceedings and the APC-inspired El-Rufai committee report on restructuring. The combined effect of these reports is the admonition that Nigeria requires to be re-negotiated. The self-evidently false claim that Nigeria is a federal republic is as fictive as it is untrue.

The only way to forestall what truly is an imminent breakup of Nigeria is to immediately convoke a meeting of accredited representatives of all the ethnic nationalities comprised within the country to harmonize the seminal views or conclusions contained in the PRONACO document, the 2014 National Conference Resolutions, and the El-Rufai Committee report on restructuring for producing a truly people’s document or for deciding the way forward for the country.

Aspirants as well as eventual candidates of the parties for the position of president must begin to see their assignment as onerous and not continue to remain ambivalent, insensitive, irrelevant, utterly odious or detestable to the people and their well-heeled cause.

Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs wrote vide