APC’s about-turn rekindles hope for the overdue restructuring of the country

Although the All Progressives Congress (APC) committed itself to restructuring the country and promised to support devolution of powers during the 2015 general elections, the party reneged upon ascending to the presidency.

That perhaps explains why not a few Nigerians greeted the recent report of the APC committee, chaired by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, with snide remarks. Some of the populist recommendations in the report include devolution of powers; state control of mineral resources, including oil and gas, except those on offshore; state police and delisting of local government from the 1999 Constitution as amended, among others.

Incidentally, most of the proposals by the El-Rufai committee tally with those of the National Conference, which the federal government and its leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, had sworn not to touch with even a long pole. Indeed, last year, APC legislators in the National Assembly stood stoutly against the Devolution of Powers Amendment Bill, killing it during the passage of amendments to the constitution. The bill sought to devolve some critical powers to the federating units by moving some items from the exclusive to the concurrent legislative list.

Instructively, in his New Year Day nationwide broadcast less than two months ago, the clamour for restructuring took a drubbing from President Buhari, who dismissed it as a misguided endeavour, contending that the problem with Nigeria was more with the process rather than structure. That was consistent with the position of many APC leaders, including El-Rufai, who chaired the party’s restructuring committee. Indeed, in 2014 when the Goodluck Jonathan administration instituted the National Conference, in what was then generally seen an election gambit, APC was the only political party in the country that did not attend and its government had insisted that it would not implement the conference recommendations.

What the foregoing therefore suggests is that those who view the latest position of APC with cynicism, suggesting that it is an opportunistic attempt to curry support from the supporters of restructuring massed in some sections of the country, may not be off the mark. “They rode to power on the back of great promises in 2015 without clearly fulfilling any till date. Now again, as we enter election year, they are coming up with what many of them strongly condemn and oppose”, said Action Democratic Party (ADP) National Chairman, Mr Yusuf Yabaji Sani, whose view tallies with that of many Nigerians.

However, notwithstanding the reservations about the sincerity of the APC on the issue of restructuring, Nigerians should give the party the benefit of the doubt. The onus is now on the APC leaders to prove that this is not another deceit designed to win the votes of Nigerians next year. As this newspaper has said severally, the current, and essentially unitary, structure is not working for Nigeria as it continues to stifle its development and growth on all fronts, generating internecine strife all over the federation.

A more recent evidence of the endemic failure of our federal structure is the armed challenge to the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranching Law by herdsmen under their umbrella body, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN). Following incessant fatal clashes between herders and farmers, the state government promulgated a law, prohibiting open grazing by livestock and required their owners to ranch them. The herders opposed the law and vowed not to obey it. Rather than enforce the law, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, advised the state government to suspend it. This speaks eloquently to the challenge of a skewed federal system as Benue would have enforced its law were it to have its own police.

The turnaround of the APC is, therefore, a welcome development in the hope that the party would use its hold on the levers of power to support all efforts, including the ongoing amendment to the constitution, to restructure and rebalance the country in order to make it a more efficient federation that would work for every citizen of Nigeria irrespective of their tribe, religion and gender.

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The turnaround of the APC is a welcome development in the hope that the party would use its hold on the levers of power to support all efforts, including the ongoing amendment to the constitution, to restructure and rebalance the country in order to make it a more efficient federation