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Attah seeks Nigeria’s rebirth, full federalism

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Obong Victor Attah

Former Akwa Ibom State governor, Obong Victor Attah, has called for urgent “rebirth” of the country through a fully federal system and resource control administered under a parliamentary form of government.

The elder statesman, who is also a frontline champion of resource control, condemned in strong terms the act of destroying and burning down private and public properties in the country. He maintained that those unwholesome acts were not part of the demands of the EndSARS protest.

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According to the fourth republic governor, as a government, leaders must be able to listen, willing to dialogue, and take appropriate actions. He added that such actions should be taken before the people get to the point where they are completely fed up, pushed to the wall, and react in a way no one knows how it could be.

Speaking with The Guardian in Uyo, Obong Attah, said he does not envisage the country breaking up if the government brings about a “rebirth”, rather than seeing pieces of advice from well-meaning Nigerians as threats. Leadership, he stressed, must learn to listen to grievances and not considering every comment from the people as a threat.

On rebirth, Attah declared: “The proper system is for the National Assembly members to ask the President, which must have the law from the National Assembly, to convoke such an Assembly. 

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“The word ‘restructuring’ seems to create a problem in some peoples’ minds though I think they are just allowing themselves to be confused because everybody should understand what we mean by restructuring by now.

“But, since they pretend not to know, I have dropped the word restructuring and I am talking about ‘Rebirth’. We want to have a Rebirth and a Rebirth means going back to what we had always agreed at the beginning would be the foundation and the guiding principles for governing Nigeria. And that was a fully federal system.

“Let us start with a full federal system with resource control, as much independent autonomy as a federal system allows a federating unit to have, that’s what we had at the beginning. Everybody develops their own resources at their own pace and so on.”

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The former governor noted that the people would find out that a federal system administered through a parliamentary form of government made it a lot easier and better. “That is why I am advocating a Rebirth, going back to the full federal system, where the federating units support the center to do certain common services like citizenship, external affairs, customs all that should be a function of the center.

“Everything else is undertaken by the federating units and am advocating we go back to the Parliamentary system. Elections are easier to conduct and cheaper, there will be true representation. Above all, there will be accountability.”

He disagreed with those who say the electorate should vote out bad government, adding, “When have we succeeded in voting in or out anybody? Elections in this country today have been taken over, the election is no longer the business of the electorate. Let us be honest, it is the business of the political party, INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), and the courts. That’s why the people are selling their votes because they have known they don’t have any contact with the government at all.”

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On the recent unrest witnessed across the country, Attah said it is the inability or refusal of the government to listen, adding that he was very hurt when he heard somebody saying the President will not succumb to threat.  

His words: “What brought about what we are seeing now is the inability or the refusal of the government to listen. That is why I was very hurt when I heard somebody say that the President will not succumb to threat. So, if you advise somebody that this thing is wrong and you go to the extent of saying if you don’t do it this thing is likely to happen, should that be considered as a threat?

“A government must be willing to dialogue and take appropriate actions before the people get to the point where they are completely fed-up and their back is up to the wall and they react. Because you never know how they are going to react.

“This thing should teach us a lesson that this Rebirth that we are talking about, the government should begin to do something about it because God forbid if this was a riot for the disintegration of this country no amount of Army will stop it from happening. It is better for the government to listen.

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“Even the North that seems to be opposed to restructuring has come out to say we want to restructure, but they have brought their own idea of how it should be restricted to twelve federating units, which they want to call Regions. Those are issues for dialogue, but the issues have now been accepted, the government should take the initial steps to see that it happens and there is a proper system for seeing that it happens.”

Attah remarked that for Rebirth to happen, the proper system is for the National Assembly itself to ask the President, the President must have the law from the National Assembly, to convoke such an Assembly. “If you do that, the issue of Sovereignty is no longer an issue, because the sovereignty belongs to the people and it now resides in the National Assembly.

“If the National Assembly engages the President to set up an Assembly to discuss a new constitution for Nigeria and a new method of governing Nigeria, there is no question of who owns sovereignty, sovereignty has been properly transferred and that Assembly will come out with a new draft constitution for Nigeria, which can now be subjected to a referendum and the result of that referendum will give us a new constitution, which will be a constitution by Nigerians for Nigerians and I believe that by the time that is done, we will have a federal constitution,” Attah explained.

The elder statesman noted that the work of the National Assembly is very easy, stressing: “If you want to go back to the Parliamentary system of government just go and look at the 1960 constitution if you still insist on the Presidential system of government go and look at the 1963 constitution. Those were federal constitutions, but my own preference is the 1960 constitution because it was not only federal but also parliamentary.”

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