Between Atiku’s vague restructuring and Osinbanjo’s ‘good governance’, By Majeed Dahiru

 

The clamour for restructuring has become heightened today in Nigeria in a manner comparable to the ‘’on Aburi we stand’’ clamour by Nigerians of south east origin following the unfortunate incidences of January coup, July counter coup and mass killings of civilians in northern Nigeria. To pull the Nigerian nation from the brinks of collapse, the government of Ghana under the leadership of J A Ankrah, had brokered a peace deal between the Nigerian delegation led by then Head of State by Yakubu Gowon and the eastern region delegation led by then military Governor Emeka Ojukwu. The outcome of this peace effort, which proposed to restructure Nigeria into a confederacy with a relatively weaker central government, was named after the now historic Ghanaian town of Aburi where the talks were hosted. Like the clamour for restructuring today, the Aburi accord was considered the only basis for Nigeria’s continuous existence in unity and prosperity. The failure of the Gowon led Supreme Military Council to abide by the Aburi accord is generally considered to be the trigger for Nigeria-Biafra 30 month civil war between 1967 and 1970.

51 years after the clamour for Aburi accords, the concept of restructuring appears to have taking centre stage in Nigeria’s political circus. This is so because the condition that created the circumstances leading to the Aburi accords are discernable in today’s Nigeria. Nigeria is as divided in 2018 as was in 1966. For many Nigerians, it’s either restructuring or nothing.  However, there are two significant differences between the current clamour for restructuring and the Aburi accord. First, unlike the clamour for Aburi accord, which was largely restricted to then Eastern Nigeria region, the current clamour for restructuring enjoys wider spectrum of legitimacy cutting across the southern half of the country, the middle belt and significant number from the conservative north. Secondly, the Aburi accord that was clear and unambiguous about the loosening of the Nigerian federation into a confederacy of some sort, the current clamour for restructuring is ambiguous without clarity of purpose.

With the widespread clamour for restructuring, the amoebic politics of Nigeria has adjusted its shape to accommodate the buzz word in political exegesis of transition year 2019. The opposition PDP, which is positioning itself to wrestle power from the incumbent APC, is making a huge campaign issue out of the clamour for restructuring. Former vice president and leading contender for president on the platform of the opposition PDP, Atiku Abubakar has firmly hinged his aspiration on the issue of restructuring. He is one of the significant few from the conservative north that are championing the clamour for restructuring. By riding on the crest of restructuring, Atiku is perceived to be making an in road into the political base in the south and middle belt of Nigeria among the issue of restructuring is fast degenerating into loose cannon of populism. To check this political gain, Atiku’s restructuring myth as a silver bullet that will kill Nigeria’s problem had to busted by no less a person than current vice president Yemi Osinbanjo. Describing Atiku’s restructuring plan as vague, Osinbanjo contends that good governance and not necessarily physical and geographical restructuring is fundamentally needed to solve Nigeria’s problems.

The recent heated exchange between Atiku and Osinbanjo has further deepened the debate about restructuring and related issues. Geo-physical and political restructuring is an open ended continuous process that has been with Nigeria throughout British colonial era to post independence era with intermittent switching between military rule and civil democratic rule. The amalgamation of southern and northern protectorates in 1914 with the establishment of the unelected Nigerian Council of Lord Lugard as the governing body was a process of restructuring. Subsequent colonial constitutional development that saw the adoption of Cliffiord constitution in 1922, which abrogated the unelected council of 1914 and replaced it with a partly elected legislative council for the Southern protectorate as a precursor to federalism was a form of restructuring. The Richard constitution of 1946, which firmly established Nigeria as a federation of three regions [East, West and North] was a continuation of the process of restructuring, which began in 1914. The Nigerian federation will be further restructured with the adoption of the Macpherson constitution of 1951, which bestowed on the federating units full legislative and executive autonomous governance structures.

After independence in 1960, Nigeria will undergo further restructuring. The creation out of the original federating units of three regions, a fourth, and the Midwest region was a process of restructuring. The January coup and counter coup of July 1966 were violent attempts at restructuring. The promulgation of unification decree 34 of 1966 by then Head of State, Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi, which reduced substantially the autonomy of the four region federating units resulting into a stronger centre restructured Nigeria.

Beginning from 1967, when Gowon dissolved the four region federating units into 12 states, which was continued by succeeding military regime in 1975[19], 1987[21], 1991 [31] and 1996 [36], were all processes of restructuring. It was restructuring when in 1979, 1992 and 1999 upon transition from military to civil democratic rule, Nigeria opted for American style presidential system of government in place of the first republic West Minster system of government.

Despite these processes of restructuring, the Nigerian state has not been able to satisfy the yearnings of its constituent peoples. This clearly illustrates the reality that good governance can neither be decreed nor legislated in Nigeria alone without the compliments of the enabling resolve of the constituent peoples to make their nation work for them. No structure has worked for Nigeria because physical restructuring of its geography without the organic restructuring of the minds of its constituent peoples to evolve out of them, Nigerians in the true sense of the word had been exercises in futility. There has to be an organically evolved Nigerian nation out of the plethora of micro-ethno geographic nationalities where ethnic identities and indigenous status will be subordinated to citizenship before any physical structure can work. To bring about this organic restructuring, there has be a self-enlightened realization by the constituent peoples of Nigeria that indeed they one people with close knitted cultural ties embedded in common history. Having come to full realization of their oneness, deliberately conscious efforts must be made to heal the different faults along ethno-geographic lines and evolve united nation out the many micro-ethno geographic nationalities in Nigeria. This process will be guided by a competent leadership whose drivers have also come under the self-enlightened realization that their time in power is transient and outside power; they will be beneficiaries or victims of the good or bad governance legacies they instituted.

Therefore, when Osinbajo described Atiku’s quest for restructuring as vague, suggesting instead an emphasis on good governance, he is right only to the extent that he is not the incumbent vice president. The heightened clamour for restructuring in Nigeria today, is as a direct result of the poor leadership style of the current administration in which Osinbanjo is the number two man. This leadership style that has elevated sectionalism to near state policy, has not only left the country very divided but has also enthroned mediocrity over competence leaving Nigerians pauperized, insecure and their common wealth plundered. That Osinbanjo serves in an administration that has the negative distinction of perhaps the poorest governance structure in the history of civil democratic rule in Nigeria denies him the moral ground to pontificate on good governance. Beyond rhetoric, Osinbajo’s inability to stamp his feet down on basic existential matters of simple obeying and executing judicial pronouncements renders his rendition on good governance as pretentious. As the vice president, it is not in his place to merely eloquently deliver sweet rendition on good governance but must be seen to be practicing the principles of good governance he preaches. The inability of Osinbanjo and the administration he serves to practice the good governance he preaches has further reinforced the belief in many that Nigeria’s current structure is an impediment to good governance. As long as Osinbanjo’s good governance sermon remains pretentious, Atiku’s vague restructuring clamour will continue to gain him political momentum among Nigerians.

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