By Yinka Odumakin
I WAS told that in the days Chief Olusegun Obasanjo held sway as Nigeria’s President,he brought a memorandum to the Federal Executive Council which had to do with devolution of powers to the states.
As the papers were going round, his Vice (vice indeed!) whispered to a minister sitting next to him “if you took all these powers to the states,what shall we be doing in Abuja?”.The Nigerian crisis had yet to reach the terminus at the point Atiku was making this side talk.
By the time Atiku had to chair the presentation of Chido Onuma’s “We Are All Biafrans” in Abuja some 12 years after the incident I referenced above,Nigeria has totally unravelled and one of the most urbane and cosmopolitan politicians from the north of Nigeria had fully converted to the kind of views Col. Umaru Dangiwa Umar has been expressing for many years now.I quote the Turaki Adamawa extensively :
“Agitations by many right-thinking Nigerians call for a restructuring and renewal of our federation to make it less centralised, less suffocating and less dictatorial in the affairs of our country’s constituent units and localities.
“As some of you may know, I have for a long time advocated the need to restructure our federation. Our current structure and the practices it has encouraged have been a major impediment to the economic and political development of our country. In short, it has not served Nigeria well, and at the risk of reproach it has not served my part of the country, the North, well.
Rising tide of agitations
“The call for restructuring is even more relevant today in light of the governance and economic challenges facing us. And the rising tide of agitations, some militant and violent, require a reset in our relationships as a united nation.”
“Some may say that we are saddled with more urgent challenges, including rebuilding our battered economy, creating jobs, fighting corruption and securing our people from terrorism and other forms of serious crimes. I believe, however, that addressing the flaws in our federation will help us address some of those very economic and security challenges facing this country.
“Nigeria must remain a united country. Our potential is enormous. But I also believe that a united country, which I think most Nigerians desire, should never be taken for granted or taken as evidence that Nigerians are content with the current structure of the federation.
“Making that mistake might set us on the path of losing the country we love or, as Chido Onumah puts it, result in our ‘country sleepwalking to disaster.’”
“Let me quickly acknowledge that no federal system is set for all time. There are always tensions arising from matters relating to the sharing of power, resources and responsibilities. But established democracies have developed peaceful mechanisms for resolving such conflicts among the tiers of government. They recognise that negotiations and compromises are eternal.”
“An excessively powerful centre does not equate national unity. If anything, it has made our unity more fragile, our government more unstable and our country more unsafe . We must renegotiate our union in order to make it stronger. Greater autonomy, power and resources for states and local authorities will give the federating units greater freedom and flexibility to address local issues, priorities and peculiarities.
“It will help to unleash our people’s creative energies and spur more development. It will reduce the premium placed on capturing power at the centre. It will help with improving security. It will promote healthy rivalries among the federating units and local authorities. It will help make us richer and stronger as a nation.”
None of us who have been strident in the call for the restructuring of Nigeria could have put it better than he did. And his intervention has shown that it is only those who want to see Nigeria sink that would not see the imperatives of changing the structure of our country today . After 56 years of independence, Nigeria cannot perform the simplest tasks that states that are not fully formed perform with ease. Biafra refined petroleum for its use during the civil war,militant in the creeks had over 600 refineries that were destroyed by JTF years ago but Nigeria cannot refine one litre of petrol in 2016. It cannot create job opportunities for millions of its youths who have become totally disoriented.It spends billions of dollars on electricity to generate darkness. Herdsmen are killing people with AK 47,an estimated 3000 people killed in the season of change but Nigeria has not brought one of them to book. Top government officials assault our sensibilities by saying they are Ghaddafi trained militias who found their way into our country through our porous borders. And once they come into our country they all transform into herdsmen?
Nigeria has failed
No, Nigeria has failed! It has entered a terminal crisis from which it cannot recover except we restructure and the manual is in the “archives”- 2014 National Conference reports. If leadership in Nigeria decides to take that report for a referendum today 80 % of the fighters will drop their arms.But if it remains obstinate, in the next six months it may not find anybody to discuss the reports with anymore. This is why the intervention from the former Vice-president is so timely and articulate . It is Atikulate!
….Return of marabouts?
A troublesome friend of mine Tayo has not stopped dropping it in my ears that it is marabouts who have been advising against the local trips for which the Vice-president has been called on to fill the slot lately.From Cross River through Lagos and now Ogoniland.I have not stopped telling him that Abacha days were the last time I am aware that marabouts were more or less an arm of government .When he would not take my explanation I told him that may be we should refer the million dollar question facing our country today if indeed they are back: should we devalue the Naira or not?
Re:Fantastically corrupt Nigeria, fantastic British creation
In the British Common Law and Nigerian Law, the giver and the receiver of stolen property are both criminally guilty.
Thank you very much for your candid note on the role of the British Prime Minister David Cameron with regards to the role of the British our colonial master viz – vis the level of corruption which has engulfed our nation for more than fifty five (55) years since our independence.
Your revelation of the role they played in Nigeria’s history copiously quoted the revelations of British’s cheating and dishonesty which was documented for posterity by their erstwhile servant at the colonial office Mr. Harold Smith is worthwhile for all present day Nigerians to read as some of us have done before.
Those who do not want Nigeria to be restructured as a truly Federal and Financially Federal Republic should ponder once more and avoid the inevitable breakup of this nation into smithereens.
We hope you will publish these coming rejoinders.
Chief Guy Ike Ikokwu, Lagos.
Dear Mr. Odumakin,
A billion thanks for this piece. Wonderfully educating and soothingly refreshing indeed!!. Bob Marley did say that you can fool some of the people some day, but you can not fool all the people all the time!!!. IGP has ordered immediate disarming in the South East while remaining/maintaining a “Mumu” posture towards ‘Boko Haram Herdsmen’. Hmmmnn…selective justice/initiative indeed. Please remain blessed with every member of your family, while doing the great job. Godwin – Lagos.
Dear Mr Odumakin,
Thanks for your Candid Notes always sending the right notes all the time.Your Vanguard column tells the Nigerian government and the world the truth, although they keep pretending not to hear.
The recent killings of innocents in Aba, in Onitsha, in Port Harcourt, among other places, by men of the Nigerian armed forces, including the ravaging of the Middle Belt region and Igboland by Fulani Jihadists, emboldened by the highest authority ,under the guise of Fulani herdsmen, are part of the ”intense strain” Britain’s colonial architecture is suffering.
In response, the current wave of agitation from the East of Nigeria, which is today, a global phenomenon, is enough message to the world body, and Britain in particular, that we can’t continue like this. Frankly, your ‘Candid Notes’ symbolically represent the voice of the oppressed peoples of geographic Nigeria. Keep it up!
Your Fan, Okoro Ndukwe.