By Azibola Omekwe
“What do you have to say Mark Anthony?” was the question put forward by the Roman plebiscites on the death of Caesar in Shakespeare.
The discourse at hand may not be connected to the scene in which the above question was asked, but the ordinary question in the statement is to be likened to as thus: what do you have to say Nigerians with 2019 knocking on the door?
Recently, one issue that had kept tongues wagging and which has only simmered down momentarily was the statement credited to the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, who believes President Muhammadu Buhari would not contest the position of President come 2019. She made clear that she was going to pitch her tent with her sure interest, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, if he joins the race for the president of the country come 2019. That is a strange position and a show of courage in this part of the world. In other climes, such statement is normative. Yes, a former President of the United States of America said he could vote for the opposition party in any bill if he disagreed with his party on issues concerning the US.
Nigeria of the Military-era behavioral pattern that survived into our democratic culture shows that it was treasonable to mention that someone was interested in the seat of the President. Practically, no Military Head of State tolerated that. In those days of compact reasoning, everyone agreed with everybody and such was actually expressive of the stance of the President. But times have changed. While being neutral as to the stance of the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, let us quickly congratulate ourselves of attaining such maturation which actually started with her principal, then the Turaki of Adamawa, who used everything he had including his position as the Vice President and ambition to rule Nigeria, to sustain our democracy by saying no to third term – a position that has earned him the unsubstantiated corrupt man blackmail.
Whether we like it or not, political activities have started to converge for 2019. This coupled with the issues of the health of the President imposes a kinetic activity in our polity. This subterranean alignment is heating up to a crescendo that would eventually cause an eruption. The thing is irreversible. Sooner or later Nigerians would be called upon to choose their king.
Would that person tell us about schools or road rehabilitation? Would he provide sewing machines for our teeming unemployed graduates to be self employed or talk about dry season farming? We have traveled this familiar terrain and heard this palm leaves whispering and lullaby for too long. The First Republic was anchored on infrastructural race amongst the regions. We were heavily divided then but it never mattered. So long Ahmadu Bello was going to plant a university in Zaria to counter University of Ibadan, the property of Oduduwa republic within Nigeria, it was okay. The Igbos that populated the civil service in the North was seen as tribe of occupation and everything was done to remove and replace them with the people of the North. Nigeria was divided in all ramifications but it was all right; things would eventually work out. The country was successful in building huge infrastructure with zero binding national ideology. The marathon race for infrastructure development amongst the regions might have been a success but things never really worked out. There was no national cohesion.
The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic promised increase in Agriculture and Housing for all citizens. The party logo was embossed with a house and two maize strands – meaning life in Nigeria is all about food and shelter or simply put, stomach infrastructure. They succeeded in terms of housing but not in food production. Instead of harnessing an ideology that would embrace national cohesion, the party never got near anything close to that. Nothing was said about how Nigeria was going to maintain our co-existence. It’s gonna be all right and we would pray Jah see to it as proselyted by us. Like earlier said, things never worked out. Nigerians rushed to the Army to seize power from those rogue politicians.
The interregnum of the Military is one harrowing experience we hope we would never see again. In fact, they moved the capital to Abuja that serves as a command headquarters; that nothing happens in the country without it saying so. To prove the invincibility of Abuja, you don’t even look for money because it had it to give to you monthly through the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC. SDP and NRC were superintended by Abuja and when they became too ambitious, the Command Headquarters Chairman himself kicked them out.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) started as a G-18. They came and bought Jinjeng motorbikes as democratic dividends and did everything they could to resuscitate the rails – a great infrastructural leap. Essentially, developments such as in telecommunications, road networks, agricultural support, institutional reforms and the rest, though recording relative successes but were unable to provide a platform on how we would operate as a people. Sincerely, it is thoughtful to say that we have outgrown the whims of political parties and now tilting towards political ideologists. Nigeria presently is a cacophony of agitations since every one of us is angling to get as much as possible out of it without knowing what our obligations are to our country. Our politicians who are apt to build quickly are at loss as to what dose Nigeria needs to grow. This is not far-fetched as occasionally stated by Nigeria’s former vice president Atiku Abubakar – the polity is in a flux of ideological deficit.
Atiku Abubakar may not have started this ideological struggle generally but he can be identified emphatically as the first apostle of political ideology in Nigeria. It is just unfortunate that our political parties as we know them are still talking about mundane manifestoes of a Second Niger Bridge, Kano-Maiduguri Road and the dredging of the River Niger, instead of the dredging of our constitution first to remove all encumbrances towards fiscal federalism. We should identify those personalities with nationalistic spread who would transform a concrete bridge manifesto to a bridging ideology on how to stay strongly together to achieve a national aspiration that our former contemporaries have so effortlessly achieved.
We commend the former Vice President to have made his stand clear in a turf where the political parties have allowed rights activists and regional leaders operate and hold sway. Other nationalists then and now have been afraid to touch it. In him we see an originality of the template. There must be an emphasis here with the ensuing: there are divergent voices for and against the efficacy and desirability of devolution of powers by the government in power. At best it exhibits a sidon-look approach just to jump into the fray whichever vote gets the arguments for or against restructuring. That is one attitude we must reject. That at best is the mode of operation of APC/El Rufai committee on restructuring Nigeria. This is the usual grand subterfuge and obey-the-wind wrapper of the wife of Chief Nanga in ‘A Man of the People’ by Chinua Achebe. Nigeria unfortunately is at a crossroad and so we need men especially those veterans, who have known power in Nigeria; who actually are tired of shenanigans; who told us their stand on such important matter in the country. It means if they are trusted with the ultimate wherewithal, they would do/walk the talk.
However, we should also not fall into the trap of blackmail by secessionists who want to destroy our existence with hate speeches masquerading as disciples of restructuring Nigeria. It is all about leadership and dialogue. We are in an era of a Honourable Minister of the Republic pledging her loyalty to someone other than the person who appointed her to that post. There are also other groups in the country who believe that Nigeria does not need true federalism but good governance – meaning the medicine for Nigeria’s illness can be cured by good governance. It is true.
Fortunately, such people are actually in the minority even in the north. Nigerians across all sections have come to identify that we must talk about what we want in order to live together. We have tried good governance vehicle since 1960. We have developed immunity or resistance to this normative style of good governance even with a good judiciary, free speech, police, the secret service, etc. We have built hospitals with federal control down to the village level. We have a Federal Character Commission, an institution that distribute to Nigeria equitably.We have a bicameral legislature where people in Nigeria send their representatives. We gather our monies in one trust to be shared. What has that brought for us? Hatred and suspicion. As at today every section of the country is complaining of marginalization. All our institutions and much more have reached their limits yet the system is worsening. There is no card in our sleeve again to guarantee good governance. That is why we need to quash this feeding bottle governance that makes Abuja a very kind father caring for states and local governments, and its unwieldy self.
The Treasury Single Account, TSA, has a lot of attendant negative impact yet it is in place to forestall waste. The government has a lot of policing mechanism to check corruption yet those institutions failed to check excesses of diverting government revenue. She had no choice but to embark on TSA. That should tell us that Nigeria now is at the point of going through the surgeon’s knife to survive.
The worst hit about TSA is our universities and teaching hospitals. The government is insisting on it as the ship is almost drifting into the Bermuda Triangle – meaning she has no confidence in EFCC, ICPC, CCT, CCB, the Police Anti-Fraud Unit and many other anti-corruption legislation. Thereby taking such a drastic action to cut waste from the system. That goes to show that without a radical revolutionary change in our mode of existence, we would never make progress.
And so the idea that good governance is a substitute for true federalism is a lame argument and a tendency to postpone the doomsday. Already leaders of thought from the western states have converged in Ibadan and have literally sent an ultimatum to the Federal Government. There is clash between Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) proponents and the military. The present government initially very reluctant to touch the 2014 constitutional conference document has come out to say they would consider it. And that is not how to go about it. We must not wait for the restructuring vehicle to be in auto-drive.
that note it would take us to its destination we might not like. We should take the initiative. We should trust leaders that have the political courage to have told us that that is the main menu on their table if we give them our mandate. Without much ado, Atiku Abubakar is in town and has the patent. We have to reject infringers and copy typists who would promise us same now that it is becoming overwhelming.
Any other person who desires it should align with the lead apostle or tell us another idea. Ideas are inexhaustible. If they are so thoughtful, our politicians should go to work and give us a bouquet of ideology that would give Atiku a fight for being the first political-dimension champion of restructuring. If I may suggest one for someone, he or she could say restructuring would not work, sort of being a leftist. What do you have to say Nigerians as the Romans had asked Mark Anthony, a noble man, in Rome? What do you have to say Nigerians now that Atiku Abubakar, the first political ideologist and a champion of restructuring is in town?
–––Hon, Omekwe is a former member of Bayelsa State House of Assembly.