In this piece, Gabriel Emameh writes on the recently released report of the governing APC committee on restructuring, noting that the report is coming at a time there is clamour for the party to up its game if it desires to return to power next year.
Barely 48 hours after former President Olusegun released a press statement on the state of the nation that sent a shockwave across the country, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) committee on restructuring chaired by Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai came up with its report on restructuring of the country.
Obasanjo had in his statement called on President Buhari to forget a second term ambition, pointing out that the current administration has failed Nigerians. The former President even went as far as proposing a Third Force agenda which he said could be a panacea to the real change the country desires. The octogenarian ruled out both the ruling APC and the resurgent PDP as alternatives to rescue the country.
Political analysts have observed that Obasanjo’s statement might have sent shivers down the spine of the ruling party, forcing it to wake up to reality. While it can’t be ruled out that the report of the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led restructuring committee was a step geared towards true federalism, an idea which clamour gained currency in early 2017. People are however sceptical as to the timing and purpose on the side of the ruling party, saying it was too late in the day, but the report has also received commendation from some Nigerians.
PMB On Restructuring
President Buhari had in 2016 in a newspaper interview to mark his first anniversary in office, said the 2014 National Constitutional Conference conveyed by his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, would remain in the archives.
In Mr President’s words: “I never liked the priority of that government on that particular issue, because it meant that what the National Assembly could have handled was handed to the conference.…’’.
Also, the Chairman of the APC committee on restructuring, Governor el-Rufai had in 2107 when the agitation for restricting took the centre stage described those calling for restructuring as political opportunists who knew nothing about the concept but taking advantage of the situation in the country to gain cheap political popularity, though the Kaduna State Governor didn’t ruled out his party’s commitment towards restructuring.
However, the sudden release of the report and recommendation for restructuring has raised eyebrows in some quarters. This was coming when most Nigerians had expressed disappointment on the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC. It was coming when the President’s anti-corruption campaign has become questionable. It was coming when Nigerians had accused him of nepotism and laid-back approach to critical national matters.
Some are worried if this is only a ruse meant to up the president falling popularity. What is more of concern is that electioneering period is almost at the gestation stage and it might be a replication of what played out during the Jonathan’s administration when the government promised to implement the 2014 Confab if elected.
Of course he was never elected and the report is now assumed to be of the archives. Who knows if that of the APC would find itself in the archives tomorrow just like those before it. These are the fears, even when it is still believed that the president may distance himself from the steps taking by his towards restructuring same way he did to some of the party’s campaign promises.
The el-Rufai-led committee had in the report it submitted to the National Chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyengu, on Thursday January 23, 2018 alighted steps to be taken and recommended among others; resource control, making local government an affair of states, constitutional amendment to allow merger of states, state police, state court of appeal and independent candidacy.
Recall that the committee was set up in August 2017 to formulate the position of the APC on true federalism with a 10-man committee constituted but this was later expanded to 23 members.
The mandate of the committee, according to the report, was to make clear the true intent and definition of true federalism, to study the reports various national conferences, especially that of 2014; and come up with recommendations.
While presenting the report at the party’s national secretariat, Mr. el-Rufai said eight thousand and fourteen engaged in the process of their research and that Nigerians are keener on twenty four issues. The committee had out of the twenty four items made recommendations on thirteen, which has four volumes.
He said, “After four months of rigorous research, we are pleased to inform the chairman that we have completed our assignment and are here to present our report. Our report is in four volumes,” said Mr el-Rufai.
“The report is in four volumes with Volume One containing background information of the research and recommendations; Volume Two, Action plans from the research to implement its resolution and draft of bills; Volume Three, Media reports and the result of the online survey of the issue; and Volume Four, the appendix- summary of all memoranda received.
“I’ll like to highlight some principal recommendation by the committee. We articulated fourteen issues re-occurring in previous conferences.
“At the end of our rigorous research, debates and deliberations, we came up with twenty four items that Nigerians have indicated interest views that balance our federation.
“These items are; creation of states, merger of states, delegation principle, fiscal federalism, devolution of power and resources between state, federal and local governments, federating units, form of government, independent candidacy, land tenure system, local government autonomy, power sharing and rotation, resource control, types of legislature, demand for affirmation for vulnerable groups;people with disabilities, women and youth, ministerial appointment, citizenship, state constitution, community participation, minimum wage, governance, judiciary, state re-alignment and border adjustment, circular status of the federation; and referendum.
“We articulated only thirteen issues from the various opinions expressed by Nigerians in our engagement, identified these twenty four issues for which the committee deliberated and has made recommendations in the report.
“We went ahead to look at these recommendations to convert them into concrete actions that the party, government and the national assembly can take to re-balance our federation
While receiving the report, Chief Oyegun commended the effort of the committee, saying that his party is a listening party and would put everything it cost not to disappoint Nigerian
“Today, we have a report produced by some of the most intelligent, young Nigerians dealing with the most fundamental challenges.
“The concept is accepted, the need for it is accepted but what exactly do we mean. Are we talking on a federation based on eight zones, six zones or what? From the presentation of the chairman of this committee, everyone now has an idea of what the APC stands for when you say true federalism”, he said.
“It is still going to go through the mill but what I will promise you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for you hard work that you have put in for four to five months, is that this report is going to get expeditious consideration by the party.”
“I am going to promise that before the middle of February, it would have been considered and decided upon by the various structures of the party.
“The NEC and the Caucus of the party and whatever is there after will be presented to the authorities as the considered view and decision of the APC for appropriate implementation.”
It can’t be an APC affair but Nigerians- Dickson
In a recent press conference addressed by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, the Governor called on the APC to set up a Multi-party Committee to consult widely and fast-track the process of implementation of recommendations of the Governor Nasir El-Rufai-led Committee on restructuring.
He commended the effort of the Governor El-Rufai led-committee and suggested that the APC ensure the implementation of the proposals before the 2019 general elections.
“What the APC committee on restructuring did was quite surprising, quite unexpected and a welcome development. This is one of the fundamental proposals on constitution reform. I appreciate and commend their patriotism.
’’We have to jointly engage our National Assembly members to consider it and pass it to Mr. President for approval. It’s a national issue. We need a more equitable, free, fair and prosperous Nigeria.
’’We encourage them to see the proposal through. After all, they control the two chambers of the National Assembly. We cannot give up now, we need to save Nigeria.
’’The recommendations of the committee make a lot of sense. I support them and we are ready to partner with them.
“I call for a Multi-Party Committee to discuss, agree and work on draft bills so that we can present this to the National Assembly and mobilise so that before the next elections we shall drive these issues home for a stable Nigeria,” the governor said.
No need for multi-party committee –APC
During a popular radio programme, Political Platform, on Ray Power FM monitored by Leadership, a chieftain of the ruling party, Mr Osita Okechukwu while reacting to Governor Dickson’s position on a multi-party committee, said it was pointless setting new committee. He said the party has done its part and it was left for governors to work with their state assemblies to ease the passage of the amendments.
’’We started with our manifesto and in our manifesto; we said we are interesting in the devolution of power from the centre to the unit. What we are saying essential is that we are dispose to the restructuring of the country.
The Nasir El-Rufai committee has done a good job to respond to the Nigerian electorates, said Mr Osita who said President Buhari was no longer a military head of state but a democrat who is committed to thee political development of the country.
On the issue of multi-party committee suggested by Governor Dickson, he said, ’’for God sake we have a structure; we have a structure called the state house of assemblies and the national assembly with Mr President. Because the issue is very clear how amendment can be done.
He said there was no need for the setting up of committee, but ’’what he (Governor Dickson) should do is when the issue comes to the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, he should help us to appeal to his legislators.’’ He added it must not be like what transpired in the various state assemblies where the debate for local government autonomy was slain on arrival.
’’So these governors should rally round their legislators and tell them it is germane that we amend certain parts of the constitution for the growth, development and welfare of the country. It is not about committee.
UPP throws weight behind Governor Dickson’s position
The United Progressive Party, UPP, has called on the ruling APC to allow space for a multi-party coalition with like minds. The party said it is ’’what is required now to bring about change that the country is in dare need of’’.
In a telephone interview with WEEKEND Leadership, the National Chairman of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie, posited that it was ideal to bring political parties with similar ideologies but that doesn’t necessary meant a merger.
’’It should not be the kind of merger that brought APC into power which turned out to be a gartering of strange bed fellows. So what we are advocating is a coalition, not a merger, of a couple of political parties that believe in something similar.
’’These parties must believe in the restructuring of Nigeria, they must believe in the devolution of power, in resource control, in state police and in community policing, in even referendum should the need arises.
“All of these things are contained in the constitution of federal government all over the world. This should be the guiding principles of parties that are coming up to form government, Chief Chekwas advocated.
’’How do you identify such parties? It must not be by the rhetoric of its leadership but there must be clear provisions in their parties manifesto and the objective principles of their constitution. That is the only way you can say those parties have social contract with the Nigerian people.
’’I support a coalition of parties because one party cannot do it alone but it must a coalition of parties of like minds, said Chief Okorie who condemned in strong terms the idea of political parties’ merger. He said it has worked during the Second Republic where an accord in which the NPP and NPM came together to form a government. ’’It was stable and broad based understanding and it was balance to a large extent’’’, he said.
He advised that political parties in Nigerian should adopt a template like what is practised in some government in the world.
’’When you go out of this country, what you have in Germany is a coalition government led by the CDU Christian Democratic Union and SDP, Social Democratic Party. You go further into Spain, it is coalition government, even in Britain it is a coalition government between the Conservative and the Liberals. In Israel it is the same. So it is a trending thing, not the issue of the winner takes all just like what we see in a multi-ethnic and cultural society like Nigeria.
Restructure postulation a ruse –ADP
On its part, the Action Democratic Party (ADP) has described as ruse the restructuring posture by the All Progressives Congress, APC. The party said it was a bait to shift attention from the ruling party’s numerous gaffes targeted at winning back public confidence as elections draw closer.
In a statement made available to journalists, the National Chairman of the party, Engr. Yusuf Yabaji Sani, said, “They rode 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 condemned and opposed’’.
Engr. Sani also said that the restructuring report was cooked up by hired persons to shift focus away from the content of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter.
“Instead of trying to deceive and hoodwink Nigerians again, the APC should rather apologise to ex-President Jonathan for getting him changed on a phantom promise of change.
“Nigerians should not believe them. The APC does not believe in state merger, resource control or state police. They are pathological liars’, added.
A senior legal practitioner, Bar. Ismail Olokun has described the ruling as a body lacking principles and further accused the party of double standard. Why the 2014 confab conveyed by Jonathan’s administration was outrightly rejected and now the same party took a swift u-turn to revisit the report for direction, such could be best be described as being hypocritical.
’’First principles; what is the difference between what was recommended and the outcome of President Jonathan’s National Conference, which the APC boycotted? This is rank hypocrisy. It reinforces my view that the PDP and APC are two sides of the same coin.
’’The difference if any is that the power or governing elite when it pleases them only change platforms to actualize not only the continued subjugation of our people but also the perfection of the mechanisms for plundering our commonwealth.
Mr. Olokun further throw weight behind Governor Saraki’s suggested for an all-inclusive committee from the various political parties in the country to review that recommendation made by the Governor El-Rufai led committee.
’’There can never be one perfect way to deal with such matters. The Jonathan confab was no different from others before it. It was an aggregation of the critical sections that constitute Nigeria.
’’Government is a continuum. Only in Nigeria do successive governments jettison the policies of its predecessors whether they are Good or not.
“If GEJ has not played politics with it, the proper thing was to send its recommendations to the National Assembly for purposes of constitutional amendment/ alteration. That would have been the right thing to do and still is the right thing to do, he said.
Like other Nigerians, he had also questioned the timing and motives.
‘’This APC thought process is a knee jerk reaction and coming too late in the day In any event like I said there is nothing markedly different from the confab recommendations except perhaps the issue of Referendum which I assure you will be defeated on the floor of the National Assembly as presently constituted.
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