- Buhari’s administration not learning from past
- FG should hands off NNPC
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has said what Nigeria requires most at present is the kick-starting of the process of restructuring of the federation.
He said a close observation of the present administration’s policies, especially on the issue of the Niger Delta militancy and power sector crisis, there was little or no lesson learnt.
While acknowledging that the country’s economy is in a bad shape, Atiku said he strongly believed that the government would get the economy right, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari has tried to handle two out of five areas which he has promised Nigerians.
Speaking yesterday at the launch of a book, ‘We Are Biafrans,’ in Abuja, Atiku said he remained opposed to the retention of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as a public-managed entity just as he believes that the federal government was pursuing is fruitless endeavour trying to stabilise power generation in the country without finding lasting peace in the troubled Niger Delta region.
Atiku who went down memory lane to recount his experiences in government, said the increasing wave if agitations across the country calls “for a restructuring and renewal of our federation to make it less centralised, less suffocating and less dictatorial in the affairs of our country’s constituent units and localities.
“As some of you may know, I have for a long time advocated the need to restructure our federation. Our current structure and the practices it has encouraged have been a major impediment to the economic and political development of our country.
“When I was invited to chair this occasion, I immediately understood that the title of the book is a metaphor for the legitimate feelings of marginalisation by diverse segments of Nigerians that cut across the country. Agitations by many right-thinking Nigerians call for a restructuring and renewal of our federation to make it less centralised, less suffocating and less dictatorial in the affairs of our country’s constituent units and localities.
“In short, it has not served Nigeria well, and at the risk of reproach, it has not served my part of the country, the North, well. The call for restructuring is even more relevant today in light of the governance and economic challenges facing us and the rising tide of agitations, some militant and violent, require a reset in our relationships as a united nation,” he said.
He added that the call for restructuring of the nation had become even more necessary today with several agitations and militancy across the country.
The former vice-president said the desire for one united Nigeria should not be taken for granted that every Nigerian is contented with the current structure of the federation or that they do not clamour for something different.
According to him, “among the most devastating impact of our long dependence on oil resource is the corruption that has eaten into our fabric.
“The economy is really in bad shape and I want to believe that the government is trying to get the economy right, adding that President Buhari has tried to handle two out of five areas which he promised Nigerians”.
Atiku, while expressing support for the establishment of state police, insisted that a stop put to the practice of enthroning indigeneship above citizenship and settlers and land owners syndrome in the country as it would not only help to quicken the country’s disintegration.
On the issue of marginalisation and the agitations for Biafra, he said though the initial reasons for creating states was based on the viability and cultural linkages but that later, state creation became an action that is taken at the whims and caprices of the then military rulers.
Atiku spoke on the present handling of problem of militancy in the Niger Delta, advising that the approach the should both a stick and carrot one.
He said that during their own administration, they prepared a master plan for dealing with the issue which was later distorted by political exigencies.
During his campaign for presidency, he proffered initiatives on how to handle the matter, including the creation of Ministry of Niger Delta which late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua implemented.
However Atiku said the master plan behind the setting up of the ministry was not properly implemented, adding that the ministry should have been located in the Niger Delta region where it’s impact could felt more.
On the issue of the power sector challenges, Atiku said the sector is very tricky and should be handled with care.
He recalled the differences he had with the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, whom he accused of antagonising him for his stand on the issue of privatisation of the NNPC.
He said if he was in charge of government, with the fall in the price of oil in the international market, he would have sold at least 10 per cent of the NNPC which would provide over $20 billion to help massive infrastructural development even in the Niger Delta.
“We are still not there with power on gas and we will never get there unless you solve the problem of the Niger Delta. We will not be able to solve our power generation problem relying of use gas turbines without peace in the Niger Delta. If my boss, Obasanjo had agreed with in 2003, by establishing captive power stations, we would have been self sufficient in power generation by now. I did not agree with that government policy in the power sector and there is nothing presently that happened to make me change my position”.
On the herdsmen/farmers clashes and its attendant disharmony across the land, Atiku said: “Again here we come back to the same economic challenges that are facing the country. We also have leadership that is not prepared to learn from the past and the leadership that is not prepared to lead.”
He said according to a feasibility study, the North has greater percentage of livestock business in the country (95 per cent) while other areas like the South-west and South-east also engage in poultry business
Of recent, I have come to understand that the herdsmen have some distinctive experiences .
He said it was not until the disappearance of grazing reserves in the north than the issue of migration of the herdsmen southwards and subsequent clashes became a regular occurrence.
Speaking on the motives of the author, the book reviewer, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, said the book is never about breaking up the country, but rather the author is very passionate about the unity and oneness of Nigeria. According to him, the book is an appeal to all Nigerians to embrace a country where equality, fairness and justice rules her affairs.
He said that country was yet to come to terms with issues of exclusion and marginalization pervading the land.
Odinkalu said the Biafran experience according to author can be seen as a metaphor rather an isolated agitation.
The author of the book Chido Onumah contende that most, if not all, of the problems of Nigeria today are located in the way the country is structured. As he did in his previous books.
He makes an eminently logical case for an urgent socio-political restructuring of Nigeria by way of genuine Federalism, in order to ward off a looming catastrophe that could endanger our collective wellbeing.
He argued that the country needs to engage episodic political convulsions that threaten its very foundation, including Biafra, June 12, Boko Haram, the “National Question”, citizenship rights and militancy. The author warned about the impending Islamisation of Nigeria.
He raised fundamental questions such as, what is Nigeria and who is a Nigerian? If Nigeria is a federal republic, what constitutes or should constitute the federating units? He posits that the different manifestations of Biafra may well be a metaphor as all ethnic groups in Nigeria are victims of the terrible misrule of the past decades and thus desire a change in their material conditions of existence.
According to Onumah, the book is meant to advance the debate on the options available to Nigeria as we struggle to improve our lives and make our country more stable and secure through the way we respond to the many challenges that confront us.