Restructuring: Jega, Others Disagree On Model
Politics Digest – Eminent Nigerians on Thursday reached a consensus on the need for power devolution, otherwise called restructuring of the federation but however disagreed vehemently on the model to be adopted.
The occasion was the 18th Daily Trust Dialogue with the theme, “Restructuring: Why? When? How?”
Immediate past President- General of the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Nd’igbo, Dr John Nwodo, one of the key speakers who set the tone of the discourse after the opening remarks by immediate past President and Chairman on the occasion, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, said there was a need for restructuring as he argued that the “constitutional history of Nigeria shows that the only Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made by all the ethnic groups in Nigeria were the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions.”
Nwodo who recalled that pre- independence Constitution gave autonomy to the regional government lamented that military insurrection destroyed Nigeria’s democracy.
He maintained that the present Constitution was a creation of the General Abdulsalam Abubakar and his predecessor, Sani Abacha military regime which should be discarded ahead of the next general elections.
“To restructure Nigeria, we need a Constitutional conference of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria. To use the current National Assembly as the forum for Constitutional amendment grants a tacit recognition of the overthrow of our democratic norms by the enthronement of a military Constitution by which they are composed.
“The outcome of the Constitution conference must be subjected to a public plebiscite in which all adult Nigerians shall have the right to vote. This process should be open, it should be supervised by International agencies to validate its transparency and thereafter usher new elections based on its provisions and structure.
“This process in my view will ultimately refocus our country, breed a democratic culture that emphasises more on selfless service rather than individual enrichment, promote genuine unity instead of ethnic bigotry and challenge our capacity to exploit our abundant potentialities to make life more abundant for our people.”
The leader of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo who made a virtual presentation spoke in a similar vein.
The elder statesman said the present Constitution which was a creation of the military was not workable. He said it was a document which was fashioned to promote a unitary government as against a federal arrangement.
He said the nation must return to the vision of the founding fathers of the Nigeria which at independence agitated for autonomy for the federating regions.
He said: “We are saying, let us go back to regionalism which the founding fathers of this country agreed to. Why are we back to it?
“Because the Constitution we are using now is fraudulent. We want the Constitution that everybody agreed to. When we agree to Federalism, there is a philosophy behind it. In a multi-ethnic state, a unitary government won’t work. We can’t be using a unitary Constitution to run a federal state. This isn’t the Constitution that the founding fathers: Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe agreed to.
“This Constitution can’t work in a federal country. All the problems we are having now is traceable to this constitution.
“Why must we go back to restructuring, it is because the Constitution we are working now isn’t working and it can’t work. I must emphasise that this Constitution was imposed on us by the military and it can’t work.
“The problem of revenue allocation was solved in 1954 through derivation principle when regions had 50 percent of their revenue.”
Ahead of the 2023 election, Chief Adebanjo shared the position of Chief Nwodo that President Muhammadu Buhari administration must show genuine commitment to giving Nigerians a new Constitution.
Adebanjo revealed that the South West was not interested in power shift but regional autonomy as enshrined in a new Constitution.
“Restructuring won’t break up Nigeria. Anybody opposing resturcturing now wants to break up the country.
The President of Nigeria is the most powerful President in the whole world. We must persuade Buhari to restructure Nigeria now. Our concern now shouldn’t be power rotation, but an enduring Constitution. We must have a Constitution that gives all, a sense of belonging, not one section having a false sense of entitlement to decides which zone produces the president.
“It must be done before the election. Anybody talking about election before this Constitution, he doesn’t love this country.”
He advised the present administration to fall back on the report of the 2014 Constitution conducted by former President Jonathan who incidentally was the chairman of the Daily Trust organised conference.
In the alternative, he suggested that “if Buhari doesn’t want that report, let him set up his own. To believe that we can work with this Constitution, we are wasting our time.”
Those shut out of government privilege are promoting the agitation ― former INEC Chairman
The duo of former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega and Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum, Audu Ogbeh, however, disagreed with a return to the parliamentary arrangement where regions were federating units.
The former INEC Chairman who claimed that individuals among the power elites who were shut out of government patronage were the most prominent in the agitation for restructuring further claimed that it was no longer feasible to have regions or geopolitical zones as federating units in the face of existing 36 states in the country.
“I have been asking people like Pa Adebanjo who want us to return to regional government: how do you convince people with states to now surrender their relative autonomy and now become appendage to a regional government? I think we have to be more realistic. I think we can restructure by delisting the federal legislative list and devolve powers and responsibilities to the federating states. I think this can be done. Once we begin with that, it will revive hope and confidence in the process.”
The former Chairman of INEC who pleaded for elite consensus and good democratic governance to promote democracy further identified prolong years of military rule and bad governance by even civilian rule as fuelling what he called the frustration by ethnic irrendentists.
“Even in the twenty years of transition, we haven’t had much progress. Few people have mobilised ethnicity and religions to corner state resources. Those outside are the ones fanning the slogan of restructuring.
“Things have been so bad for long, we can’t have it now. To be beneficial, to be sustainable, to give enduring peace, we must be systematic about it.
“Restructuring alone can’t solve our problem. We must combine it with reforms in governance. If we don’t focus attention on how to combine the two, we may not achieve our objective.”
Chief Audu Ogbeh shared the position canvassed by Professor Jega as the former disclosed that it was no longer feasible to have regions as federating units.
“In dealing with the problem confronting us, restructuring is necessary but the problem lies in the model. Will the states surrender their autonomy to the regions? Very unlikely. Can we go back to the regions? Very unlikely.”