#Restructure Nigeria Now?

By Casmir Igbokwe

Nothing confirms the urgent need to save Nigeria now more than the current protests against police brutality across the country. For days now, #EndSARS/#EndSWAT protesters have held the nation hostage. Even in the North, people are no more comfortable. Northern youths started their protests against insecurity in the region last Friday. Tagged #Endinsecuritynow, the protesters have marched through the streets of some cities in Kano, Kaduna, Gombe, Bauchi and some others. These protests have continued despite the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and some other concessions given by the Federal Government.

From the reaction of the federal and state governments, it is obvious that they are not comfortable with what is going on anymore. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State had talked tough. He warned that he would not tolerate any protest in his state. By the time the protest train moved in, he had no option but to join. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State has appealed to protesters to sheathe their swords. He has conceded to almost everything they demanded. Yet no dice!

The Federal Government has also acceded to some of the requests of the protesters. The National Economic Council (NEC), for instance, directed the state governors to take charge of the newly formed SWAT. All the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, have been mandated to set up judicial panel of enquiry to investigate the atrocities of SARS. They have six months to do this assignment and recommend measures to ameliorate the problem. Yet, the protesters have remained adamant.

The Tunisian uprising or Jasmine Revolution started this way in December 2010. It was triggered by the self-immolation of a 26-year-old street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, protesting the way local officials treated him. It later led to what has been referred to as the Arab Spring – a series of pro-democracy protests in the Middle East and North Africa. The Jasmine Revolution forced the then Tunisian President, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, to step down in January 2011 and flee the country. Like what the Nigerian government is doing currently, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and Oman all tried to stave off the unrest in their countries by offering political and economic concessions, including dismissal of unpopular officials. Some of them combined this with a crackdown against protesters.

For long, many prominent Nigerians have called for the restructuring of this country. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja and the general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, among others, have all called for the restructuring of Nigeria.

As Adeboye put it, “Why can’t we have a system of government that will create what I will call the United States of Nigeria?” According to him, you don’t have to be a prophet to know that it’s either we restructure or we break up.

Different socio-cultural groups in the country such as the Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) have all called for the restructuring of Nigeria. While the South is particularly concerned about fiscal federalism and the entrenchment of merit and equity in political and other appointments in the country, the North is more concerned about security issues. NEF spokesman, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, recently stated that Nigeria needed to revisit the way it was structured in order to provide security for the citizens.

Rather than listen to these voices of reason, the Federal Government decided to play Muammar Gaddafi. Recall that when faced with the revolution in his country in 2011, the late Libyan leader, Col. Gaddafi, dismissed what started as protests as serving the devil. He called on his supporters to go out and attack what he called the cockroaches, rats and mercenaries demonstrating against his rule. He eventually died like a cockroach, leaving that once envied North African country in complete disarray.

Reacting to Adeboye’s timely advice, the Presidency, through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, warned against what he called unwarranted and unpatriotic outbursts. He said the government would neither succumb to threats nor take any decision out of pressure at a time when the nation’s full attention is needed to deal with the security challenges facing it.

Replying the Presidency, the SMBLF wondered, “Should we be clapping for the government and not talk when the Customs appoints eight Deputy Comptrollers from a section of the country? Are we expected to be saying well done when DSS recruits 535 cadets from North-West and North-East and only 93 from the entire South and North-Central?”

We need to be very careful in this country. The Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia were once revered in the comity of nations. In 1993, Czechoslovakia broke into two – Slovakia and Czech Republic. By 1992, the once powerful Yugoslavia had started breaking into different countries, namely, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Montenegro.

Is this what we want for Nigeria? A section of this country is in complete control of security agencies, be it police, army, customs, immigration, and so on. There is no consideration for quota system or the federal character principle here. But in entrance exams into unity colleges, some southern pupils have had to claim to be indigenes of the North so they could get admission. My nephew took the entrance exam last Saturday. But even if he scores 280, he stands no chance where a pupil from Zamfara who scores 5 is. That Zamfara pupil will gain admission ahead of this Anambra child. And we say we are one country, one destiny. Why won’t there be mutual distrust and agitations for self-determination?

The year 2023 will soon be here. Every geopolitical zone struggles to be at the centre. The South-East region has been agitating for the presidency of this country. Since the inception of this democratic dispensation in 1999, the South-East has not had a shot at the presidency of Nigeria. The youths of the region, under the auspices of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) or the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), have been angling for self-determination for the Igbo. Some Yoruba people have started agitating for Oduduwa Republic. All these indicate one thing – the need for Nigeria to sit at a round table and discuss.

Even with all his imperfections, the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, tried to do it for Nigeria. The 1994/1995 constitutional conference, which he established, brought about a draft constitution that came close to proffering solutions to the diversity problems of this country. It was at that conference that former Vice-President, the late Chief Alex Ekwueme, recommended the six-region structure for Nigeria. Six major offices, including President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister were to be rotated among the six geopolitical zones for a five-year single term duration. This is to ensure that no zone feels marginalised or left out in the scheme of things. The beautiful draft died with Abacha.

The President Goodluck Jonathan administration came up with a national conference in 2014. The nation spent billions of naira to organise that conference. At the end of the day, the powers that be threw the recommendations of that conference into the trash can.

We have been pretending that there is no crack in our marriage of inconvenience. But for how long? The ruling All Progressives Congress deceived us into believing that restructuring was a cardinal principle of its existence. It promoted it in its manifesto before the general election of 2015 and even set up a committee headed by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State to look into issues of restructuring soon after it assumed office in 2015. Today, the mere mention of the word is considered a threat by this administration.

For how long shall we continue to live in denial? Nigerians need to discuss fiscal federalism, devolution of powers, state police and other issues that define how we stay together as a country with over 250 ethnic nationalities. The time has come for well-meaning Nigerians to rally round and save this country from perdition.

 

Re: Even Buhari’s daughter wants end to SARS

Dear Casy, when Nigeria’s body is rotten at the head, what do you expect of the component parts of her governance? Unless you are new in Nigeria, wearing of Statutory Uniform, especially of the police variant, has, inversely, become a poetic licence for statutory criminality, with SARS crowning it all.

– Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731

One day, Buhari’s daughter will want an end to Fulani herdsmen’s terrorism, killing of innocent men and raping of our women. One day, she will want an end to her father’s nepotism, favouritism and sectional interest in Fulani people. One day, she will want an end to her father’s marginalisation against the South-East geographical zone and an end to zero sum game mentality of her father and his Yoruba advisers. One day, she will want an end to arbitrary arrest of people at the instance of her father. One day, she will want an end to the satanic document of Nigeria called constitution, which was fashioned in military tradition and call for true federalism and resource control. One day, she will also want an end to one nation, many destinies and call for merit system in place of quota system which is detrimental to the best brain in Nigeria.

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno (JP), 08063730644

Dear Casmir, we seem to be on the same page of pessimism regarding the current EndSARS campaign. What is there in a mere change or abandonment of a wine’s name when the ‘bitter taste’ remains? You don’t attack the effect of a disease to ensure its cure: rather, you tap the cause in order to cure or stem the effect. And it is not all bad news about SARS. There are quite a few honest ones who do their assigned duties diligently even as the incurably bad ones persist in their stock-in-trade. Hence, an outright ban or change is akin to throwing away the bath water and the baby. It is the very corrupt and undisciplined police institution that begets SARS, SWAT and other tactical squads. Even the retired DIG Chris Omeben appeared to have given a veiled support to police impunity when he said “if the police is bad, it is because the society is very very bad.”

– Edet Essien Esq., Cal. South, +2348037952470

Dear Casmir, great pity that your readers were denied your incisive insight, because your column had gone to bed before scraping of SARS nationwide by the IGP, Mr. Mohammed Adamu. Abolition of SARS is not justice enough.  There should be a national judicial inquiry, where aggrieved families, through their lawyers, can petition against alleged extra-judicial murder of their beloved ones. In proven cases, the offenders should be punished, while the Police and FGN should pay heavy reparation to families of victims, since those found guilty cannot pay heavy costs arising from civil litigation on the murders.

– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, 08085914645

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 19, 2020

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