US Scholar: How Nigeria Can Achieve Structural Reforms

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

As the search for the best way to address the shortcomings of the country’s federal structure continues, a colloquium moderated by a world renowned United States scholar, Prof. Richard Joseph has said that country must adopt a different approach if it hopes to resolve the contending issues.

Prof. Joseph said that the first thing he feels has been contentious was the use of the word, ‘ restructuring’ which according to him sparks off undue anxiety when it is used.

He said that rather than continue to talk about restructuring, it would better and more receptive if leaders focus on reforms where progress can be recorded on the issues on incremental basis.

“I am simply saying that Nigeria has had a number of meetings over time including the 2014 National conference which brought people together and it is now time to really find out what is the appropriate format because you don’t want to be repeating what you have done before.

“So you must decide how to phrase it so that you don’t cause unnecessary anxiety or bring up something no one would want to have a conversation on. The second one I think is that you should consider what is the appropriate format and approach,” he said.

The forum put together by Nextier Capital with assistance from the US embassy in Abuja had as its topic, “Discussion on Nigeria’s Future Development Agenda, Fostering growth and positive change through dialogue.

Prof. Joseph who specialises on African affairs, also spoke about the approach that can be adopted towards driving the process of change in the affairs of the country.

He advised that rather than pouring out their anger and frustrations against each other over their perceived wrong state of affairs of the country, politicians could articulate such positions and try and push it through during campaigns for the 2019 general elections.

“Every point that was put forward today during the discussion is that these ideas could play a very important role in the 2019 general elections. In the sense that people will have an opportunity to know that if I vote for ‘A’ of for ‘B’ , it is because A is somebody who has said that he or she want to be able to take up these issues if voted into office.

“I think that this will help to bridge the gap over not having the authority to convene the national conference and its implementation,” he said.

Speaking on the apparent failure of the authorities to implement the recommendations of the national conference and obstacle a former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka said that it was misnomer for any government that assumed office on the basis of the 1999 constitution to suddenly turn round to hold conferences to dismember it simply to secure electoral support.

He said that what those interested in forging a new conversation of restructuring should is to make it an election campaign issue so that if they are able to sell the agenda to the Nigerian electorate, and form government it will then be easy to implement it.

He said : “ I don’t agree that government can come to power in Nigeria on the basis of a sworn oath to uphold and defend the 1999 constitution and mid-way start calling for a national conference. I think there is something fraudulent about it.

“I think that a person that would hold a national conference must state clearly in his manifesto saying I am coming to have a new conversation on ways of forging a new Nigeria. Anyone that campaigns to come to the National Assembly on that slogan knows that once they get to the National Assembly, they will start the debate and if they get the two thirds, they would be able to address the issues of resource control and equality of states in Nigeria.

He said that he is looking forward to the 2029 general elections when candidates will be vying for offices on the basis of their readiness to support a new national conversation.

Another discussant and a former Minister of Information, Mr. Frank Nweke said the reason the recommendations past national conferences and dialogue on restructuring failed to get the backing of the National Assembly for implementation was because these lawmakers felt that their power base is being threatened.

Nweke lamented the frustration trailing efforts to get the 2014 national conference implemented, saying that the delegates suggested that doctrine of necessity be invoked to allow vote on its recommendations through referendum.
He said the only way a true restructuring can be carried out in the country is when we have an honest, detribalised leader at the helm of affairs who can do what is needed to drive the process through.