Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s recent clamour for restructuring was apt and timely but he must take steps to make this happen. Ethelbert Okere writes
The issue of restructuring Nigeria has been said over and over again but it has received more verve since after former Vice-President Abubakar Atiku lent his voice about a month ago. The reactions that have trailed Atiku’s submission – he wants the country to be restructured – are such as to suggest it was just what Nigerians were waiting for. Save for chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who have expressed contrary views on the matter, nearly every commentator since Abubakar Atiku’s submission have taken a cue from him.
The matter has been so well canvassed by the former Vice-President himself and other contributors that I find it necessary to repeat the points here, at least for now. What seems to interest me at the moment is to examine why Atiku’s intervention has so raised the matter to another national crescendo, to the extent that it is being said in some quarters that it is a ploy to reposition himself for presidential power.
My view, however, is that whether it is for self-serving interest or altruistic motives, Abubakar Atiku has provided Nigerians with a lead and that we should appoint him the arrow head for this very important assignment. To say the same thing differently, the former vice president should be made to realise that having provided this lead and rekindling the interest of Nigerians the way he had done and at this point in time, he has to go the whole hog.
The question then arises, does he, Atiku, have what it takes to take on this responsibilities? The answer is a decided YES. Second question: Will Nigerians be willing to allow him play this role? The answer is another big YES. Third question: Is there anything in Atiku’s pedigree that suggests that he may or could abandon the project half way? The answer is YES and NO.
First the “Yes”: which is because Atiku, the only Nigerian leader that Nigerians prefer to call by first name, has a precedent of making a dramatic u-turn on causes he had so brilliantly and resourcefully galvanised many a Nigerian. For example, the way he handled the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on which platform he rose to his political pinnacle, would hardly fetch him many accolades. But the “No” because in all that, Atiku’s ultimate concern is justice and fair play, the difference being that there is a ting of radicalism in his approach, which, in my view, positions him more appropriately to lead the instant cause of re-inventing Nigeria.
What struck Nigerians as well as the rest of the world is that Atiku is one of the most visible leaders of the ruling party. So, calling for “restructuring” at this time (when his fellow party men, including the president, loathe the very idea) and in the language in which he couched his call, took many by surprise. The result was that two points of view immediately emerged in trying to situate Atiku’s submissions at a book presentation event in Abuja.
One was (is) that he has fallen out with his people in the APC, notably the presidency. The other was (is) that he is trying to work on the psychology of the people of the former Eastern Region, some of whose kit and kin are currently involved in separatist agitations, through MASSOB, IPOB, AVENGERS and what have you. I remember a fellow (an Igbo) saying that Atiku “is telling Ndi Igbo what they want to hear”
Taken either together, or singularly, the two perspectives offer legitimate ambiance to proceed with the agenda of getting Nigeria re-invented, restructured, re-negotiated or whatever the vocabulary employed. If his views are as a result of a crack within the ruling party, then that re-enforces his progressive credentials; as a fellow who can afford to go beyond partisan proclivities to take a transcendental look at issues concerning the wellbeing and stability of the Nigerian nation.
He did it with the PDP with the New-PDP, even though not many people saw what he saw then. My hunch is that Abubakar Atiku is again seeing what his fellow compatriots in the APC might not be seeing or pretending not to be seeing.
Much earlier, that was before the New-PDP saga, Atiku saw that the Obasanjo presidency, albeit a key actor himself, was about to plunge the nation into a major crisis through his principal’s third term agenda. He started the fight within but some saw him merely as an over-ambitious deputy. By the time we knew what was happening, we were almost there. As it is well known, the needless summersaults and quarrels that characterized the transition from Obasanjo to Yar’adua were the fall outs of the aborted, ill informed, third term agenda. If as is being said Nigerians actually were desirous of a change in 2015, then it would not be out of place to state that they merely keyed into what Abubakar Atiku saw when he ‘rebelled’ against the PDP with his New-PDP.
As for the perception of saying what the people of the former Eastern Region want to hear, I think that should gladden the hearts of my people, for finding an ally of the caliber of Atiku. What more can they ask for if there is an Atiku to canvass a cause, which a majority of his kit and kin up North hardly want to hear. Even if Atiku does not, on his own, believe in restructuring, that we have found a listening ear in him is a boost and I believe the entire people of the Southern Nigeria should seize it.
Back to one of the questions we posed earlier: Isn’t it a ploy for kick-starting another presidential project? My answer? Perfect and ingenious! If as is being said the former vice-president wants to use the restructuring mantra to further his presidential ambition, then, he is in my view, introducing a refreshing vista into Nigerian politics. For too long, we have complained about politics without ideology; we now have one: The restructuring of Nigeria to make it workable.
Contrary to the belief in several quarters, ideology is not only about Maxism or Socialism, Capitalism, Communism or what have you, as a matter of fact, those nomenclatures hardly exist any longer in today’s global political lexicon. At a point, there was the talk on the need for home-grown ideology. In my view, restructuring Nigeria is one of such, if not the most significant, home-grown ideology we should embrace. In other words, if the word “r-e-s-t-r-u-c-t-u-r-i-n-g”, is too long and tong twisting, then we should drop it and simply focus on the fact that the old assumptions on the unity and oneness of Nigeria have become obsolete or completely nonexistent.
If I were Atiku, there is no better time to pursue a presidential ambition than now. If Nigerians could fall for a campaign for “change” that was hardly well defined and which is proving to be unachievable, then nothing can be more fascinating than throwing up the issue of re-negotiating of Nigeria to provide a fresh start, not just for the purposes of acquiring presidential power, but for the final objective of providing a supper structuring that will guarantee the wellbeing for generations unborn, whether they come from the East, West, North or South.
Even if it does not eventually lead him to the presidency, Atiku Abubakar should be made to understand that if he pursues the matter of restructuring to its logical end, he would have earned himself a place higher than all the previous Nigerian presidents put together. To be sure, he does not have a monopoly of knowledge but that will not be a problem given that he had in the past demonstrated an uncommon flair for team work.
Unlike each of the former presidents that were thrown up since the current republic, Atiku Abubakar is very eclectic, more gregarious and detribalised. There are some, who even point to the fact that he has in-laws across the country. But I do not personally look at that because each marriage or each set of in-laws is a potential source of acrimony. I do not know how many in-laws he has across the country but any fellow who has such exposures, as they say of Atiku, and still commands this level of acceptability across, must have something unique that goes for him.
On a more serious note, however, I would prefer to look at Atiku’s candour, forthrightness and ability and courage to always try to stand out each time he sees that his co-gladiators are doing the wrong thing. Atiku Abubakar, from what we know of him, is a fellow who is at home with his people. Differently put, if a fellow of his standing up North would entirely on his own volition, decide to align with people in parts of the South to canvass restructuring, then it offers hope that the project is feasible.
To be sure, Nigerians are under no illusion that restructuring can take place before 2019. But the good news is that we now have a fellow whom we can hold unto even after 2019, presidency or no presidency. I am aware that my critics may point at previous article in which I came heavy on the former vice-president for intervening in the politics of my home state, Imo. But the good thing is that we are now talking about tackling the very matter or matters that necessitated such interventions. By the time we restructure Nigeria, such interventions will no longer be necessary, neither will the critical articles.
In the past, Atiku was seen as a bad party man. True or false, my view is that what we are seeing is not just another anti-party. Now that we know that being a good party man in Nigeria does not translate into being a patriotic Nigerian, we are going to be more cautious in accepting the jibes his party men and their agents in the media are likely to throw at him in the days ahead.
-Okere wrote from Owerri, Imo State