20171002

How To Restructure Nigeria — Pastor Tunde Bakare

Tunde Bakare, a vocal preacher, on Sunday suggested key solutions to resolving the lingering stalemate over how to restructure Nigeria to accommodate its diverse ethnic and religious entities.

During his Independence Day speech at the headquarters of his Latter Rain Assembly Church in Lagos, Pastor Bakare highlighted 10 fundamental components of restructuring and cited examples of those championing each of them...

He said the divergent views about what constitutes restructuring or how to bring about such structural changes have made the situation seems like a puzzle that needs to be assembled for equitable outcome.

“Like a jigsaw puzzle, the bits must be put together to achieve a desired objective,” Mr. Bakare said.

Agitations for a restructured Nigeria have remained at the front burner of national conversation, amidst cry of marginalisation amongst some of the estimated 250 ethnic groups in the country.

The controversy often pits vocal voices in the south against their compatriots in the northern part of the country, with southerners seeing the current structure as highly problematic and, therefore, unworkable.

The deadlock has been blamed for recent re-emergence of secessionist campaigns in some parts of the country, especially in the Igbo-dominated South-east.

President Muhammadu Buhari passed the buck to the National Assembly to form the modalities for restructuring debate, but rejected any break-up of the country.

In his speech Sunday, Mr. Bakare, a politician who stood as Mr. Buhari’s running mate in his failed presidential bid in 2011, said the president is also keen about restructuring Nigeria.

He also implored the president to create a new commission on restructuring with an executive fiat.

The full speech, titled: Pragmatic Steps Towards Restructuring Nigeria, is reproduced in full below

Introduction 
Fellow citizens of Nigeria, Happy Independence Day to you all.

At crucial moments such as this, I have, by the grace of God, stood on this platform to bring timely admonitions to our beloved nation. I stand here once again at this defining period in the evolution of our nationhood to bring the mind of God to a nation in the valley of decision. I stand here today as a patriotic citizen of Nigeria, as an ardent believer in her great future, and as an unrepentant optimist in the God-given potential of the Nigerian people to surmount the present challenges and build a great nation.

Let me begin this address with gratitude to God for the recovery and return of our dear President Muhammadu Buhari. As I have done privately, I once again congratulate Mr. President on this pleasant climax to a trying period in his personal life and that of the nation. Together with all well-meaning Nigerians, I pray for a continuous supply of health, vitality and wisdom as he resumes his duties. Let me also use this opportunity to commend the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who, as Acting President, courageously held the fort and steered the ship of state with grace and skill on behalf of his principal.

Furthermore, I congratulate the nation on the victory of constitutionalism over conspiracies. The correspondence between the president and the National Assembly in line with section 145 of the constitution each time the president left to attend to his health indicates some progress in our democratic experience, compared with almost eight years ago when a cabal hijacked power in circumstances bordering on the health of a sitting president. In this regard, credit must be given to President Muhammadu Buhari for his compliance with due process, and to the leadership of the National Assembly, including the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, for making the most of the constitution despite its flaws. This evident growth is a shimmer of hope at a very sensitive period in which the destiny of the nation is at stake.

The State of the Nation and the Quest for Leadership 
Undoubtedly, Mr. President has returned to a nation hanging in a precarious balance. Indeed, our nation is enmeshed in a prolonged war against the retrogressive effects of a structure that was created by the fear of the past, has become institutionalized by the fear of the present, and is being perpetuated by the fear of the unknown. These fears have morphed into a horde of agitations which, in an address upon his return in August, Mr. President charged aggrieved persons to channel to the National Assembly and the Council of State.

However, due to the reputation that members of the hallowed chambers have created in the minds of Nigerians, many have expressed doubts as to the ability and willingness of the National Assembly to midwife the structural, institutional and constitutional solutions demanded by Nigeria’s historical and present circumstances. As a result, Nigerians from all walks of life are questioning Mr. President’s recommendations as to proper channels for agitations, even though the National Assembly and by extension the State Houses of Assembly are the only available constitutional avenues for making peaceful change possible and violent change inconceivable.

We can only keep hope alive by reminding ourselves that the National Assembly has, in the past, risen to the occasion and intervened at crucial moments such as this. From the decisive death blow dealt the third term agenda of the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, by the 5th National Assembly, to the doctrine of necessity invoked by the 6th National Assembly, the 8th National Assembly has sufficient precedents on how to act in the best interest of Nigeria. We believe that the distinguished and honourable lawmakers will rise to the occasion and work closely with the president to pilot Nigeria into stable and prosperous nationhood.

Having laid the foundation of the need for legislative responsibility, I must state that, as far as championing the far-reaching structural, institutional and constitutional changes necessary to salvage the soul of our nation is concerned, the words on the desk of the 33rd president of the United States, Harry Truman: “THE BUCK STOPS HERE!”, are relevant to President Buhari whose legacy is at stake. Mr. President, the buck stops at your desk and, as always, my earnest prayer is that you find the courage and political will to do what is right at this momentous period in the history of our nation.

Against this backdrop, we shall now examine the latest buzzword in Nigeria’s political lexicon with a view to distinguishing the noise from the voice, separating the wheat from the chaff, and presenting practical steps towards building a strong and stable nation.

The Clamour for Restructuring 
Some years ago, the word “restructuring” was the exclusive lingo of pro-democracy groups like the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO), and The Patriots. The leading individual voices in this call emerged mainly from the southern part of the country, including the likes of Chief Rotimi Williams, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Chief Anthony Enahoro, all of blessed memory. Others included the likes of Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Prof. Wole Soyinka and Chief Emeka Anyaoku.

However, in more recent times, leaders from the northern part of the country have increasingly lent their voices to this call. From former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who has aired this opinion since around 2012[1], to a former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, and, most surprisingly, former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babanginda, the call for restructuring appears to be reaching a tipping point.

Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that the restructuring of the polity is implied in the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the government has, for a long time, been silent on the matter and has, very often, drawn the attention of Nigerians back to the tripodal policy agenda of President Buhari, namely, anti-corruption, security, and job creation through diversification. However, after much evasion, the APC, two months ago, eventually constituted a ten-member committee headed by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the current Governor of Kaduna State, to address the increased agitations for restructuring.

As we await the submission of that committee, I acknowledge that some opponents to the call for restructuring, including serving officials, have ascribed ulterior selfish motives to those calling for it.

Whether or not this is the case, not only must we not allow the counterfeit overshadow the genuine, we must also not allow the voice of cynicism drown the voice of reason. Thus, the words of David, the shepherd boy, when he was confronted by his brothers as he was about to take on Goliath, should be the response of every genuine advocate of restructuring to the criticisms. David said, and I quote: “Is there not a cause?” (I Samuel 17:29; NKJV)

Moreover, the hue and cry over President Buhari’s address to the nation on August 21, 2017 suggests Mr. President is perceived by some stakeholders as opposed to restructuring[2]. But, from my interactions with the president in the past seven years as an advocate of a properly structured polity, I am convinced that this is not the case. Not only does the president want agitations managed through appropriate constitutional channels, he also wants a clarification of demands in concise terms, as well as propositions on practical pathways towards achieving those demands. That is the essence of this address and I believe that Mr. President’s expectations are valid.

However, before I proceed to elucidate on the practicalities of restructuring, permit me at this juncture to cast our minds back to our consistent calls for the restructuring of the polity, long before the current bandwagon effect.

Our Calls for Restructuring 
In 2010, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) presented a “Contract to Save and Transform Nigeria” to President Goodluck Jonathan which, among other demands, made a case for devolution of powers, called for a review of the revenue formula, and advocated the convocation of a national conference towards the creation of a draft constitution that would be adopted through a referendum. 

Following the inaction of the government, we subsequently convened a Dialogue of the Nobles attended by Donald Duke, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, and Fola Adeola, among others. As part of a series of dialogues, in a bid to seek the best of the North and the best of the South as an alternative to the then incumbent administration, we also engaged the major candidates ahead of the 2011 elections in search of commitment to the restructuring of the nation, among other desirables.

General Muhammadu Buhari stood out among the available contenders and, on October 10, 2010, we expressed our conviction that he was best suited to lead. On January 15, 2011, I was invited by General Buhari to be his running mate and I initially declined because I had engaged the polity not with the intention to contest elections but to midwife genuine national rebirth. My eventual acceptance was contingent on the mutual understanding that the restructuring of Nigeria would be top on the agenda. This was reflected prominently in the manifesto of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in which we promised the initiation of “action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench Federalism and the Federal spirit[3]”. This provision subsequently made its way into the APC manifesto.

In 2014, we took our demands for restructuring to the National Conference, where a case was made for a unicameral parliamentary system of government to reduce the cost of governance, and for a federal structure comprised of a strong central government with six geopolitical zones as federating units. In addition, we sponsored a Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration as the basis of our union as a nation, as against Decree 24 of 1999 by which the current constitution was promulgated.

Following heated debates, in the spirit of trustful give and take, the conference adopted a modified presidential system that would harness the separation of powers inherent in the presidential system, while guaranteeing the needed cooperation between both arms of government as intended in the parliamentary system of government. We recommended the selection of the Vice President from the legislature and advocated the institutionalization of the principle of zoning in the Electoral Act. Furthermore, the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration was unanimously adopted. This address will use the propositions at the National Conference as a springboard but will necessarily include bolder and more far-reaching recommendations given the current state of the nation.

On January 4, 2015, in a message titled “The Gathering Storm and Avoidable Shipwreck – How to Avoid Catastrophic Euroclydon,” I sounded a note of warning at the height of the electioneering campaign. I charged the nation not to place the cart of elections before the horse of restructuring, proposing “true federalism under Zonal Commissions as well as fiscal federalism…”[4]

Rather than pay heed to the warnings, many of our politicians kept on with their “business as usual” attitude that brought the nation very close to the brink of disaster. Fortunately, by divine intervention through the efforts of distinguished Nigerians, the international community, and through a demonstration of statesmanship unprecedented in Nigeria’s history, we scaled through the 2015 elections by a hair’s breadth. Mindful of our narrow escape and the festering socio-political and economic challenges, soon after the inauguration of this administration in 2015, we submitted to Mr. President an extensive document that called for a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring comprised of eminent Nigerians, and guided by the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration which was adopted by the 2014 National Conference.

Our submission anticipated the need to reconcile contentious interest groups, foster the integration of the diverse sectional groups into true nationhood, and facilitate the evolution of an acceptable functional governmental structure for Nigeria. We proposed that the new structure would be contained in a new constitutional framework which would come into effect by way of an executive bill to be submitted to the National Assembly by Mr. President and decided upon by the Nigerian people through a referendum.

All our efforts have been inspired by our belief that, as a nation, we are better off together and should find acceptable ways to stay together. We are driven by an urgent responsibility to find, within the constitution, pathways to a more perfect union. Having laid this background we shall proceed to further simplify the seemingly complicated but, indeed, simple concept of restructuring.

Understanding Restructuring: The Basis 
Restructuring simply means to change the way an entity is organized or arranged. In the corporate context, restructuring is a management term “for the act of reorganizing the legal, ownership, operational, or other structures of a company for the purpose of making it more profitable, or better organized for its present needs”[5]. In the context of a nation, restructuring requires redefining the relationship between the people and the government, including taking another look at the structures and systems of governance as encapsulated in the constitution. The diverse positions on the restructuring debate are being championed by at least ten categories of advocates, give or take a few overlaps, namely:

The Conservatives

The Economic Structure Reformists

The Non-Structural Constitutional Reformists

The Political System Reformists

The Devolutionists

The State Creation Advocates

The Resource Control Activists

The Regional Federalists

The Regional Confederalists

The Secessionists

We shall now examine these positions and then proceed to present our prescription on the way forward for Nigeria.