By Bisi Lawrence
The din of the enthusiasm to have a say about the performance—or non-performance—of the first year of the Buhari administration, has subsided in connection with some issues. It will no doubt linger for a while longer over some other issues that need to be further addressed, if they are subjected to the lack of urgency that has been a noticeable habit of the government’s approach to some pressing issues over the past year. Although the response to the quality of governance has not been resoundingly encouraging among the populace, as gathered from reactions through the mass media, the plea for patience seems to have become mixed with emotions roused by disappointment over unfulfilled promises.
This is a profound evidence of the people’s faith in the character of the president as an honest man, though that little alleviates the pain of widespread deprivations in their daily lives. Generally, the Buhari administration has been let off rather lightly this time. Throwing a stifling electricity tariff at the people in the face of a shortage of the petrol they would need to generate power individually, smirks of a high order of insensitivity; but when that is capped off with a hefty rise in the price of the fuel itself, that could be described as sailing dangerously close to the wind.
All that has been said, of course, and a jolly good time has been had by all, but the possible dangers ahead were highlighted at the same time. It has not all been hot air. Its importance is the note of warning, not just caution, that was loud from various sources. We are not talking here of individuals in various walks of life, the quality of whose existence has been diminished by policies they never understood and are left to wonder about in confusion.
These are those who kept asking: “Was this the change they promised us?” Rather, we are gripped by the dimension of the greater picture as it affects the whole nation. And highly respected personalities have been persuaded to give voice to the fears of what they can see ahead. Here are the views of a few of them.
His Eminence, Olubunmi Cardinal Okogie, retired Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, remains vibrant about national issues, even at 80. We wish him more blessings in life. We cannot but recall that in the Abacha days, when critics of government policies and actions were routinely arrested, the high priest was not in any way fazed by the threat. He was always with his briefcase which contained his toothpaste and toothbrush, his comb and a towel, fully prepared for any sudden apprehension. He has kept that spirit alive and is at the forefront of patriots who now advocate a restructuring of our government—in effect, the country.
He believes that this can be achieved with a return to the specifics of Buhari’s inaugural address, where the blueprint of his party was presented. A non-adherence to these principles would appear to have heightened the retrenchment of workers, salaries not being paid, the continued weakness of the naira, and other aspects of the shortcoming of effective governance in the past year. The alternative, he states, may be a revolution.
A former Vice-President of the Federation, Alhaji Atiku, has also been recently very loud in his advocacy for re-structuring. It is not a newly-held position with him. He sincerely believes that the equilibrium that can keep the nation stable and safe can only be achieved through re-structuring.
But perhaps the most stirring comment about the issue of re-structuring which seems to occupy the minds of many patriots at this time, has been made by someone who played a major role in the founding of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Dr. Uma Eleazu. He is a man who has been at the ground-floor of constitution-making in the nation, having taken a prominent part in the writing of both the 1979 and 1999 editions.
Dr. Eleazu describes the state of the nation simply as “parlous”. That could mean “extremely insecure”, by some interpretation. He is, in the first place, not convinced that there is a nation of Nigeria. That nation would have been formed of a federation which it was at birth, but which the military dispensation had removed when it spread the net of unitary government all over Nigeria. Others have denounced the imposition of a unitary structure on Nigeria. But Dr. Eleazu goes on further to outline the adverse effect on the making of a nation. Every state, in essence, reports to Abuja. Development is frustrated and productivity is curtailed. The country is now made up of 37 (including Abuja) so-called federating units. Rather, it is more like a monolithic mound of various elements.
Restructure! That is the watchword. It encompasses the clamour for Biafra and the stress of the Niger Delta. It will take along the demand for “resource control”, which none other than Chief Gani Adams, an activist understood to be solely concerned with the welfare of the Yorubas has begun to champion. He believes that this issue will continue to be a deterrent to nation-building until it is solved.
In this consideration, references have been made to the National Conference which was attended by more than 80 citizens across the political divide, and brimful with experience and maturity in judgment. The Buhari government threw it out of the window. The participants still hope that the administration would now have to return to it and learn some lessons, if only about restructuring.