- Obasanjo recalls rejection by Adesanya before contesting presidency
Elder statesman and former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, has urged the electorate to make restructuring a precondition for voting for candidates in next year’s general election.
Anyaoku’s advocacy got the support of the President-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who also called for a “detribalised leadership”, and former military governor of the old Rivers State in the 1970s, General Zamani Lekwot.
Anyaoku was the guest speaker at a symposium on “Leadership and the Future of Nigeria”, held in Lagos Wednesday in honour of the late leader of Afenifere and National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Senator Abraham Adesanya, who died 10 years ago.
The chairman of the occasion was former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who said Adesanya’s “politics of principle” should inspire today’s politicians.
Delivering his lecture, Anyaoku restated his call for Nigeria to be restructured into eight federating units so as not to disintegrate like the defunct Yugoslavia Republic.
Anyaoku warned that Nigeria would not achieve enduring political stability or realise its deserved potential with its present non-conducive “federal” constitution.
According to him, “I want to reiterate the view that I have been expressing since my return to Nigeria in 2000, namely, that based on the experience of other similarly pluralistic countries across the world, Nigeria will not achieve enduring political stability or realise its deserved development potential with its present non-conducive ‘federal’ constitution.”
He called on the executive and members of the National Assembly to heed the growing warning signs of potential national disaster by agreeing to adopt restructured true federalism, which he said would provide the best basis for the realisation of the Nigerian nation that everyone desires, and a stable, united and socio-economically fast developing country with a correspondingly accountable and citizen-empathetic leadership.
As the 2019 general election approaches, Anyaoku also urged all intending voters to regard a firm unambiguous and time-specific commitment to the restructuring of Nigeria’s present governance architecture as the pre-requisite for voting for any political party and its candidates.
He stated that restructuring Nigeria’s present governance architecture by returning to the provisions of its 1960 and 1963 constitutional arrangements would not only help the emergence of a leadership that would pave the way for a national rebirth but would also put the country on a more assured path to political stability and faster socio-economic development.
“Taking into account the historical and current developments, including especially the continuing outrageous killings in the North Central zone of the country, I am proposing a restructuring of Nigeria into a true federation of eight federating units comprising the existing six geo-political zones plus a restored old Mid-West region and a newly created Middle Belt federating unit.
“The present mostly non-viable 36 states, many of which can no longer pay the salaries of their workers, should be retained in the new federating units but as development zones to be administered without their current costly executive and administrative institutions,” he said.
According to him, it would be for each federating unit to decide if and when to create within it, additional development zone(s) in response to any genuine cry of marginalisation.
In addition to considerably reducing the overall cost of recurrent expenditure, which he put at about 80 per cent of the national revenue, Anyaoku argued that the new bigger and more viable federating units, with their regional police forces, could better monitor and enforce the security of the citizens.
He stated that each federating unit could pursue at its own pace and on a more sustainable basis its economic, education and health facilities development, and could more effectively check corruption and hold administrations to greater accountability.
“Such restructured governance architecture will facilitate overall national economic productivity and bring about the necessary shift away from the present virtually unitary structure which encourages the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) to rely on a philosophy of ‘sharing the national cake’,” he added.
If adopted, dividing the nation into eight federating units would encourage the more viable federating units to focus on productivity and internally generated revenue, Anyaoku noted.
Restructured federalism, he said, would also rekindle among the citizenry a sense of nationalism and the spirit of unity in diversity.
“The more viable and fewer federating units will also discourage the ‘do or die’ politics which in the competition for the all-powerful centre exacerbates the divisive tendencies within the country; and the centre because of its reduced responsibilities and the consequent significantly reduced ‘national cake’ to share will become less attractive to our power-hungry politicians,” Anyaoku noted.
He stated that it was the true federal governance arrangement, which during the First Republic guaranteed such a balance of power between the centre and the regions that led Sir Ahmadu Bello to prefer remaining Premier of the Northern region and sending his lieutenant, Sir Tafawa Balewa, to the centre as prime minister.
The same, he said, also applied to Ahmadu Bello’s counterparts in the Eastern and Western regions, Dr. Michael Okpara and Chief Obafemi Awolowo respectively, and later Chief Denis Osadebey in the Mid-West region.
He said they all gave meaningful leadership in their various regions, which according to Anyaoku, cumulatively enabled Nigeria to have veritable influence and standing in the international arena during that period.
He also blamed Nigeria’s lack of progress on the military, observing that Nigeria’s political and economic progress began its retrogression with the military intervention in the country’s governance in January 1966.
“For thirty-three years thereafter until May 1999, minus the relatively short period of the Second Republic (October 1979 to December 1983), the successive military regimes became responsible for dismantling the foundations of the country’s political stability and economic progress.
“First, they dismantled the country’s true federal structure which had been carefully negotiated and agreed as the basis for stability and progress by the nation’s founding fathers, and in its place introduced a series of constitutional arrangements that reflected the army command structure, thereby transforming the central government to the equivalent of the supreme military commander whose orders must be obeyed by all the rank and file, in this case the federating units.
“Second, they replaced the negotiated and democratic process of creating new federating units, as was done when the new Mid-West region was created in August 1963, with the arbitrary creation of federating units by military fiat.
“Thirdly, they imported and sustained the culture of impunity which is a natural concomitant of rule by force. As has been amply demonstrated, impunity not only vitiates the rule of law, it also facilitates corruption,” he said.
He, however, added that the retardation of Nigeria’s progress should not be blamed solely on the military, saying that the civilians, some of whom had been involved in encouraging and supporting the various coups, and many of whom as politicians whose brand of politics have promoted corruption and divisiveness in the polity, have their fair share of responsibility for the current very worrying state of affairs in Nigeria.
He identified some of the challenges facing the country as: a totally enervating atmosphere of moral and ethical decadence; debilitating rancorous politics that is partly exacerbated by lopsided federal appointments; increased divisiveness and lack of cohesion as the country slides deeper into ethno-religious and sectarian divisions; a limping weak mono-crop-economy in which values are hardly added; loss of the country’s influence and standing abroad; and a growing insecurity of life and property with sickening daily reports of killings of human beings.
Also speaking at the event, Second Republic senator, Prof. Banji Akintoye, said the right steps must be taken urgently to save the country from disintegration, warning that Nigeria might break if urgent steps are not taken to restructure the country.
“We need to do what is right to keep our country together. It is a miracle that Nigeria has not broken up. But if Nigeria does not take right steps urgently to restructure itself and return to true federalism, Nigeria may break up.
“The break up of the Soviet Union has shown that any country can break up. So, for us to make sure that Nigeria does not break up, the first thing we must do urgently is to sit down and discuss how to restructure the country.
“Some leaders have destroyed the country, so there is need to rebuild it as fast as possible,” he said.
In his contribution, Lekwot said Nigeria must be restructured to set the country on the right path.
He also called for empowerment of the judiciary against political interference, adding that more courts should be established to ensure the quick dispensation of justice.
He said: “Those who are against restructuring should come out and table their fears and we will discuss them. If we don’t restructure Nigeria, the structure will collapse one day. We need to restructure and do what is right to set Nigeria on the right path.
“We must empower the judicial system against political interference. We must also empower the police and other security agencies, which are presently ill-equipped. I believe that restructuring will create room for community and state police.
“Some officeholders today enjoys impunity because nobody holds them accountable. Something should be done to checkmate that.”
In her address, former managing director of Concord Newspapers, Dr. Doyin Abiola, said it was time for Nigeria to start working towards real change in the country by ensuring that educated people are elected into leadership positions to steer the ship of the country.
She also called on women to be actively involved in the affairs of the country, adding that the input of women as home builders would contribute meaningfully to have a Nigeria that works.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who also attended the event, narrated how he met the late Adesanya when he (Obasanjo) was about to contest for the presidency in 1999.
The former president said: “I did not know late Pa Adesanya in my early days or in his early days in politics. I came to know him when I was going into politics and for necessity, the paths of politicians do cross.”
Obasanjo said after he had accepted to run for the office of president, he decided to consult and meet with political leaders all over the country.
“One of the leaders I had to meet was Pa Abraham Adesanya. The first time I met him, he received me warmly and that was the first time I met his daughter — Mrs. Dupe Adelaja — who became one of my ministers.
“When I met Pa Adesanya, he did not mince words at all and went straight to ask why I came, as I was not with the Afenifere and NADECO group.
“I told him that ‘as a politician and well-bred Yoruba boy, I have to pay homage and consult you’. Baba told me he would not support me.
“I told him it was my duty and responsibility to inform him I was going into politics and we parted.
“As I went on with the consultations, I met him a second time and the same thing happened. I told him I came to give him my progress report and he said again, ‘We will not support you,’ and I said alright.
“Again, he asked me why I was not in their group and I told him their group was alright but it was limited, and I believed that we should not be limited. He told me again that they would not support me.
“I visited him a third time; this was just before the election. I told him I came to give him an update and the third time Baba said, ‘We will not support you.’
“And of course, as the results of the election turned out, I was not supported by the Yorubas in the South-west for the 1999 election,” he recalled.
Obasanjo said, however, that he did not regret appointing the late Bola Ige and Dupe Adelaja, who were members of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), as ministers during his administration.
“But then, Pa Adesanya did not know how his daughter, Dupe became a minister in my government because I did not consult him. On the two occasions when I visited Baba, Dupe was the one who served drinks and refreshments.
“When after the election I decided that I was going to bring people from parties other than PDP, on my own I decided to take Bola Ige and Dupe Adelaja to represent AD in my government and Baba never talked to me about it and I never talked to him about it.
“Dupe played her role — dutiful and diligent minister — and I have no regret for taking Dupe and Bola Ige as ministers in the administration that set up the present democratic dispensation,” he said.
Despite all their differences, Obasanjo said Adesanya deserved to be honoured.
“My prayer is that the legacy of Pa Adesanya will continue to influence the way things move in this country. People like him are not many; we need to create more Adesanyas,” he said.
In his remarks, he also commended the children and families of the late Adesanya for organising the event.
Other dignitaries at the event included former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; Yetunde Onanuga, deputy governor of Ogun State; Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State; and Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State.
Others were: former Lagos State governor, Chief Lateef Jakande, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Mr. Jimi Agbaje, APC chieftain Bisi Akande, KOWA Party chieftain Remi Sonaiya, and PDP chieftain Bode George, among others.