Worries As ‘Restructuring’ Tears Nigerians Apart
Ship Of State Flounders On PMB, APC Watch
“Initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit” – All Progressives Congress (APC) Manifesto.
By Our Reporters
What is the worth of a political party’s manifesto in 21st Century Nigeria? Can a political party and its presidential candidate offer bunkum on the campaign trail and the soapbox merely to get elected and thereafter discard all electoral pledges in Nigeria of today?
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is currently finding it hard to answer these posers as a groundswell of popular discontent with the APC’s handling of a surfeit of national imperatives demanded of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, which millions of Nigerians insist Buhari and the APC pledged to implement if they gained power via the ballot box in the 2015 General Elections.
To be sure, perceived foot-dragging by the APC on the party’s electoral pledge to “initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit” is fuelling current agitations for self-determination, even secession, in some parts of the country, especially Sothern Nigeria, The Dream Daily has been told.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-East, several groups in the South-South and the South-West are at the forefront of the calls on the APC “to implement this fundamental electoral pledge they made to Nigerians during campaign in 2015, which is the very first issue on the APC manifesto.”
The IPOB insurrection has been met with similar concurrence in the Niger Delta Region and the South-West where some groups had also called for “Niger Delta Republic” and “Oduduwa Republic” in that order.
These quests for self-determination outside the bounds of Nigeria as a united country have also been met with rash reactions, especially the ill-advised quit notice handed out to Igbo living in the North to leave the region by October 1, 2017, made by some northern youth groups.
However, there have also been strong calls in support of Nigeria’s unity and devolution of power in the North, notably by former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a chieftain of the ruling APC.
Nevertheless, the ruling APC appears unwilling to bulge on this raging matter, as the top hierarchy of the party continues to insist that they “don’t know what Nigerians mean by restructuring,” even as the APC has set up a panel headed by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai – a known voice against restructuring – to “articulate what APC means by restructuring.”
A public officeholder who pleaded anonymity because of “the charged emotions in the country today over this National Question” told The Dream Daily: “Nigerians are now clearly divided into three groups today. One group, and I think it is fair to say that this is where the government belongs, wants Nigeria to continue as we are now. The second group wants devolution of power or restructuring. The third group takes the extreme position on the spectrum – they don’t want to have anything to do with Nigeria again.”
But the apparent standoff among secessionist groups, pro-restructuring sections and those opposed to the devolution of power in the country worries many Nigerians across all strata of society, with the Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, saying that it “threatens the cords of our brotherhood.”
The recent rejection of a devolution of power bill by both arms of the National Assembly in their on-going efforts to tinker with the 1999 Constitution appeared to have strengthened the resolve of the secessionist groups and restructuring advocates to double down on their demands, which continues to heat up the country. To quote Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group leading the devolution charge in the South-West, “unknown to the lawmakers, they have unwittingly given more ammunition to self-determination forces by attempting to collapse the restructuring column in the battle for the soul of Nigeria.
“It would, however, be short-sighted for the National Assembly and their sympathisers to think this is the end of the matter. The demand for restructuring cannot end with their decisions as Nigeria has reached a terminal crisis from which it cannot recover except it is restructured.”
And, as the days roll by with no obvious meeting of minds among secessionists, devolutionists and advocates of the status quo, not a few Nigerians and friends of the country abroad are worried that Nigeria might collapse, with some drawing a parallel between President Buhari and defunct Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, on whose watch the Soviet Union imploded and disintegrated.
The development is not helped by alleged leadership or power vacuum created by President Buhari’s continued absence from Nigeria on health grounds, which has lasted over 90 days this year as at the time of going to press, a situation that has also elicited vociferous calls on the President to resign from several quarters, including street protests in Abuja called by the musician Charly Boy under the hashtag, #Ourmumudondo. The second day of the Charlie Boy-led protest – August 8, 2017 – ended on a sour note for the protesters and reporters covering the event as gun-wielding policemen dispersed them with a rain of teargas.
Protesters who called on President Buhari to return to Nigeria and resume office or resign from the Presidency have also held sit-outs in London, England where President Buhari is receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness since May 7, 2017. The President was still in London as at the time of going to press.
In a tit-for-tat manoeuvre, however, some Nigerians have also trooped out on the streets of Abuja in support of President Buhari, insisting that the President has not violated any provision of the 1999 Constitution through his prolonged absence from Nigeria.
Nevertheless, a recent proclamation by Afenifere exemplified the grouse and position of agitators for the physical and fiscal restructuring of Nigeria. According to a statement by Publicity Secretary, Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, “we do not want a Nigeria where any section will live as slaves of another, but rather we want a Nigeria where all citizens irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliation are able to live their lives to the fullest and in happiness without let or hindrance. We hold dearly that anyone who is opposed to this vision is an enemy of Nigeria of our dream.
Consequently, a coalition of leaders from the southern part of the country under the aegis of the Southern Leaders Forum has called on their counterparts from the so-called “core-north” who appeared to oppose devolution of power to shift ground in line with current realities and “renegotiate Nigeria”, insisting that the country was approaching a terminal crisis from which it cannot recover unless it is restructured along the paths of the 1963 Constitution.
In a communique after their meeting, the Southern Leaders Forum said in part: “For emphasis, the restructuring we demand is a return to principles of federalism in Nigeria as obtained in the 1963 Constitution, which allowed the federating units to have autonomy over their local affairs to create a Nigeria that sustains the principles of fairness, equity, respect for all constituent units of Nigeria.
“We restate in clear terms that this country has gone through war once and it is not likely to survive another one. The only way therefore to have a peaceful Nigeria is to have a country based on justice and equity for all Nigerians. In order to achieve the above, there is need for sacrifices on all sides as the only insurance for peace and justice is equity.
“We, therefore, call for immediate meeting of well-meaning leaders from the South and the North to find a way to save Nigeria from destruction and crisis. An urgent return to the principles our founding fathers agreed as the basis for our independence is the only way out for Nigeria as most sections of our country have lost faith in the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.”
Also, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has also waded into the power devolution debates. Chairman, National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, tasked Nigerians to aim at making the Nigerian federation a more perfect union, saying there was nothing wrong in rejigging the structure of the union.
However, Makarfi observed that “restructuring could mean a different thing to different people. It is, therefore, important that we consider the framework within which we can even discuss and be on the same page as to what kind of restructuring we mean or desire; and if nationally accepted, agree on the framework for its implementation.
“The PDP has no problem with agitations; in fact, we respect them and regard them as vehicles through which all segments vent their legitimate feelings but we want to urge all of our people that in trying to draw attention to their yearnings and aspirations, respect for one another and the realisation that our rights do not include encroachment into, and infringement on the legitimate rights and dignity of others, should guide our conduct.”
IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu: ‘Buhari’s Nemesis’?
It appears that the current agitation for restructuring and secession received great impetus from the decision of President Buhari to arrest leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, which served the unwitting end of shooting the hitherto fringe separatist movement into mainstream consciousness in the country and beyond.
“That was textbook error by Buhari,” a public affairs analyst who does not want his name in print told The Dream Daily. “He (Buhari) brought this trouble on himself and the country. That boy (Nnamdi Kanu) was merely making noise on radio somewhere in Europe until he was arrested here. Look here, Kanu holds a foreign passport I think British; Buhari should have deported him long ago. Charging him to court poured combustibles on a smouldering fire and here we are now with a raging Biafra conflagration in the country! Now he (Kanu) is a bone in our neck. He is Buhari’s Nemesis; he (Kanu) is Nigeria’s Albatross now! Deport him; deport him. That would have solved this problem better than charging him to court!” he stressed with exasperation.
In a statement which appears to corroborate our source’s contention and seemingly mocking the Nigerian State, Kanu, who is currently out of jail on bail granted on health grounds and organising his followers to boycott the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State has said: “I will be very happy if they re-arrest me. If we are hoping for 90 per cent compliance with the boycott of Anambra State governor¬ship election, my arrest will make the compliance 100 per cent.”
The quagmire – some say helplessness – of the APC-led federal government and the Nigerian State in the face of the on-going brazen challenge from separatists in the country was underscored by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, during a recent working visit to Lagos. According to reports, the IG said: “We have the National Security Council in place chaired by the Acting President. We have been meeting and analyzing each of these threat messages from separatist groups. We have to analyse the pros and cons. As you are aware, the police are on top of the situation.
“As an organisation, what we take as paramount is the maintenance of law and order. There was a time we ordered the arrest of the leaders of groups making threat messages. Then, leaders of various ethnic nationalities came to the (Aso Rock) Villa for a meeting with the Acting President. The agreements reached at the meeting made the police to relax on the arrest order.
“We believe there are certain situations which we need to manage very carefully, so that you don’t bring up tension. We believe the security and safety of Nigerians is paramount. We are assuring Nigerians that there is no person or group of persons that can deny them their rights to free movement in any part of the country.”
‘Nigeria Adrift With Buhari in London’
Although President Buhari had handed over the rein of power to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, there is a growing concern that Osinbajo “has little room to move as acting president, without coming under suspicion that he wants to outshine (President) Buhari and thus attract attacks from the cabal in Aso Rock, ” a source who pleaded anonymity said.
“I don’t know whether to call it a self-imposed inertial or a system-induced paralysis but I think (Vice President) Osinbajo is not acting in full capacity as our acting President. This is one of the problems with this country, I mean you are acting president, people expect so much from you but if you go all out to exercise your constitutional powers in the current circumstance, you suddenly find yourself navigating a mines field, dodging banana peels or even bullets from the system! That, I think, is the situation Osinbajo is in right at this moment. We must say these things in all honest; he can’t act in the real sense, he must be seen to be politically correct by ‘the cabal’ or else funny funny things will begin to happen around him and all sorts of things sponsored against him in the press and social media. What a country! As far as I am concerned the country is adrift with (President) Buhari in London; (Acting President) Osinbajo cannot do much. The ship of state is unsteady under these winds,” the source stressed.
President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria on Saturday August 19, 2017 after we went to press with this story. The President has also addressed the nation in a five-minute broadcast on Monday August 21, 2017.