El-Rufai: Nigerians Must Set Agenda for Restructuring

  • Explains two approaches to achieve restructuring Says APC c’ttee report ready next month

Gboyega Akinsanmi

If a fair and just federation must be achieved, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, thursday said all Nigerians “ought to set the agenda for what is desirable in creating a country where there are equal opportunities for all, and where peace and justice reign.”

el-Rufai, also Chairman of All Progressives Congress on True Federalism, offered two different approaches through which a restructured Nigeria could be achieved peacefully, noting that it could be achieved gradually as President Muhammadu Buhari had demonstrated or rapidly through legislative actions.

He expressed these positions in a keynote address he delivered at the Chatham House, London under the chairmanship of General Secretary, National Think Tank (Nigeria), Dr. Jerome Okolo thursday.

The Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), conveyed the session at the instance of some citizens “calling for a comprehensive rethink of Nigeria’s governance architecture and demanding that a process of ‘restructuring takes place.”

el-Rufai, who spoke on ‘Next Generation Nigeria: What is Restructuring and Does Nigeria Need It?,’ admitted that there “is no doubt that the Nigerian federation is unbalanced and in dire need of structural rebalancing,” a condition that propelled the APC to constitute a Committee on True Federalism to fear and agitation of all nationalities that make up the federation.

If such a system must be achieved, el-Rufai noted that the expectation of the APC as a governing party and government in office “is that the voice of Nigerians –particularly young people – ought to set the agenda for what is desirable a country where there are equal opportunities for all.”

He also said the insistent din of the vocal political minority should not drown the new voices of the majority, many of whom are young and apolitical, though lamented that the real issues lies in the details of the restructuring.
He said the APC Committee “hopes our approach will enable our party to attain the goal of getting to the very heart and soul of the restructuring debate through the lens of the ordinary Nigerian.

“There is an opportunity for Nigerians to advance, discuss and refine ideas for adjusting the Exclusive List, Minerals and Mining Rights, the local government system, choice of National VAT versus sub-National Sales Taxes, Population Census and re-demarcation of federal and state constituencies based on the 2006 Census – all matters that are long overdue for deep reflection and reform.

“This state of national dissatisfaction for a variety of reasons and motives has led to strident calls from virtually all segments of Nigerian society for political, constitutional and fiscal reform using various words and phrases – restructuring, true federalism, devolution, resource control, regionalism and self-determination.”

He therefore, argued that the nation-building exercise could encourage consensus for introducing state constitutions, state police, appeal and supreme courts, creation or merger of states, reviewed tax powers, and reinforcing state government control over land by vesting mineral rights in the states, subject to federal royalties, export duties and taxes.

Under the current constitutional order, el-Rufai noted that a fair and just federation system could be achieved peacefully, now that almost all Nigerians “are neither happy nor content with the 1999 Constitution, and virtually all the institutions of governance at the federal, state and local levels.”

He said Nigeria could be restructured gradually as shown by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s devolution of responsibilities and increasing involvement of sub-nationals in national economic policymaking.
He said restructuring could be achieved rapidly through constitutional and legislative actions of the national and state assemblies well before the 2019 general election, noting that both options “are already being pursued albeit in a haphazard manner, hence the need for our committee.”

With the multi-pronged approach the committee adopted, el-Rufai said the ruling party “will feel the pulse of ordinary Nigerians and submit a credible report that will guide the leaders of the party and governments.
“With this open-minded approach to the question of restructuring, I have no doubt that we will credibly fulfil our terms of reference. We intend to submit our committee’s report to the party by the end of October 2017.”

He, thus, said the federal government should devolve more powers “to the states, and the states to the local governments. It has started happening under the APC national government by convention and pragmatic devolution, without any legislation, national conference or constitutional amendment.”

He added that there had been two national conferences in the Fourth Republic, convened by sitting presidents, but both were trailed by suspicions that they were arranged to advance some kind of personal or sectional political agenda.

He explained that the conferences instituted by Presidents Obasanjo (2005) and Goodluck Jonathan (2014) did not lead to the restoration of federalism or advance democratic consolidation.

In recent months, he said there “has been a resurgence of the clamour for restructuring. Some of the advocates have not bothered to define what restructuring means to them: is it devolution of powers, resource-control, regionalism, or even self-determination, or all of these?

“Some of its advocates demonise anyone not using the same registers as them, while many a politician espies in it opportunities for media attention, renewed relevance or career-enhancement. Perhaps I have only described the variety of motivations that tend to surround great questions.”