As Nigeria marks its 57th Independence anniversary today, the trio of Balarabe Musa, former governor of the old Kaduna State, Yinka Odumakin, publicity secretary of Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba social-political group, and Martin Onovo, a 2015 presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), bare their minds on the future of Nigeria. They spoke with NATHANIEL AKHIGBE over the telephone. Excerpts:
It appears Nigerians have different things in mind when talking about restructuring. What is your own definition of restructuring and should this take place before or after the 2019 general elections?
The demand for restructuring is constitutional and fair and appropriate. But the problem is different people have different ideas of how to restructure. As far as we are concerned, the restructuring will require, first, reconciliation between Nigerians. Let Nigerians reconcile themselves and agree for an ethnic-free and progressive Nigeria. We don’t want any ethnic sovereignty. Let us unite. I will like a situation where every Nigerian is of Nigeria. Let us not waste our time talking about secession because it does nobody any good. If we manage our affairs very well, we have what it takes to become great as a nation and become one of the best advanced countries in 15 to 20 years’ time. The second restructuring we require is political. The 36 states are not viable; we can’t even pay salaries of workers. Let us go back to the 1963 Constitution where we had regional governments. Each one of the regional governments we had then was capable of taking care of itself. Each one of them was economically viable. Let us go back to that arrangement. Each of the current zones would be viable enough without going to government at the centre. And again, let us have a centre which is capable of uniting the country without being too powerful. Let us bring about the lead role of states in the economy, to bring about justice, equity and fairness. Let us throw away the colonial policy of privatization. These are basically what the restructuring will require. But it is better that we talk about this restructuring through the National Assembly effectively and in a very organized way. I will be glad if we can restructure Nigeria before the 2019 general elections but it will be very difficult because the political parties and the civil society that can organize this are not strong enough and prepared to do it. But if it is possible, let us do it one year before the 2019 general elections.
Poverty has increased in the land as a result of bad governance and the Buhari-led APC government doesn’t seem to be capable of rescuing the situation. Nigeria is in bad state at the moment and we need a change of government. If my party (People’s Redemption Party) cannot do it alone come 2019, we will have to form an alliance with other political parties.
Restructuring must take place before the next election because to pursue another election on the basis of the constitution, we would have signed for another four years under this constitution, and that government will come to power and then, they will start all their exclusives, start their own public hearing again, telling us that they don’t understand what we mean by restructuring and the rest of them. So, if we want to keep this country together, we must restructure Nigeria before we hold another election. The country is falling apart and it is collapsing on everybody’s head. The urgent business of now is to restructure Nigeria, and not holding elections. If you hold any election under this arrangement, you are just fast-tracking the imminent collapse of Nigeria. It is those who cannot see, those who lack the mental mindset to understand where Nigeria is headed without restructuring, that are saying that it is not an urgent matter. We can’t afford to move on with Nigeria without restructuring. It is an urgent matter.
Any governor who is saying that he doesn’t want restructuring of Nigeria because he may no longer be able to even pay workers’ salaries, such is not fit to be a governor. That is the height of laziness which Atiku was talking about. There are incompetent bunches of governors who are parading government houses in Nigeria. If you look at the resource map of Nigeria, there is no state in Nigeria that is not blessed with abundant resources. If we take mines from the Exclusive List, there is no state in Nigeria that will not be able to survive on its own. It is those lazy governors who think that the best thing to do is to go and collect cheques in Abuja who are saying that restructuring Nigeria will impoverish them. Nigeria is blessed all over. That is why during the 2014 National Conference we said that between five to 10 years, let us start a project to go and dig out natural resources in every state in Nigeria and let us remove them from the Exclusive List and put them on the Concurrent List. Nigeria has the capacity to move from a N50 billion economy to a N50 trillion economy. It is lazy people who are saying that restructuring will impoverish them.
Restructuring in our context means only one thing: take Nigeria back to a Federal Constitution, which we had before the 1966 coup; there is no other meaning of restructuring more than that. Restructuring means federalism, no more, no less. It is those who want to confuse history that are talking about restructuring meaning different things to different people.
As far as I am concerned, restructuring is changing structure. We have a system that is currently not working, but the difference people have is change to what? People say go back to 1963 Constitution; some people say turn it to some political zones; some people say turn it to five regions.
I will tell you that the structure of Nigeria is skewed and because of that Nigeria needs to be restructured. But that is not the principal priority now; it is probably number five. The fundamental criticality for development in any system or country, or association or society, is integrity in leadership, which is lacking at the moment; which is why Chinua Achebe published a book several years ago and said the problem with Nigeria is leadership. That is the biggest problem we need to face now, instead of talking about restructuring because there is no structure that will work without integrity. Don’t forget since Independence we have tried so many structures. We started with a parliamentary system of three regions. When the Midwest complained about marginalization, the political class, instead of addressing the marginalization, erroneously changed the structure to four regions. Because it was dubious, from the four regions we went to military government; we went to 12 states and on and on. Change the structure 50 times, you will still fail until you have integrity in the leadership. Go to your local government, don’t come to my own, and check whether government is working at that level. The states we want to devolve powers to, are they not where we have convicted many former governors? It is the problem of lack of integrity; whether you call it corruption or rigging of election, they are all under the same lack of integrity.
The Nigerian media also needs to be restructured. The media has failed in its primary objective of holding government accountable on behalf of the Nigerian people. The media should stop colouring the truth. If the media is truthfully fiery, the government will sit up. But unfortunately, the traditional media has been successfully cowed by this regime.