A former presidential adviser on political affairs, Professor Rufai Alkali has reacted to calls for restructuring the nation saying issues confronting Nigeria are inherent not only in the structure but also in the leadership and the people.
Alkali, who is also the former Pro-Chancellor of Federal University of Technology Minna (FUTMinna) said this on Monday during an interview on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily.
“Nigeria’s issues are inherent in its leadership and people. It is time for our ruling elite to realise that if we push our people if you mobilise them and push them to a particular place, you cannot take them back. That is why they will take up arms, to fend for themselves,” Alkali said.
He likened the situation of the country’s leadership to fixing square pegs in triangular slots.
According to him, politicians and leaders should at all times learn to speak with the people clearly, to ascertain the precise issues that the population face, “rather than claim to solve issues without understanding the pressing needs of the populace.”
Alkali speaking further on structural issues and solutions to crisis in the nation, advised Nigerian leaders to step up in their responsibility to the public.
On restructuring, Alkali said the issue is not new, he explained that “In fact, it is as old as Nigeria itself. The history of Nigeria is the history of restructuring in the nation. The issue of restructuring in Nigeria dates back to the 1916’s to 1940’s up to 1960 and 1963 during the First Republic.”
He added that “if we were to look deeper into the call for restructuring, we will list about ten items for debates like, state police, creation of more states, devolution of power from the Federal Government, resource control, the abolition of local governments and many more, which usually are reasons for debate and continuous discussions.”
The Presidency has insisted that it will not respond to comments suggesting Nigeria is on the brink of disintegration if President Muhammadu Buhari does not “do one thing or another.”
The Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, in a series of tweets on Friday described as ‘unpatriotic outbursts’ comments suggesting that Nigeria will break up.
He said these comments are both “unhelpful and unwarranted” and the Federal Government will not succumb to threats.
“Repeat: this administration will not take any decision against the interests of 200 million Nigerians, who are the President’s first responsibility under the constitution, out of fear or threats especially in this hour of a health crisis,” Shehu said.
See his full statement below…
The Presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country with factions giving specific timelines for the President to do one thing or another or else, in their language, “the nation will break up.”
This is to warn that such unpatriotic outbursts are both unhelpful and unwarranted as this government will not succumb to threats and take any decision out of pressure at a time when the nation’s full attention is needed to deal with the security challenges facing it at a time of the Covid-19 health crisis.
Repeat: this administration will not take any decision against the interests of 200 million Nigerians, who are the President’s first responsibility under the constitution, out of fear or threats especially in this hour of a health crisis.
The President as an elected leader under this constitution will continue to work with patriotic Nigerians, through and in line with the Parliamentary processes to finding solutions to structural and other impediments to the growth and wellbeing of the nation and its people.
THE Presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country with factions giving specific timelines for the President to to do one thing or another or else, in their language, “the nation will break up.”
Governors and people of the South-South geopolitical zone have demanded the restructuring of Nigeria, in line with the principle of true federalism to guarantee peace, security, and stability of the nation.
The South-South leaders believe the country is not at peace with itself and not working as it should, particularly for the people of the region.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who is the Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum, stated this on Tuesday as the position of the zone during the regional stakeholders meeting with a presidential delegation.
This followed an initial meeting which failed to hold as a result of an emergency National Security meeting.
The delegation, led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, met with the governors and other leaders of the region at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Governor Okowa informed the delegation that the people of the South-South were committed to the restructuring of the country in a way that would guarantee true federalism and devolution of powers to the states to create and manage their own police and security architecture under a federal structure.
He called for true federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing, and control of resources by each state of the Federation as it was the case in the first republic.
According to the governor, the kind of federation the South-South desires is one where federating units are constitutionally empowered to create their own structures like local government areas, manage their elections, and control their judiciary.
“We are all aware of the huge endowment of this country; as such, it is imperative to stress that with a little bit of efforts, imagination, hard work, sacrifice and leadership, every state of the Federation as of today, has the ability and capability to contribute to the national purse.
“This should be encouraged rather than the whole country depending substantially on a region of the country,” he said.
Governor Okowa added, “What is worse and even more painful in this ugly situation is the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy and the uncompromising attitudes of some Nigerians, who have refused to understand the challenges of the South-South region of the country especially, the degradation of the environment and our waters.
“As a result, most of the demands of the region have remained unattended to while the resources of the region have been used continually to develop other parts of the country”.
On behalf of the region, he reiterated the call for the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies from Lagos and Abuja to the South-South.
Privatise Them Now
The governor also requested the immediate implementation of the consent judgment entered in the Supreme Court Suit No: SC/964/2016 to enable the South-South region get its share of the $55billion shortfall of collection on deep offshore and inland basin production sharing contracts.
He called for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri, in order to enhance the economic development of the region.
In addition, Governor Okowa demanded that the two refineries in Port Harcourt and one in Warri should be privatised.
“Enough is enough. Let us now privatise them and in doing so, however, allow the states and the region among others, considerable equity in the name of fairness and justice,” he said.
The governor observed that one of the major failures of the intervention agency – Niger Delta Development Commission (NCDC) – was its refusal to forge and foster synergy, consultation, and cooperation with the state governments, especially on project location, development, and execution.
He stated, “We have resolved and we, as the state governments, will no longer allow NDDC to execute any project(s) in any state of the region without it consulting state governments.
“Frankly, enough is enough and we have a court judgment to back our position.”
In his remark, Professor Gambari explained that the stakeholders meeting was at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, to the delegation comprising all the ministers from the region to visit and consult with representatives of the people regarding the recent #EndSARS protest.
He noted that reports indicated that there were instances where the breakdown of law and order was recorded in various locations in the South-South states.
Decades Of Mishandling
The presidential aide lauded the governors for their quick response and actions in addressing the crisis in the region.
Beyond the issue of #EndSARS, he said the President acknowledged that the people in the region have been dealing with other concerns that were particular to them, such as the degradation of the environment due to decades of mishandling and adherence to environmental standards.
Professor Gambari promised to convey the demands of the governors and leaders of the region to the President.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, on his part, urged the leaders of the region to avail themselves of the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly, since most of the issues raised were constitutional matters.
Present at the meeting were Governor Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Governor Ben Ayade (Cross River), Governor Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Governor Douye Diri (Bayelsa), and Godwin Obaseki (Edo).
Ministers present included Godswill Akpabio (Niger Delta), Timipre Sylva (State for Petroleum), Goddy Agba (State for Power), Festus Keyamo (State for Labour and Employment), Osagie Ehanire (Health), and Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture).
While the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, was absent, the National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha, among others were present.
Members of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) on Wednesday protested in front of the National Assembly demanding a restructuring of the nation’s security architecture.
Led by its national chairman, Bishop Amakiri the party members also called on the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure electoral reforms that will restore the confidence of the electorate in the nation’s electoral system.
Amakiri while speaking with journalists during the protest appealed to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to desist from overheating the polity.
“We are concerned about the level of insecurity in Nigeria. Also at the moment, Nigerians are calling for the rejig of the security apparatus. If the country is suffering from insecurity it also means that the economic growth of the country is stunted.
“We also believe that the electoral reform is necessary, there’s no any other time than now,” Amakiri said.
He noted that it is unfortunate for the courts to decide elections after the citizens have made their choice.
The YPP members later submitted their petition to representatives of NASS who received them in front of the National Assembly.
A Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode, has described the Nigerian constitution as military in nature and illegitimate.
Oyebode made the comment Tuesday on Sunrise Daily during a discussion of the Nigerian Senate’s recent decision to review the constitution.
He noted that the current constitution does not reflect the will of the Nigerian majority since it was cobbled together by a few people and imposed on the country.
The renowned academic also pointed out that it was not in the Senate’s place to give Nigerians a new constitution. “We got it wrong,” he said.
Oyebode went on to call for the composition of a constituent assembly that represents the totality of Nigerians.
The new constitution, Oyebode noted, should elaborate on true federalism.
What Oyebode actually said?
“It is not for the National Assembly to give Nigerians a constitution. It is the constitution that will give birth to the National Assembly. The job of the National Assembly is to make workaday laws for the peace, order and good government of Nigeria. So it is the constituent assembly that will deliberate and fashion out a fundamental law for Nigeria.
“If we agree that the military decree that is masquerading as a constitution is worse than useless; then of course we have to go about replacing it with a basic law of Nigeria.
“We have to elaborate on true federalism. We need devolution of powers. We should not be running to Abuja for every little thing.
“What we have been operating under the military constitution is a quasi-federal arrangement. So the constituent units don’t have the freedom to legislate on matters that affect their constituents.
“It is not the national assembly that should give us a new constitution. We the people or our representatives formed into a constituent assembly should discuss the modalities of living together.
“What we’ve been having, talking of the Decree 24 of 1979, is an illegitimate instrument. Where did we people gather to discuss and agree to live together? We never had that. It was a product of a military dictate. What you had was the Abdusalam constitution – I believe 29 Nigerians were constituted to draft the 1999 constitution.
“Nigerians now have the right to enact to themselves the fundamental law that will regulate how they are living together.
“If the infelicities of that constitution are well known, we would be wasting time recounting how unworkable a quasi-federal set up is for a country that has over 400 ethnic groups. And that’s why we’ve been in the jam that we find ourselves.
“I think we have to get it right finally by setting up a constituent assembly that will produce a draft constitution which will be voted on by the generality of Nigerians.”
Elder statesman and former governor of Ogun State, Mr Olusegun Osoba, says Nigeria can only be restructured with the current constitution he described as being imperfect.
Osoba stated this during a recent interview on Channels Television’s Newsnight which aired on Monday.
“I am for restructuring. As long as we have a Constitution, we can only restructure within the current Constitution, as imperfect as it is first,” he said.
Speaking about the constitution of the national conference, Osoba explained that the President does not have the powers to convene such an event.
Rather, the former governor called on the National Assembly, in collaboration with the State Houses of Assembly to amend the Constitution at the federal and state levels for proper restructuring of the country.
“For me, I prefer to copy the kind of restructuring we saw in Germany, which provides the basic line,” the minister who was a guest on Channels Television’s Newsnight said.
“If no state can raise up to N5million per month to pay their salaries, then all of us including the Federal Government will contribute money for that state.
“Which means, you can devolve power and revenue but if no state can raise that kind of money to sustain itself then both the Federal Government and all other states must come together to put money to enable that state to survive.
“This government, the APC led government is not against restructuring,” Senator Omo-Agege told Channels Television.
He added, “A couple of days ago, I believe I read the release from the Villa; that release represents the view of the APC.”
The lawmaker insisted that his party was not opposed to restructuring, stressing that the Committee on Constitution Amendment would be considering the report of the committee led by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.
He noted that the amendment to the Electoral Act was the major task before the National Assembly and the lawmakers would expedite action on it and base its recommendations majorly on the submissions of the El-Rufai led committee set up by the APC.
“The APC supports restructuring and indeed, the restructuring committee that was put in place headed by Governor El-Rufai came up with some very significant recommendations.
“Those recommendations represent the views of the party. We are going to be taking that into account as we proceed with the exercise,” Senator Omo-Agege stated.
Earlier, he informed the conference that the bill seeking to amend the Electoral Act, which he co-sponsored, might be passed by February 2020.
The event put together by the Civil Society Elections Situation Room was attended by top officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), representative of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), and members of the civil society.
The office of the AGF made a commitment that it would work with INEC while the electoral umpire promised to work with the National Assembly to ensure the early passage of the bill.
According to the senior advocate, the present administration has been able to close the tunnel of corruption but a new Constitution is significant to tackle the menace headlong.
He disagreed with the notion that the nation’s laws were encouraging corruption, stressing that Nigeria has a faulty Constitution.
“Restructure Nigeria, change the Constitution. Let us change the Constitution and restructure because governance in Nigeria is taking 80 per cent, that’s what the new budget has told us.
“Why should we be spending 80 per cent of our revenue on government expenses?” Clarke questioned.
“It is not the laws, the laws are made to regulate. The Constitution is the cankerworm that is eating us up in corruption.
“The Constitution we are operating upon is a corrupt Constitution; is a rotten egg,” he added while insisting that it must be “terminated”.
Slash Political Appointments
The SAN noted that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan made efforts to review the Constitution by organising conferences while in office.
He, however, stated that both leaders never laid a foundation for any legal basis upon which the recommendations of the conferences would be implemented.
Clarke advised President Buhari not to “make the same mistake” but send a bill to the National Assembly, informing them about his intention to set up a parliament to look into restructuring and review the Constitution.
He added that the President should urge the lawmakers to pass a bill which he would assent to that whatever decision the panel arrives at would be sent to Nigerians and if approved, it would be brought back to the National Assembly for proper legislation.
The senior advocate also recommended that President Buhari should cut the cost of governance by reducing political appointments, as well as Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) in the country.
The Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has explained how the government plans to go about restructuring the country.
While the matter has been widely discussed and advocated for by many, Mr Shehu says the government is not opposed to it but only has a different approach from those advocating for it.
“Yes (restructuring) is there in our party’s manifesto but I think the difference with those advocates is the mechanism for achieving this,” he said on Channels TV’s Independence Day edition of Politics Today.
According to him, many of advocates call for a restructuring that is independent of the National Assembly.
But the government believes that anything outside the parliament is not representative of the will of the people.
“I guess that some of them think that this can be achieved through a process that alienates the parliaments.
“Our sense is that an elected government in a democracy must work with the elected parliament and that anything outside the parliament, not elected by the people is not representative of the popular will of the people because the parliament is the repository of the popular will of the people.
“So, if the Nigerian parliament says this is the way to go, the president will consider it,” Shehu said.
Top among the issues highlighted by Clark are restructuring for a better nation and the security of the lives and properties of citizens.
Contrary to the government’s position on the war against Boko Haram insurgency, he insisted that the insurgents have not been decimated.
According to the elder statesman, there are security problems in the northern and southern parts of the country, including the activities of armed herdsmen.
“Not a single herdsman has been captured. They are moving around everywhere – both in the North and South and with the problem of insecurity in the North-West, things are not okay,” he said.
The elder statesman added, “We must put politics aside, as for the security of this country; the Federal Government cannot do it alone.
“That is why many of us are suggesting that we should have a security round-table talk. The problem in Nigeria today is not in the North alone, it’s a national problem which requires everybody to talk about it.”
He also called on the government to tackle poverty and unemployment, as well as reduce the number of out of school children in the country.
The Senator representing Osun Central in the National Assembly, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, has blamed the Parliament for failing to address the issue of restructuring.
Appearing on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, the lawmaker lamented the fact that the outgoing Eight Assembly could not effectively vote in support of taking the nation on the path of true federalism.
“It’s a failure on the part of the National Assembly of which I am a member and a principal officer,” he stated.
Adeyeye, who is also the Chief Whip of the National Assembly, explained that a lawmaker may have the intention of pushing calls for restructuring, it is however subject to a majority vote.
He recalled a situation in the Seventh Assembly where the issue of renouncing Nigeria’s citizenship was before the floor of the Senate.
According to him, most lawmakers voted against the proposed 18 years considered as maturity on the basis that Islam recognised any married person as being mature.
“No matter how passionately you feel about any issue, votes are taken. You win some, you lose some. And I like to remind this republic that one of the most controversial issues in the Seventh Assembly was in the issue of our effort to increase the age at which a Nigerian can renounce citizenship.
“You have to be an adult. And we tried to spell adulthood at attaining the age of 18. We took a vote and it passed. Senator Sani Yerima from Zamfara State took exception. He said that the law of Islam says once you get married, you are an adult and that the vote we are taking is an assault on the fundamental rights of Muslims in Nigeria.
“A call for a second vote (came up). Some of us approached Senator Mark and begged him not to allow a second vote. Of course, Senator Mark had been long in government. He understood that that could be an issue that could consume all of us.
“He allowed a second vote. Unfortunately, every Muslim from the north except one who had voted yes previously reversed himself and that exercised now lost by 3 votes,” he stated.
Senator Adeyeye further said that sometimes, we get so emotional about all the noise that we don’t look at all the substance of what is going on, and part of what had gone on especially in the last 4 years.
He argued that while the failure to push the issue of restructuring was a minus on the part of the National Assembly, the legislating of a country is not a straight-jacket process.
“The business of amending the constitution lies primarily in the National Assembly, however, in any country, amending the constitution is never a straight forward and an easy problem,” Adeyeye opined.