•Canvasses devolution of power to states to improve federation’s efficiency
Chuks Okocha and Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday warned that if the foundational challenges preventing the federal government from discharging its responsibilities are not resolved, Nigeria risks becoming a failed state.
He also cautioned against ignoring the growing calls for restructuring, saying that doing so could lead to a potential fulfilment of recent predictions that Nigeria could soon become a failed state.
He advised that Nigeria cannot continue to toe the same path and expect a different result, noting that many of the challenges facing the nation were foundational problems that needed to be resolved collectively.
Atiku, in an article titled: “Nigeria Needs the Peace Serum of Restructuring,” which he released yesterday, described the current ethnic and religious clashes bedevilling Nigeria as symptoms of the disease of refusing to restructure.
He said the unitary system, which is now being practised under a different nomenclature, at the time it was established, was not meant to be a long-term solution but an ad-hoc arrangement, following the 1966 coup.
Describing a failed state as one which is unable to carry out basic responsibilities, such as the security of life and property as well as upholding law and order within its territory, Atiku stated that although the country has not yet failed, it could soon without a deliberate attempt at pulling it back from the brink.
He said: “Nigeria needs peace, unity and prosperity. But all three of these virtues are dependent on Nigeria having social justice. Without justice, there cannot be cohesiveness in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation like Nigeria.
“Nigeria has foundational issues, which we have to resolve. Until we resolve those issues, our nation may not fulfil its potential of being the beacon of light for the Black race, even if we have the most righteous people at the helm.
“It has been said by many behavioural scientists that ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
According to him, Nigeria has been operating from the same unitary foundation and has given it several names since January 15, 1966, stressing that other than slight name changes, the mould has remained the same and the yield has changed little.
“Yes, there will be improvements and retrogressions here and there, due to the character and personality differences of the men and women at the helm. However, until the foundational fault lines are addressed, whatever progress one man makes, can be undone by his predecessor, often in a matter of months,” he stated.
He said if half of Nigerians expend their energies pulling the country in one direction, and the other half counter by pulling it in the other direction, the nation will never know peace, unity and prosperity.
Atiku added: “Nigeria needs to restructure to avoid the various failed state prophecies, first advanced by an American think-tank against Nigeria in 2006 – most recently regurgitated by the Financial Times of London, about a month ago. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
“What is a failed state? A failed state is a political sovereign geographic territory whose government has deteriorated to a level where it cannot fulfil a sovereign government’s basic responsibilities, such as the security of life and property, and upholding law and order.
“Nigeria is not a failed state. However, we are at risk of becoming a failed state, if we do not resolve our foundational challenges that make it rather difficult for the central government to discharge her responsibilities effectively.”
The former vice president stated that although Nigeria should have been restructured a long time ago, it is not late doing so, going by the Chinese proverb that “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago” while “the second best time is now.”
According to him, the time has come to trust the component units of the federation with devolution of powers from the central government to handle issues such as policing, in tandem with the federal government.
Atiku said good men, heading institutions without good foundations, will still produce destruction, adding that it is time to feel the nation’s pulse and steer the ship of state away from a failed state destination.
He noted that restructuring is the lighthouse that will guide the Nigerian state’s ship back to the safety of land, saying that today, Nigeria is dependent on food imports for much of its food needs, primarily or even entirely because agriculture is controlled from Abuja.
He said the disconnect between Abuja and the states has led to a situation where one of the most fertile and stable nations on earth has to import food.
“We must stop fighting each other as Nigerians, and we must start fighting for Nigeria. Arise, o compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey. Nigeria is calling for restructuring. And I urge all Nigerians to obey our mother’s voice,” he said.