Address by Gen. I.O.S. Nwachukwu (rtd), GCMG CFR COM psc+ mni fniia, at the MUSON Centre, Lagos on Nevember 19, 2018
I wish to thank the organisers for giving me the unique opportunity to chair the event – HANDSHAKE ACROSS NIGERIA – and to engage with experienced eminent persons from diverse backgrounds. The timing is auspicious, given the many challenges confronting our dear country, Nigeria.
As Nigerians zero into the 2019 General Elections to elect our political leaders and representatives for the next dispensation, the preservation of Nigeria’s unity in diversity, cultures, different linguistics and religious faiths and sects, and its sovereignty, to my mind, should be paramount. People might differ in their understanding, conditions and methodologies of achieving this, but the corporate existence of Nigeria as a nation and its survival is work in progress.
While some countries have been able to admirably harness their diversities to immense advantages, ours threw up mixed results. As a nation, we have operated in fits and starts. Like a candle in the wind, our ways are uncertain, such that our collective destiny as a people flutters.
Unhealthy state of affairs
This unhealthy state of affairs invariably make a gathering of this nature inevitable. More so, in this era of politicking when hard questions must be asked and answered by the political elite, especially, as it concerns the recurring debate of restructuring Nigeria for the common good. It is heart-warming to see that the cream of Nigeria’s society, particularly, its political class is here to tackle this all-important national question.
I will leave the discussions on the theme, “Nigeria Beyond Oil,” convinced that our pre-eminent Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka will fully engage us on the subject.
I must commend the organisers for this initiative of constructively interrogating the political elite on their plans, programmes and policies for the country pre- and post-elections. More compelling is the need to obtain their commitment to restructure Nigeria back to a true federation in which the federating units are autonomous, contributing to human capital development and paying their taxes to the Federal Government.
I dare say, contrary to the general belief, that no State in Nigeria is unviable. In fact, none is without human and mineral resources. Nor is any bereft of land. Therefore, there isn’t any State without the basic requirements for economic and human capital development. Some States may have more of such resources than others just as it is in the international community. However, the successful Nations have used their abilities, through the right political and economic policies, to make themselves wealthy and powerful. They are now reference points to others which fail to harness their resources and develop them for the common good of their people. Should we return Nigeria to a proper federal constitution that allows the federating units to use their resources unabated, it would be amazing to see the boom in human capacity development, economic and scientific transformations that Nigerians will witness in the shortest possible time. What is lacking and holding us down, therefore, is the freedom to develop those basic requirements to achieve phenomenal growth and development.
Just as Nigeria goes to the World Bank, IMF, and now China, to secure loans for its projects, loans which must be repaid, so also can the federating units approach the Federal Government and other richer federating units to invest in their developmental projects knowing that they will repay the loans. The example, of the Lagos State and Kebbi State joint rice venture attest to the point being made.
The fear, therefore, that some Nigerian States will be disadvantaged under this arrangement would be removed because the Federal Government can intervene directly or through loans/money to the federating units to realize their developmental projects. States are, therefore, not likely to misapply the intervention funds or loans because their people will rise against them for attempting to misapply their commonwealth, unlike the case today. Consequently, unemployment, agitations from ethnic groups, insurgency, kidnappings, armed robbery, ritual killings and so on will be curtailed to the barest minimum or could be a thing of the past.
May I, allude that the Nigeria that I described would not only be one of a handshake with one another but that of a huge embrace with one another, which will quell the fear of domination, and breed healthy competition, respectability, tolerance, love, and remove the trust deficit amongst our leaders and peoples. It will even enhance the adherence to the Rule of Law and curtail corruption to a large extent.
As we prepare for the General Elections, it is pertinent to remind members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that theirs is a sacred trust. Though appointed by the government, they are responsible to the people of Nigeria. To make INEC truly independent, there is the need to review the system of appointing its members. In the U.K, for instance, the Speaker’s Committee appoints the Electoral Officers drawn from the political parties. Presently, of the total ten members, appointed and Ex officio, there are four (4) Conservatives, three (3) Labour and one Scottish Nationalist (excluding the Speaker). The body reports to the Parliament and not to the Prime Minister, thereby making them truly independent and representative. The Chairman isn’t appointed by the Prime Minister but by the Speaker’s Committee thereby insulating him or her from any direct influence by the Prime Minister and in our case, the President or anyone acting on behalf of the President. Nigeria should do the same.
Bettering the enviable conduct
For the forthcoming General Elections, INEC must aim at bettering the enviable conduct of the 2015 General Elections by Prof. Attahiru Jega and his members.
At this point, may I urge our Presidential, Gubernatorial, National and State Assemblies candidates to embrace peacefully the verdict of Nigerians at the polls because Nigeria is bigger than our political, ethnic, cultural, religious and sectarian differences.
Finally, we expect the signing of the “Article of Faith on Restructuring of Nigeria by Political Parties.” The primary purpose of which is to ensure common agreed principles towards the promotion of peace, unity and progress and to promote the intensification of resource generation from non-oil sector where upon all federating units of Nigeria shall be free to generate and utilize their resources for the common good.