By John Danfulani, Ph.D
In my Op Ed of 29th July 2016 titled ” LET IS TALK, NOW IS TIME”, I admonished; Nigerians must surmount courage and accept the fact that, their protracted pretense over long standing questions bordering its political structure and corporate existence be answered, right away. I capped up my discourse by saying, there is nothing to lose but political conjugal chains that representative of British Colonial office Lord Lugard tied round our wrists since 1914. Characteristically, my counsel was greeted with sundry conspiracy theories; a national ethics of diverting attention from poignant national questions raised.
While unpatriotic and dissimulative elements were busy throwing scud missiles of discontentment to my postulation and fruitlessly struggling to desecrate my appeal were at work, the former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Mr. Atiku Abubakar rekindled his advocacy for restructuring Nigeria in an occasion organized to eulogize the former Military Governor of Northern Nigeria Gen. Hassan Usman Katsina. That was the second time in the month of July 2016 that Turakin Adamawa made such patriotic and sincere appeal to Nigerians.The first was on a book launch by Chido Onumah titled ” WE ARE ALL BIAFRANS”.
Immediately Atiku relighted the flame of restructuring and national dialogue leaders Yorubas and Ibos Pan Cultural groups Afenifere and Ohaneze Ndibgo supported his mission. A South South group called Ijaw Youth Movement also added their voice of support to the call. Surprisingly, three members of House of Representatives representing constituencies in the north and south gave a nod to calls for restructuring of Nigeria political structures. Gen. Yakubu Jack Gowon, the former head of state also supported the move to restructure the Nigeria political structure.
Reactions to this advocacy was not a one way lane, the biggest association of Northern Nigerians Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF) distanced themselves from those calling for restructuring of Nigeria. Similarly, ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) is not in support of any move to restructure Nigeria. The executive branch of government at the federal level through the Vice President Prof. Yomi Osinbajo said the exercise is needless.
Without necessarily citing any official result of a poll, one can safely say, majority of informed Nigerians are receptive to the idea of restructuring Nigeria. This is evident from reactions the calls garnered in all formal and informal discussion fora. A trip to Nigeria cyberspace and a glance at opinion pages of the old media will convince all doubting Thomases that a commanding majority of Nigerians are not satisfied with the present situation. And desire to see an attempt to change the political structure of the nation.
A run through these persons and groups positions suggest that most merely joined the roller coaster of massaging public ego and playing to the galleries .They only outlined the imperative and desirability of restructuring without a concrete roadmap of how to go about it. None of the proponent of restructuring told Nigerians means and ways of executing this laudable missions that is desperately needed . Is the restructuring coming through a constitutional amendment by country’s lawmakers in tandem with procedures outlined in the 1999 constitution or what? Are we encouraging NASS members to invoke the 6th Assembly doctrine of necessity of 2010? Or is Mr. President sponsoring an executive bill to the lawmakers asking for permission to organize a referendum with limited questions that Nigerians can answer? These advocate’s position papers or communiques were/are barren of clear-cut details and strategy,let alone narrowing ensuing discourses to options they proposed.
A critical perusal of comments narrated in the proceeding part of this discourse suggest that the battle will be fought to victory or defeat in the Green and Red Chambers of the National Assembly. My earlier take in the op Ed titled; “Let Us Talk, Now Is Time” of including the executive branch in the restructuring project has been strangled to death through negative reaction of the Vice President Prof Asibanjo to the call. Prof. Osibanjo’s reaction is an “unofficial official” position of government of President Muhammadu Buhari and their ruling APC. From the look of things, NASS members will end up the only crucial actors in the entire restructuring scheme.
NASS members can pilot the process by embarking on a comprehensive constitutional amendment that will restructure the political superstructures in the country. That may involves committing political suicide because the process could end with sending them packing or slashing down their constitutional powers. However, the entire 36 State Houses of Assembly should be fully mobilize to accord the NASS constitution amendment bill accelerated hearing when the bill finally gets to them for ratification.
NASS members can also pass a bill mandating the executive branch to organise a referendum with few unambiguous and poignant questions. The bill should make peoples decision sovereign and insulate it from further interferences through debates in their chambers or judicial interpretations in any court of the land. Before the referendum, a period of campaigns be schedule to enable Nigerians make informed decisions. A conducive atmosphere be created for individuals and groups to canvass for their positions without harassment or intimidation from opposing quarters.
The last angle is staging a repeat of what the 6th Assembly did when President Umaru Yar’Adua left Nigeria on medical tourism to Saudi Arabia without officially handing over the country to the Vice President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Let them mill another bill under the canopy of doctrine of necessity. Under this doctrine, national interest supersedes everything- including processes fashioned for constitutional amendment in Nigeria’s 1999. Of all the avenues, this will be the quickest and cost effective option.
One is not claiming monopoly of knowledge,therefore ringleaders of this call must have other means outside what I prescribed in my piece. If they have not gone beyond mere advocacy,they better quickly get back to their drawing rooms and design a roadmap showing; whose is charged with what, where and how. It’s about time Nigerian public commentators and advocates of certain ideas and ideals step up the quality of their public discourse through providing solutions, not empty tantrums that lacks intensive and extensive details.
I believe, now is time to face this reality without delay.
Dr. Dafulani can be reached through his email: Johndanfulani@gmail.com