The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Friday stirred another hot debate in Nigeria’s political space, when he pointedly faulted the growing calls for the restructuring of the country and regional autonomy.
Using the platform provided him by the 34th Convocation of the University of Calabar, Cross River State, where he was delivering the convocation lecture, Amaechi told Nigerians that restructuring and regional autonomy will not or cannot guarantee a better life for Nigerians, neither is the answer to the many challenges facing the nation.
In another breath, the former governor of Rivers State sought to exonerate President Muhammadu Buhari – his boss from blame over the level of poverty and hunger ravaging the country, saying poverty had been the lot of Nigerians since the return to constitutional democracy. He also predicted that the poor will overrun Nigeria if issues bordering on extreme poverty and inequality are not addressed.
He said: “In recent days, we have begun to hear loud voices of disunity from various sections of the country. In response to the current economic difficulties and the problem of insecurity, some have insisted on the now familiar argument for restructuring of the federation. Others have advocated increased regional autonomy. Some extremists are calling for secession of parts of the country from the federation. None of these divisive options would serve the urgent needs of this nation or the long-term aspiration of all our people for a better life in a happier nation.
“Let me say without any fear that the concerns being raised by Nigerians about the future of our country are legitimate. They are indications of great patriotism and love. We all treasure this country and are anxious that it transforms into a better place for all of us. This overwhelming wish for a better Nigeria far outweighs the doomsday predictions of a few pessimists.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me state that the desperate poverty that we have today has its roots in dispensations that came before the Buhari administration. Specifically, our epidemic of mass poverty dates back to the return of civil rule in our country. It is unfair to heap the responsibility for the prevalence of poverty and inequality on this or any one administration in the history of the country.”
Amaechi’s lecture, especially those that touched on restructuring and poverty in the land, has continued to attract reactions across the country with proponents of restructuring and true or fiscal federalism faulting him, and accusing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of reneging on the promises it made to seek the votes of Nigerians in 2015.
The current stand of the ruling party and its leaders on restructuring, DAILY POST discovered, is contrary to the constitution of the party, as it made reference to its commitment to restructuring and true federalism.
Article 7(ii) of the April 2014 APC Constitution (as amended), revealed that its Aims and Objectives was: “To promote true federalism in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Similarly, the second paragraph on page 3 of the forward to the APC Vision for A Nigeria, which is its manifesto for the 2015 general elections, the APC said it will “implement efficient public financial management strategies and ensure true federalism”. It is also committed to “restructure governance in a way that it will kick-start our political economy so that we begin to walk the path of our better future.”
Not done, the ruling party, also on page 7 of its Manifesto, under ‘Honest Contract’ with Nigerians, committed to creating a federalism, “more equitable distribution of national revenue to the states and local governments because this is where grassroots democracy and economic development must be established.”
With the above, it is clear that the APC made restructuring and true federalism an official position; a position vigorously promoted by its leaders during its campaigns for the 2015 elections.
It is worthy of note that the promise of restructuring was one of the major hook points that swayed Nigerians, especially in the South-West into believing and subscribing to the aspirations of the party, which eventually led to the electoral victory of President Muhammadu Buhari after several attempts.
It, therefore, came as a surprise to many that the same party and its leaders, which had vigorously promoted and called for restructuring in the past have now turned around to recognise the prominence as well as the importance of poverty and hunger far above restructuring and true federalism.
DAILY POST also recalls that in December 2019, the Transportation Minister, while dropping his idea for the restructuring of the country, advocated for a situation where financially weaker states are supported to survive and perform their basic responsibilities.
He said then while appearing on ChannelsTelevision Newsnight: “For me, I prefer to copy the kind of restructuring we saw in Germany, which provides the basic line.
“If no state can raise up to N5billion per month to pay their salaries, then all of us including the Federal Government will contribute money for that state.
“Which means, you can devolve power and revenue but if no state can raise that kind of money to sustain itself then both the Federal Government and all other states must come together to put money to enable that state to survive.”
As it stands, many Nigerians are questioning the sudden change in the position of the party and its leaders. According to a cross-section of Nigerians, restructuring and true federalism, was a mere campaign slogan for the party, as it was never committed to it but saw it as something that will give it an added advantage.
Speaking on the commitment of the APC to restructuring, Col Kunle Togun, a retired Director, Directorate of Military Intelligence, believes the party was never committed to it.
According to him, those shouting restructuring know that the current administration will not do anything about it, adding that the proponents are only wasting their time.
“Yes, they used it to campaign. Agitation for restructuring did not start today. It was there during the administration of Jonathan. If this government wants to fulfil its campaign promise on restructuring, we would have seen the signs that they are interested in restructuring. But this government is not ready for restructuring,” Togun said.
Sam-Segun Progress, a media consultant in the nation’s capital, Abuja, in a telephone chat with DAILY POST, said Nigerians should not be surprised at all that the APC and its leaders have finally reneged on their promise to restructure Nigeria and evolve what can be termed true federalism.
According to him, no contest is fair to APC, so they use all the tricks in the book to ensure they have their way, insisting that it is a major code in the party’s rules book.
“I really don’t know why people are losing sleep over APC’s ‘about turn’ on restructuring; they never meant it. For the party, it was just a tool to get the attention of the electorate and it worked perfectly for them. For them, anything that will bring victory must be used, including deception, because that’s what the party has done.
“Again, Nigerians must know that there is no politician that is interested in power at the centre that will wholeheartedly support restructuring, true federalism and regional autonomy. The massive concentration of power at the centre is the only attraction they have for seeking power there. So, why whittle down what is their attraction. It will be hard to actually restructure this country along the lines of true and fiscal federalism or grant greater autonomy to the regions”, Progress submitted.