LAGOS – President Muhammadu Buhari in May while hosting some state governors under the aegis of All Progressive Congress (APC) Governors forum at the Presidential Villa who came to pay him a courtesy call after Professor Yakubu Mohammed, INEC Chairman declared him winner of the February 28 Presidential election finally threw his weight behind the call for the adoption of true federalism in Nigeria.
He seemed to give a veiled justification to this new found revisionism when he told the APC governors that; “APC displaced PDP in the 2019 elections to save the nation”. Many people have interpreted this statement to mean that the President was determined to ensure the ruling APC wins the 2019 presidential election so that he can embark on the task of restructuring the country as many enlightened people have been clamoring for in the manner he finds it compatible with his pan Nigerian unity philosophies. It appears the President does not want any other political group, interest or party to do the restructuring thing because to him, any other party, other than the APC doing such would be won over by the so called ‘balkanization’ agitators whom he suspects believe Nigeria had to split into possible ethno-religious lines if possible, either in loose federation (regionalism) or any other formulae contrary to “one Nigeria”.
Although his party, the APC, last year supported the idea with the inauguration of a committee, chaired by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Buhari has been silent on the matter. Specifically, the committee submitted a report last year and made some recommendations, including devolution of power to states, resource management, internal security and merger of states, among others.
At an award ceremony organized by the Progressives Governors Forum at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the President spoke on the need for true federalism, especially at this time of the country’s democratic development .Buhari, who also received an award of appreciation at the occasion, noted that true federalism was necessary to build bridges across divide for the sake of an indivisible country.
He stated: “We remain committed to improving the welfare of the Nigerian people. Your Excellences, it will be belaboring the point to say that true federalism is necessary at this juncture of our political and democratic evolution.
“At a time when some few privileged individuals and groups have chosen to exploit and manipulate the ethnic and religious faults for seeking personal and partisan advantage, we need to build bridges across the different t divides and instill faith in the unity and indivisibility of one Nigeria.”
Many Nigerians have reacted differently to the latest remarks by Buhari, a President that had demonstrated scant regard to the 2014 National Constitutional Conference. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party in the country replied by saying that “President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) should stop posturing as if they truly have the mandate of Nigerians for a second tenure in the Presidency after allegedly rigging the 2019 Presidential election.”
The party, in a statement from its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the following day said: “ Buhari’s handlers should help him use the remaining part of this tenure to find solutions for the problems caused by his administration, instead of engaging in unnecessary acceptance shopping mechanisms for a rigged 2019 presidential election.”
The main opposition party berated Buhari for trying to use another promise of true federalism to earn legitimacy for a rigged election, stressing that the ploy was dead on arrival, as Nigerians are very much aware that he and his party, the APC, have never shown any commitment towards true federalism.
Ologbondiyan stated: “Nigerians have not forgotten how President Buhari in his 2018 New Year address, rejected the idea of restructuring, by declaring that “When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.”
“They can also recall how on June 9, 2017, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, in a Radio Nigeria (FRCN) interview programme, had stated that restructuring is not President Buhari’s priority.
“Nigerians can also recall how the Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, on June 29, 2017, during an interview on Channels TV, denied that the APC promised restructuring and described Nigerians, who are taking his party to task on the issue, as political opportunists and irresponsible people.
“Our citizens have not forgotten “to hell with restructuring,” outburst of Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, a statement that captures the mindset of the totality of APC leaders towards true federalism and restructuring.
The party stated that Nigerians have already bought into Atiku Abubakar’s blueprint for governance, particularly his manifest genuine commitment towards the implementation of true federalism and cannot fall for empty promises by President Buhari and the APC.
On its part, Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said is taking the President Buhari’s concern with reservation, as it noted that it was not impressed by mere pronouncement.
National Publicity Secretary of the group, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview, said the present administration has enough documents to examine and implement, if truly it was committed to putting the nation on the path of true federalism, which the majority and minority ethnic groups have been longing for. Odumakin cited reports of the national conference set up by former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and report of true federalism committee led by Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
He said: “The statement doesn’t say much. In 1947, Chief Obafemi Awolowo wrote a book, Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution, where he predicted what is happening now. He predicted fighting amongst the ethnic groups, if we don’t run Nigeria as a federation. That was before the 1957 Constitution and since then there has been various agitations that Nigeria can’t continue along unitary lines. We have had the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). We have had the Pro-National Conference Organization (PRONACO), Southern and Middle Belt Forum. In 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had federalism in its manifesto, but now they are telling Nigerians that they don’t know the meaning and asking Nigerians for the definition of restructuring.
“The party set up the Nasir El Rufai Committee on true federalism. The committee came up with similar recommendations of the 2015 national conference. We had an election and Atiku campaigned on restructuring. So, what does he mean when he is now talking about federalism? He should look at the report of the 2015 conference set up by Jonathan or the El Rufai committee report.
“It is a mere pronouncement that he is now pandering to true federalism. He doesn’t want to hear about state police and yet he is talking about true federalism. How?
“We want to see concrete steps. He is saying we need true federalism now, what does that mean? And he is doing nothing. Look, his party manifesto of 2015 even says that Nigeria should become a true federation, but four years down the line, nothing has been done.”
“Federal police has collapsed. The Inspector General of Police went to the National Assembly and said we are helpless,” the group said, declaring, “so, empty platitude is not what we need now; what Nigeria needs is true federalism, that is what we want to hear,” Odumakin stated.