Renewed calls for restructuring, judicial reform re-echo
• ‘North will determine presidency in 2023’
The debate on restructuring the country and also carrying out judicial reform have refused to go away since the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, given the many ills in the clumsy political structure. Many believe that restructuring the federation is long overdue and have called for urgent reset of the country on a more equitable nmodel for it to move forward.
Those who recently added their voices to the debate on restructuring included President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. John Nwodo; elder statesman and Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, and Second Republic governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, among others.
Also, a former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, at a virtual development discourse with a development economist and public analyst, Patrick Okigbo III, facilitated by Nextier, which had as theme ‘Getting Big Things Done in Government,’ stated that Nigeria is run as a mediocre system.
According to Duke, “We restructure our lives on a daily basis, so I don’t think we should run away from it. Without restructuring right now, I think we feel restricted. Let’s free ourselves, so we don’t break up. Sometimes, even with a couple, the husband may say, ‘let me go on vacation so I can just clear my head.’ So, we need a system that allows us to develop at our own pace.”
He claimed that one of the biggest challenges confronting the country at the moment is that the judicial system is killing the people, stating that a reform is important for the development of the judiciary.
“You can go to court and not get judgment in two or three years,” Duke continued. “The politicians have sorted out themselves. From the tribunal to the Supreme Court, they achieve in six months. Meanwhile, this is what should apply for every Nigerian. If you take me to a High Court, in 90 days you should get judgment. If I appeal, it should take nothing more than 45 days. This is because, at the lower court, all the facts have been established. Appeal is not looking for new facts; it’s the interpretation of the law.”
He proposed two tiers of appeal – lower and upper, noting that only cases that have to do with death penalty or constitutionality between states and the federal government or between states should go to the Supreme Court.
“Our Supreme Court is overburdened. If I steal a pen from you, I can take you right up to the Supreme Court on a pen that costs nothing. So, it’s a flawed system. The first thing you learn in law is justice delayed is justice denied. So, we need to look at the judicial system. We need to restructure the Constitution to allow us the liberty to express ourselves.”
Duke added that the tax base needs restructuring, saying that most elites evade tax payment, therefore the government does not collect more than 20 per cent of taxes to generate revenue.
“Since 1980, our budget has not changed in real terms. Shagari budgeted $25 billion for the four years he was president. Till this day, we still budget $25 billion; that is N10 trillion, by the time you convert it. So, for 40 years, our budget has been stagnant, but our population has almost quadrupled. We are a nation in regression, and the elites have to come together. It’s not a question of whether it’s north or south. Being a president should not be based primarily on primordial sentiments and manipulative tendencies.”
Duke bemoaned what he described as manipulative tendencies in the choice of who emerges president, saying that pliable people are mostly considered as against people they think are independent and cannot be easily controlled.
“Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was brought in 1999 on manipulative tendencies,” he submitted. “What they forgot was that Obasanjo of 1979 and Obasanjo of 1999 were two different human beings. He had gone through the furnace, and he shocked those who brought him in. Unfortunately for him, he tried to do the same thing.
“The reason he (Obasanjo) supported former Presidents Umaru Yaradua and Goodluck Jonathan was that he wanted two pliable people, and this has always been the bane of our politics. You cannot win a championship with third-rate players. You have got to put your best foot forward and these folks constantly think: ‘oh, how loyal would he be?’ I’ve heard things like, Donald is too independent to have as a president. Do you want a slave as president or you want a freeborn as president? So, you hear all these kinds of things. We can manufacture any reason to suit your argument.”
He said it was time Nigerians form an army of people who would say enough to the ills arising from the political class, stating that political calculations for 2023 would commence in 2021.
“That critical number, that critical mass is not there,” Duke lamented. “It would take a lot of suffering for us to get there. Sometimes, I ask, ‘have we hit rock bottom?’ Then I realise that we’ve hit the bottom, but there’s a basement and we’re still cascading down the basement, until we get to a point where it is totally rejected. It happened in a way in 2015. A lot of folks who I know would not have supported Buhari for president felt very disappointed in the Jonathan administration, rightly or wrongly, and felt that this man (Buhari) who had been asking for this for so long, surely he has something to offer. The jury is out, whether he has delivered or not. I don’t want to judge him, not now, at least.
“We still have about three years. The politicking is going to start about 2021 going into 2022. People would start coming together. There will be blocks. There’ll be several blocks in APC. Let’s face it; there are only two real political parties in this country. So, there’ll be several blocks in APC and PDP. There will be a group asking North or South. That’s where we have to settle that first. Once we settle between North and South, then within the South, are we going East? Are we going West? Are we going South-South or are we just going to look at the south as a block?
“Whatever is decided for 2023, the block that is not producing, which is North, will determine who in the South will become the president and they will be looking for someone who they feel they can work with. That’s politics; if they are not producing the president, then they want someone whom they feel they can work with. Whoever comes in, there are three primary things that must be addressed immediately. There’s the talk about restructuring.”
On his part, Okigbo lamented that corruption is a multi-dimensional issue occurring between the elite, in their struggle to control state assets, and also amongst the non-elite throughout the society.
He added that Nigeria, being culturally rich and ethnically diverse, lacks national unity. He said the differences have permeated through the fabric of the society to create a sense of disunity.
According to Okigbo, “Nigeria faces the mutually reinforcing challenges of corruption and failures in leadership. Nigeria is a nation of untapped potential for greatness. The state of the country paints a disheartening picture that contrasts what could be and what is. While boasting of the highest population in Africa, 40.1 per cent of Nigerians live in poverty.
“In the 2019 Corruption Perception Index, Nigeria ranked 146th out of the 180 countries surveyed worldwide and came in 32nd out of the 49 countries surveyed in the sub-Saharan African region. Against this backdrop, Nigeria has a crop of leaders who lack the competence or the political will to drive the country forward.
Instead, political office has deteriorated over time into an avenue for self-aggrandisement and enrichment.
“With ethnicity ranking high above nationality, there is ample opportunity for the political elite in the country to manipulate these divisions to further their personal interests. The result is a fragmented nation that can hardly come together to achieve the common goal of development.”
Okigbo stated that the presence of vast natural resources not only brings in revenue but also acts as a breeding ground for conflict, environmental degradation and corruption, adding, “On paper, Nigeria’s core assets (natural and human resources) should position the country as a leader in development, but there is a disconnect in reality and the observed outcomes. The cause of this paradoxical situation has long been a topic of debate.”
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