Since the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) inaugurated a think-tank to properly define where the party stands on the contentious issue of restructuring, a lot of people have hammared the party on its position on the matter especially the person selected to head the committee, ANDREW ESSIEN writes.
It is now an open secret that ahead of the 2019 general elections, one of the major talking points for any serious candidate intending to lead the country will be to articulate, and clearly too, where he or she will stand as far as the subject matter is concerned.
More importantly, the governing party is all the more pressed to explain on which side of the isle it stands on restructuring since interestingly, the subject matter had subterraneanly found its way into its constitution and as such, it had increasingly come under fire to make good its promise on seeing through what it had hitherto pledged even as analysts posit that the party has been lagging behind in this all-important point in the nation’s political discourse at this point in time.
Expectedly, opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has since cashed in on the debate, with most of its members leading the charge for restructuring the polity. This has no doubt put the APC in a difficult position since it may not be on the same talking point with the opposition party as it always maintained that what it (the APC) means by restructuring, is not what the others may mean and thus the need to set the records straight.
While the APC and its leadership were not express in their position, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and chieftain of the party, broke the ice over the need to restructure the country in the wake of this dispensation. This situation, in the eyes of some party faithful, was premised on his desire for a shot at the presidency come 2019 which they argue, he hopes to ride on, generating some measure of momentum ahead of the elections.
Hence, a crack-team was commissioned for the purpose. Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai is to serve as Chairman, Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje; Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong.
Others are Governor of Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosu; former Governor of Edo State, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor; APC National Organising Secretary, Sen. Osita Izunaso; APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; and Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (Secretary).
As the APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi puts it: “The All Progressives Congress (APC) notes that with various agitations on restructuring, the concept has assumed several disparate meanings.
“In the light of this, at the fifth regular joint APC National Working Committee (NWC) /APC Governors meeting which held on Wednesday 19th July, 2017 a committee was set up to articulate the Party’s notion on restructuring.”
Even as the subject has generated sometimes heated arguments across the political spectrum, so has the choice of the Chairman of the committee and governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir el-rufai. This was compounded with the recent description of agitators for restructuring as opportunists by Governor Nasir el-Rufai, raising concerns and strong reactions from proponents of reform.
Top among those who came down hard on the governor was a chieftain of the APC, Mr Timi Frank who called on the ruling party to stop taking for granted the sensibility of Nigerians who want the country to be restructured.
Mr Frank, in a statement made available to newsmen expressed displeasure at the appointment of Kaduna state governor, Nasir el-Rufai as the chairman of the APC restructuring committee.
He said: “Governor el-Rufai has not hidden his opposition to the issue of restructuring since Nigerians began to remind of our promise which is boldly written in our party promise book, hence the need to remove him because he does not believe in it.The Kaduna state governor has also called some of our leaders and former Heads of State different names because of this issue.”
Frank thundered that el-Rufai garnered wide spread condemnation after describing people who wanted to restructure Nigeria as “political opportunists and irresponsible”. He added that restructuring was part of the APC manifesto and ”it will amount to deceit if the party renege on its promise”.
He finalized by urging the governor and the National Working Committee of the APC to remember that the promise of restructuring was one of the reasons Nigerians voted for the party in 2015 and the promise must be fulfilled.
At another level, the APC’s seeming readiness to fully address the restructuring question, still attracts suspicion even as various groups have raised question to the party’s modus operandi in going about the whole matter, beginning from the composition of the committee on the sensitive issue, just like the Afenifere Renewal Group. It has expressed its doubts on the capacity of the el Rufai-led APC committee on restructuring to advise the party appropriately on the subject.
The pan-Yoruba socio-political group, in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Kunle Famoriyo, reiterated that restructuring has to be according to the expressed wishes of the people of Nigeria, irrespective of the outcome of the el-Rufai-led committee. According to the group, majority of the committee members have hitherto publicly denounced the subject as either irrelevant or irresponsible and their publicly known personal stance may largely influence the committee’s report.
It is on record that the committee’s chairman recently said on a live TV broadcast that “A lot of the talk about political restructuring is political opportunism and irresponsibility in my opinion” and he does “not believe that the 2014 CONFAB report is a sensible basis.”
“Ganduje was also reported, while addressing National Youth Council of Nigeria in 2016, to have said that restructuring was not the way out for Nigeria.
“Lalong, while addressing some Law School students recently said APC has no stance on federalism, despite the prominence given it in the party’s manifesto, while the Party’s Publicity Secretary, Abdullahi, believes that restructuring should not take priority for now.
“While we are prepared to give this committee the benefit of doubt, it would appear that the APC continues to waste precious opportunities that its 2015 electoral victory presented to it on a platter of gold to salvage Nigeria, in accordance with its manifesto,” the statement said, while adding that “as of now, there is really no luxury of time to continue to dress peoples’ genuine agitation in convoluted bureaucracy and officialdom.”
“We, therefore, hope that the party can come down from its high horse and listen to the loud whispers of Nigerians, which portend an unprecedented humanitarian crisis waiting to occur in the absence of a genuine attempt at restructuring the country.”
Even though there has been various schools of thought on the issue, the APC that hitherto gave a lukewarm disposition towards the agitation, the party is of the opinion that the settingup of the restructuring committee was a political milestone.
With the clamour mounting, in the face of a unsteady economic and security condition on the one hand and ethnic tensions on the other, governors of the party got on the band wagon, after having disparaged the agitation. Still, it would seem that the colouration of the debate had strong underpinnings of 2019
In the face of unsteady economic and security condition on the one hand and ethnic tensions on the other, it will however be interesting to see how the political actors within the party will act even as they hope to seize the momentum generated by the restructuring debate.
It will also very interesting to see the party’s dexterity as it will have to, at some point, “coordinate” the process of harmonizing the views at some level either under the National Assembly or the presidency.
While the process continue to throw up more questions than answers especially the party’s motive on the issue, high-level meetings on restructuring continues.