…Nigeria comfortably sitting on a keg of gun powder
…60 years marriage can be renegotiated
…Boundary adjustments not cast on stones
…Restructuring is the ultimate goal
…El-Rufai C’ttee report can bail us out
By Emman Ovuakporie
There has been call across board from religious leaders, political leaders and even zonal groups that Nigeria is at the verge of breaking up, that the only way out is restructuring or better still devolution of powers at the centre.
TheNewsGuru.com, (TNG) in its usual style of getting to the roots of topical issues conducted a series of interviews with critical stakeholders on the Nigerian Project,their views and opinions are well orchestrated below.
Their views are revealing as to how Nigeria can right the wrongs of the past and forge ahead as the signals of #EndSars, agitation for self determination from the South West and South East continue to reverbrate making Nigeria to be comfortably seated on a keg of gunpowder capable of blowing Nigeria into shreds.
TNG spoke with a former Governor of Edo State, Senator Oserheimen Osunbor, a Professor of Law, three serving members of the National Assembly, see their views below:
Hon Tajudeen Yusuf in this chat bared his mind and sincerely hopes Nigeria will right the wrongs.
The call for self determination and #EndSars for sone time now have mounted the front burner in Nigeria, what is your take on this?
If you do something for a month, a year, two, three, ten years, twenty, sixty years and you have not seen the result, common sense dictates that you should try something else.
It is glaringly clear, that Nigeria the way it is structured, can not and will not produce the Nigeria of our dream.
There are plethora of other nations that have gone through things like that but they have sat down to re-examine themselves and we can see the difference. But tell me one federation in the world that practices our own kind of federalism, none. A unitary in federal name, a unitary system of government in federalism.
If you have a unitary system of government that has a parliamentary kind of, it would have been okay, you say the Parliament and the executive have a synergy.
So the agitations are a reflection of the not too equilibrium because it is natural; nature will naturally find solution to frictions. These are things that will precipitate on its own.
I tell people that you cannot continue to do something wrong and you expect it to continue that way. Nature has a way of precipitating need for change.
It is better we are forward looking and prepare ahead of time to change than for nature to produce the change itself.
And the end SARS thing, in 2016 there was cry about SARS it wasn’t this huge but we did nothing.
So this fake life, this unreal and very hypocritical, a surface dressing mentality to governance cannot take us out of the woods. So those agitations are legitimate.
There was an attempt under Jonathan by the national conference and these things came up but this government came and jettison it and things that were not yet in law were brought into budget.
In the first budget of this country Buhari brought Frontier exploration. Frontier exploration was a proposal of the northern part of the country as a prerequisite to accept the petroleum industry bill to pass the community ownership of some infrastructure development for the oil communities.
So when this government came, the first budget it prepared in 2016, they had 60billion for frontier exploration, so he came and he began to execute your interest as it suits where you come from and you feel others will not agitate and feel funny about it.
Equity is not invisible, equity must be seen. So when you perceive that there is no equity, you came up and say there is RUGA and that people should cede their land for people you agree are not Nigerians, you said they are pastorals who are coming and you said the nationality of the Fulani is Fulani, so Fulanis in Congo are Nigerians. Are Yoruba’s in Benin Republic Nigerians?
And so until we sit down and everybody is given a sense of ownership of this estate and nobody is seen as second fiddle, those agitations will continue.
There is this school of thought that says the 1914 agreement talked about boundary adjustment and all that, it wasn’t cast on stones. If the Oduduwas are saying they want to go, there is need for boundary adjustment.
They agreed ab initio that they want to be here, so it was right, legitimate and so when they said they don’t want to be here again, how is it now an issue?
I honestly believe that if we genuinely want to savage Nigeria we can savage Nigeria, I still believe it is possible to savage this nation, I believe we are beautiful together, we are great together as a people but not in this manner.
Yes I cannot continue to blame the British, we should be old enough by now to take the destiny in our hands but from foundation Nigeria was designed to fail. Amalgamation was on paper, there was no integration, they kept the north apart, they kept the south apart so that we will not interact efficiently enough to become one.
So as at 1960 we had the Yoruba peoples nation, Igbos peoples nation, Hausa Fulani peoples nation, so there was no Nigeria eria and it was done deliberately, so as to enhance their explorative tendencies.
But by now if we genuinely say we want to live together. One thing I want to make you understand is that God does things on purpose, even if we are not one nation, we will be neighbours, we will be West Africa and we will still need to interact. So if we cannot interact as one nation, we can interact as neighbours. We still need ourselves.
So we can still savage this, we must genuinely sit on the table. One cannot be saying he is not happy and you say he has no genuine reason that he should keep quiet. He is saying I am not happy in this union.
The DSS came up in 2016, employed 85% from the north and out of that 85%, Katsina and Kano had almost 60% of that and we were told it was a balancing move that the other part of the nation have more people but they didn’t show us the data to justify that, okay we agreed and it was allowed to go.
Now two months ago another one was done, 500+ from the north, south 90 recruits. I am from Kogi and I am supposed to be from the north but when it comes to that my people don’t benefit but geographically we are supposed to be in the north and they said it was replacement.
So those 500+ who retired are from one section of the country and you must look for the section because that is a policy of government, so let us know. So these are the reasons why you have this agitations.
The end SARS thing is not trending much up north because SARS activities are not that notorious in the north and you hear people talk about that it is Yahoo boys and what have you, you made SARS, I disagree.
The fact that criminals and criminality has up their game does not mean that crude means should be deviced and you are telling somebody; Hushpuppi was arrested in Dubai without the Dubai police and you are arresting every youth on the street and checking their phone. They up their game, capacity and technology and what have you and they got him.
So we can’t deplore infrastructure to get yahoo boys except we stop innocent people on the street and embarrass them and take them to ATM and ask them to withdraw money, is that part of your investigation and you take the money. So must we wait until the youth say enough is enough.
For those who feel unconcerned and indifferent about this, the truth of the matter is that if we allow the table to turn and we allow them to be pushed to the wall, like they say in Yoruba if you push a goat to the wall it will bite. If the youth decide to rise, it may consume a lot of us.
Now we still have the opportunity to sit down and dust those papers that have been written by fantastic men, nationalists. I remember many years ago when the Nwabueze and Co in the 80’s and 90’s were still protesting and talking about nationalism and restructuring in Nigeria; I was telling somebody that if Enahoro could still match in 1993, in 1951 he matched for Nigeria and he still matched in 1993, so how many years does he need to match.
So what are we talking about, are we saying that as a people we have not learnt anything? I have a conviction that Nigeria’s end is near, it is at the edge of a precipice, we have a responsibility to either push it back or allow it fall.
Some people have been saying that they are tired of all these palliative mentality of when there is agitation they pass a pie to people and give them peanuts to crumble and forget the main thing that they want the whole thing to really go down, maybe that will teach us a lesson.
But I still believe that we can savage this nation. There are men of goodwill on all parts of the country, there are men who genuinely seek the good of this nation unfortunately they have not been privileged to have that aggregate number of such men in position of authority so that they can compliment themselves.
Today, no police station has stationery because we don’t have a budget system that gives into cognisance or that record or that put on record budget of every segment, every MDA.
For example, every police station should have a budget. The fiscal responsibility Act said that every MDA will raise their budget, send to their ministry, ministry will send to the ministry of finance and ministry of finance to the presidency and the presidency will do the budget.
What we should have in the national assembly should be details of each police station budget still using the police as an example. You know how much is for electricity, stationery and what have you. But what you have is a lump sum amount for overhead, people can decide to do what they wish.
So it is not a function of the man who is there now, he might have good intentions but the system is wired to fail, so we must rejig the system and how do you police an environment you don’t know. You have no impact, you have no relationship, how do you take somebody from Niger Delta to Sokoto, somebody from Sokoto to Lagos.
Effective police should be that people should operate in their environment, so you know that you cannot cork your gun and kill your neighbour’s child unnecessarily because your children lives in that environment, you know the consequence.
So the agitation must be holistic, don’t just end SARS. Can we start from the welfare of the police, the infrastructure required to a budget that is supposed to be a tool to see and monitor, I can not seen it. I am in the parliament I cannot see it, I have done two terms.
I cannot go to Kabba police station now and say why didn’t you buy stationery. I have no record of what is supposed to be in their stationery. If you take anybody to a police station you will buy file, Biro, paper and when the person is in cell you bring food, you that is the complainant you bring food to feed the accused. So most people get discouraged and don’t bother reporting cases at the police station because they don’t have a budget and we are running away from restructuring.
If you postpone the doom’s day you have not stopped it, you are only pushing it and one thing about things you push, it goes ahead and gather more momentum it becomes stronger and more destructive. I pray we do the needful before we get to there.
Boundary Agreements are not cast on stones-Hon Rima Shawulu, PDP , Taraba
The call for restructuring and the call by certain sections of the country that they want to go their separate ways after 60 years?
A: I have said it on television, the fundamental right to associate has embedded in it the fundamental right to dissociate, that has been world history. So anyone that says that anything is cast on iron and cannot be undone is not being factual, he is not being historical and would be proven wrong by the future.
The fact of the matter is, as far as I am concerned is this, if you look around the world today, Africa is the only place except for one small part of it, that is Sudan, we have not had any form of changes to the boundaries and that is not the same with other parts of the world.
And it is funny that we complain against colonial rule that they arbitrarily created boundaries, they brought people who are not compatible to stay together; we say that in all our analysis.
When the African leaders had the opportunity to change that at the meeting of the OAU they now affirmed the sanctity of these boundaries that were created by colonial people sitting in Berlin, who just had the map and drew lines, that is why the boundaries of Africa if you check they are straight lines because some people sat somewhere and drew those straight lines and then they said you go and effectively occupy your own.
And we complained in our political science that these boundaries arbitrary, colonial authorities have cheated us; why are we refusing to adjust the things that the colonial authorities did that we say are wrong.
If you go to Europe, it has changed. Czechoslovakia is many countries today, Yugoslavia is many countries today, Soviet Union is many countries today and there is more peace.
So for any person saying that the boundaries created by colonial authorities are sacred and cannot be changed, it means that we should not complain about what the colonial authorities did, you cannot have your cake and eat it, we choose one. If what the colonial authorities did was not right and we said they brought problem, then let us adjust what they have done, that is one.
And I did say that people at every time must be given the right to determine the how they live their lives, anything short of that is oppression, it is dictatorship.
A 60 year marriage can be re-negotiated- Hon Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, PDP, Abia
At 60 is this 1914 marriage of one United Nigeria still working bearing in mind that different segments of Nigeria are calling for self determination?
Yes it can be re-nogotiated- via various peaceful methods.
I have always said and believe that big Nigeria can use our unity to grow or use our ties to grow. The Western world from what I read are saying that 60year old marriage don try, make them divorce, say their pikin don suppose grow by now. But my now we don’t even have pikin, we are still crawling and at 60 you are crawling because Nigeria is overloaded.
At 60 nothing to celebrate because of our structure and we need to restructure if we must move. At 60 we need to see a visible thing that can impress us. At 60 we are battling with insecurity. At 60 we are battling with economic problems. At 60 we are battling with extreme hunger. At 60 Nigeria is still listed as one of the poorest countries. At 60 what can we, is it good water, is it good road, is it electricity, at 60 we lack all the necessary things that we need. We are told life starts at 40 and expectancy at 60, so if you look at life expectancy Nigeria has almost outlived his life expectancy going by Nigerian standard or African standard.
We are called federal government of Nigeria, how many years after we are running a unitary system of government. The centre is overloaded and that is why the vehicle called Nigeria can’t move. You can’t take a small car like a Toyota and give it a load that a trailer will carry, it won’t move so that is the problem of Nigeria. The way Nigeria is structured presently it is difficult for us to move Nigeria.
Therefore at 60 we should come now, go back to the table and restructure Nigeria. I challenge you this is 2020, now look at Nigeria in historical perspective, 60years ago 1960 and look at the economic advancement the GTB then and now, you will see that we are matching forward how many years ago. I will illustrate.
In 1983, somebody that is being paid $500 or convert that to naira then; somebody was earning N500 in 1983 it was a big money. As a corper by the year 1989, 1990, I was earning two hundred and fifty kobo. Now that person that was earning N500 in 1983 lived well. If you convert it to dollar, dollar was at N60 to a dollar, then he was earning over N200,000. Now the person retired as a perm sec and he is earning N250,000 which is now less than $1,000; can’t you see that he was matching back for the last 30years that he was working because what he earned then when it was N500 was now bigger than the N300,000.
In 1982, a brand new Peugeot Pan with insurance was N6,500 and they will give you one year service free; today N6,500 cannot fill the fuel tank of a vehicle, can you see where we are getting to. In 1982 if you are found with N7,000 they will call the police for you, but a school boy will hold N7,000 and nobody will think anything happened. So how did we get here, from where and how do we get out of here?
So at 60, all we should do is gather, go and clean the table and start drawing, there is nothing to celebrate. It calls for solemn gathering, a call for fasting and prayer, we should go to the Eagle Square, call all the pastors and bishops and imams and pray for Nigeria for a change and then look for how to shed the excess load we are carrying, Nigeria is overloaded at the centre and that is why without FAC or whatever they call it, some states cannot work. They need the FAC to be able to pay salaries.
We emulate other persons, other regimes; we should apply it to us. We must decongest Nigeria so that every components of the federalism, should practice true federalism and fiscal federalism where you can grow at your pace and limit and timing.
If you go to United States, what obtains in New York it is not the same with Texas, or Maryland or Chicago, every states to their own ability or whatever. So we must review all these things for Nigeria to move on.
As of now we are not even moving go-slow, we are stagnant, we are rolling back the hill, we need a wedge to put it and then we now remove the excess load so that can move off. If we don’t wedge it, it will roll back and get into a ditch and scatter.
So the Southwest are saying they are going on a match to ask for what? It could be their right to do the match but my plea is can we come back again and restructure Nigeria. Everybody is saying restructure, nobody has gotten the will to restructure. We need to restructure because what we have now cannot take us much.
I was speaking somewhere and I told them that this constitution have suffered several alterations because it is not homegrown, because it is not by the people, for the people. If you open the constitution it says we the people of Nigeria, was I a military man then, so how can it be we the people of Nigeria, it was by the military juntas, the supreme military council forced it on us, it is not our constitution.
And upon attaining democracy, all we should have done was to subject that constitution to a healthy plebiscite, any section that does not fly remains deleted. Every year we come and we are doing alterations, we have done first, second, third, fourth, going to the fifth alteration. So we have multiple constitution pieces here and there we must be able to put them together.
So why not subject the whole thing to a plebiscite, any one that does not meet the standard remains out of it, that is a very clean way to do it and then we can now say we the people of Nigeria have done this by us and for us, otherwise this one was done by about 12 members of supreme military council and some lawyers and they gave it to us and then we used it.
And there have been several reports of national conference and there were recommendations, where are the reports. Is there anything we can pick from there and work with but we need a collective Nigeria, we need a total Nigeria, we need a united Nigeria, our diversity will now be our strength if we manage it well.
I am looking forward to when we are going to have a united Nigeria, where would be strong enough to do business so that we can now be the giant of Africa. Now we are oversize people, giants are very healthy and strong, giant cannot be beaten by a small person. Ghana terrorizes us, Cameroon terrorizes us then you say you are giant but small people are beating you, then you are not giant. How can you be giant when all the small boys are beating you.
The El-Rufai led C’ttee on power devolution can rescue us – Senator Osunbor
What is your view on the restructuring of the Nigerian federation?
Well, my views are largely informed by my participation in the All Progressive Congress (APC) committee on true federalism. You would recall that in the year 2017 the national leadership of the party put in place the Governor El-Rufai led committee on true federalism. We made far reaching recommendations in the course of that exercise which was really informed by the clamour for true federalism or some people would say restructuring.
So we addressed a number of issues that we gathered from memoranda, representations which were made to the committee in the six geopolitical zones of the country and we aggregated together these suggestions and proposals, and made our recommendations to the party.
Let me talk about the issue of devolution. When people talk about restructuring, they are in fact saying that the states have to be stronger in order that they can play the role that is expected of them as federating units in Nigeria. As of now they are very weak and many of them, virtually all of them cannot really stand firmly on their own as federating units.
So we recommended devolution of certain functions from the federal to the state government and concomitantly as you are devolving functions of powers, you also devolve the financial resource so that the states will be more financially empowered to be able to perform those functions.
We looked at the issue of state police and for me the logic is very simple. Most of our laws particularly criminal laws are state offences whether it is stealing, kidnapping, forgery you name it, these are all state offences, only a few are federal offences. For instance the ones created under the EFCC Act; offences against the currency and so on.
Immigration offences, banking offences, those are federal offences but other general offences are state offences.
But it is an anomaly that the states that create these offences are unable to enforce those laws through their police because the states don’t control the police.
So you have an anomaly where a state house of assembly creates an offence but has no police to enforce that offence, it will have to rely on the federal police and if the federal police is not so dispose they cannot assist the states to enforce its own laws. That is a serious anomaly and an aberration in a federation. So that was the logic and other reasons that made us to recommend state police which is different from community policing.
Another recommendation that I can talk about is the provision for the merger of states. There is a lot of clamour that states we want to be able to organize ourselves; we have heard that clamour among states. For instance, we have the Amotekun among the south western States, you have the BRACED among the south south states and they organise from time to time. Of course you have the northern governors forum and even the Ohaneze in the southeast the governors of that zone they meet from time to time to identify commonalities amongst the states.
So we felt that if a group of states feels strongly that they need to merge, why can’t they merge because they are already doing so through this other arrangement that I talked about. So if they want to take it further let them take it further, harness their resources together and be able to build for instance railways.
As it is now, apart from one or two states, states cannot embark on the construction of railways which by the way we also feel it should be devolved from the federal to the states. But if there is a merger among states or pulling of resource among states it is doable.
So we feel there is a merit in allowing some kinds of merger amongst who willingly through a referendum agree that this is what they want to do because it is not just a few politicians, vocal politicians dictating this for the people. The people have through a referendum decide whether or not they want to go back to a merger.
I said this because I am mindful of the fact that even amongst these geopolitical zones, there are States who don’t want to go back to the old regional system because they suffered a lot or marginalisation under the old regional system, so don’t compel them to go back to that regional system.
But the people are free to decide through a referendum that for these purposes we want to pull our resources together and forge ahead as one provided that this does not constitute a threat to national stability nor infringe on the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So long as those threats are not there, states should be free to enter into mergers.
And also with another provisory that if you do so as a state decide to merge you cannot unmerge easily, it will take at least another 20years or 25years before you can exit what with your eyes wide open you decided to go into and this is to ensure that people will consider it very seriously.
Do we as a state want to merge with this other state and if the people so wish they can go ahead but once you are in it, you cannot get out until maybe another future crop of politicians would have emerged by which time those who pushed the process would have retired from the scene.
These are my views were quite laudable and I believe that sooner or later Nigeria will see the merits in the recommendations that we made and implement at least some of them if not all of them.