Is the All Progressives Congress (APC) shifting ground over the debate over restructuring? CHIBUZO UKAIBE writes.
The decision of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) to commission a nine-member committee to articulate its position on restructuring last Wednesday was instructive.
By and large, the demand is shaping up to be a major talking point ahead of the 2019 general election and the governing party appears to be trailing in the debate.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has since cashed in on it, with most of its members leading the charge for restructuring the polity.
A statement by signed by APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi on Wednesday said “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.
The members of the committee are Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-rufai (Chairman); Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Governor of Kano, 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).
Indeed, the agitation for restructuring has been as loud as it has remained controversial in light of what format it should take and how far reaching it can go.
Although, all the schools of thoughts for restructuring anchor on altering of the current economic and political system, key items that appear to be topical so far are state policing in the face of security threats; devolution of powers and resource control.
However while some have advanced the strict usage of 2014 national confab report, others believe that the 2014 report should be updated.
Still, others believe a fresh gathering of ethnic nationalities should be assembled to discuss the issues. A different variant of restructure advocates, and perhaps the most extreme form, are those who believe only a no-holds-barred sovereign national conference would serve. They believe that the key actors in the polity, who they regard as beneficiaries of the system at any given time, will never see to far reaching reforms that would affect them.
Expectedly, those in this category, who have been at constant loggerheads with the system at every turn of the clamour for reforms, are regarded as purveyors of disorder, especially by the federal lawmakers who constitutionally are mandated by law make laws and midwife every reform process that involves constitution amendments.
Yet, for the governing APC that hitherto gave a lukewarm disposition towards the agitation, the setup of the restructuring committee was a significant political shift, analysts opine.
Before now, the party, despite advancing progressive disposition in his campaign days with regards to restructuring the polity appeared to have gone cold on the subject.
Although it had distanced itself from the former administration’s national confab, portraying it in negative light, APC, then as an opposition party, argued that when they assume power they would address most of the structural defects in the polity.
However, the dismissive disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration towards the 2014 confab report was also a clear signal to agitators seeking reform, at least under the guise of 2014 report.
The party had leveraged on the narrative of those who opposed this latter day restructuring advocacy on grounds that there was nothing wrong with the current system provided it is properly managed.
Essentially, for those in this school, good governance is key. They argument that is needed is transparency, accountability and adherence to the laws by persons entrusted with commonwealth.
They further question the motive of those spearheading the reform agitation, noting that most held sensitive government positions in the past and had the opportunity of making such far reaching reforms but didn’t do so.
Debate and politics of 2019
But it would seem that the APC is coming around on the debate over restructuring. Clearly, the decibels from various quarters and even from some of its members appear to have become so loud the party could no longer wave it off.
The party appears to be anxious over its inability to dictate the narrative on restructuring, which might cause it a good measure of political mileage in 2019.
While its leadership gave a noncommittal vibe, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a chieftain of their party, had in the wake of this dispensation, led the narrative over the need to restructure the country, a situation, which, in the eyes of some party faithful, exposed his presidential ambition in 2019. For them, he hopes to ride the wave, which has gathered measurable momentum, to power.
But 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.
The recent description of agitators for restructuring as opportunists by the chairman of APC’s restructuring committee, the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, had raised concerns and strong reactions from proponents of reform.
APC’s seeming readiness to fully address the restructuring question, still attracts suspicion. The Afenifere Renewal Group has said it doubts the capacity of the El Rufai-led committee of the All Progressives Congress 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, the 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.”
“Gov. 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.
“Gov. Lalong, while addressing 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, Bolaji 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.”
While doubts continue to trail the motive of APC, other proponents of restructuring are meeting.
Notable personalities, including Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd), Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (retd), Chief Ayo Adebanjo, former governor Gbenga Daniel and Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (retd), among others, met on Thursday in Lagos State primarily to get a national consensus on the political restructuring of Nigeria.
Briefing newsmen after an inconclusive meeting, secretary of the group, Mr. Olawale Okunniyi, said the leaders of thought had formed a group, known as Project Nigeria Movement, to serve as the engine room to reach out to all sectors of the nation in the bid to find a lasting solution to the tension in the country.
Explaining deliberations at the meeting, Okunniyi said the meeting was inconclusive as the leaders had decided to embark on further consultation before coming up with a communique on the position of the ELT on the burning issue of restructuring.
He said the group didn’t believe in the disintegration of Nigeria, even as he disclosed that one of the reasons it did not reach a compromise on what to do was because they could not conclude on the procedure on how to go about the restructuring issue.
He said as soon as the modalities were worked out, Nigerians would be informed on the position of group. Asked about the position of the ELT on the ultimatum given by northern youths to the people of eastern region to leave the north by October 1 and the call by Nnamdi Kanu-led Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, for a Republic of Biafra, Okunniyi said these, among others, were issues the new movement would look into and find a common ground to keep the corporate entity of Nigeria.
Similarly, the Governors’ Forum on Thursday set up a six man committee to explore the option of actualising state police in the country.
The committee which has representative from the six geo-Political zones of the country was mandated to come up with the best way of policing the country in view of the myriads of security challenges and its attendant lost of lives.
This decision was reached after a closed-door meeting the governors had with the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, chairman of Governors’ Forum and Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari flanked by the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha said that its meeting was dominated by the presentation made by the Inspector General of Police.
Also, the National Assembly has in the final stages of the constitution amendment process as it is currently harmonising the recommendations of the upper and lower chambers.
Interestingly, the National Assembly had requested the executive to present the 2014 national confab report to it as part of the constitutional amendment process. It remains unclear whether the presidency actually submitted to it.
As it stands, it remains hazy what the APC intends to do at this point. What is however clear so far is that there are too many processes going on over restructuring.
So far, some analysts have posit that while the debate might get too complicated to find a middle ground, the clamour, if not properly handled, might just snow ball into a more chaotic scenario.
Apparently, the APC administration would have to mid-wife the process of harmonizing the views at some level either under the National Assembly or the presidency.
But, with the politics of 2019 already here, it will be interesting to see how the political actors within the party, who are bent on seizing the momentum generated by the restructuring debate, act.