By; BAYO AKAMO, Ibadan.
Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on Monday said Nigeria is seriously in need of a restructuring for a chance to live better in a few years’ time and leave a worthy legacy for our children and grandchildren.
The former Vice President stated this in Ile Ife while speaking as Guest Speaker at the Annual Professor Ademola Popoola Public Lecture, Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife entitled “the constitutional and political framework for reconstructing Nigeria for true federalism and national integration” declared that the present structure, which can be called “unitary federalism”, does not serve the country or any section well.
According to him, “it is a myth to say that we do not need restructuring, that all we need is good leadership” saying, “while leadership is critical, leaders also operate within structural and institutional constraints, which may impede or enhance their performance”.
“We have a unique opportunity now, with all the agitation and clamour for restructuring, to have a conversation that would lead to changes in the structure of our federation in order to make it stronger, enhance our unity and promote peace, security and better and more accountable governance. Ours should be a federal system that delegates to the federal government only powers and responsibilities for those matters that are better handled by a central government such as defence, foreign affairs, inter-governmental affairs, setting overall national economic policy and standards. Other powers and responsibilities should reside with the states, which will include the power to create and fund local governments as they deem fit”he said.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar noted that “the fight in this country over “resource control”, while it may still have resonance today, is really a fight for yesterday. And, as I said at a conference in Kaduna eight months ago, even a discovery of large quantities of oil and gas in the north today can only bring temporary relief but cannot reverse the fundamental shifts in the world’s energy trajectory.”
“So, my brothers and sisters, let us move on, like the rest of the world. We should embark on the badly needed restructuring of this country now even if we are hoping to strike oil in commercial quantities in another region of the country. That way, we have a chance to live better in a few years’ time and leave a worthy legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Emphasizing that with “a federal structure that encourages dependency while discouraging hard work, innovation, productivity and competition, your development as a nation will be less than optimal,” the former Vice President pointed out that “the current structure, which concentrates too much power and resources in the centre, makes us economically unproductive, uncompetitive, indolent, and politically weak, disunited and unstable”
“It has made our component units too suspicious of one another, a suspicion that makes any rational discussion very difficult. This structure, which can be called “unitary federalism”, does not serve the country or any section well. It rests on the foundation of dependence on oil revenues, which seem to be in long-term decline and is, therefore, unsustainable. And a country remains united in the long term only because the component units believe that it is in their interest to remain part of the country, that there are important things that they get from remaining part of the country than not”.
Speaking further, he said “leaders from across the country acknowledged this and gave voice to it in the last political conference held in 2014, whatever the motivations for convening the conference at the time”.
The former Vice President maintained that “ the downward pressure on oil prices will likely continue even if the world economy fully recovers from the current slow-down” and that “add to that the militancy and instability in the Niger Delta, which have reduced our oil production capacity and revenues. So it will be foolhardy for us to think that this ‘unitary federal’ structure, erected on oil rents, can subsist without a major modification”.
He maintained that “a trained, educated and entrepreneurial workforce in a restructured Nigeria that empowers her federating units to look to their strengths, emphasize production and internally generated revenues, and compete with one another to attract investments will truly transform us into a respectable people. It will help grow our economy rapidly, ensure needed employment for our young people, improve security, stabilize our politics and promote peace. We need the courage to move in that direction”.
By; BAYO AKAMO, Ibadan.