The All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism led by Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, recently presented the recommendations of the committee to the national leadership of the party, opening a fresh chapter on the restructuring question, which has become a recurring decimal in the politics of the country. In this report, KUNLE ODEREMI, MOSES ALAO and DARE ADEKANMBI take a look at the recommendations, against the popular agitation for restructuring of the country.
AT last, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appears to be bowing to public pressure over a cardinal promise it made to secure the sacred mandate of Nigerian in 2015. It is the contract it entered with the people to restructure the existing defective federal structure that constitutes the real stumbling block for the attainment of national cohesion, stability and progress.
The architect of the Constitution were conscious of the popular yearnings of the majority of the shareholders in the Nigerian project for a system that works, a system that belongs to all and engender confidence, equity and justice. Having willingly surrendered their mandate to the APC, Nigerians, regardless of political affiliations, had hoped the new leadership in the country would, without hesitation and prompting, set the necessary machinery in motion to convince Nigerians that they had not been shortchanged after the polls, that the policy of the new leadership was that its words was its bond.
But that it took the APC almost three years to initiate a process of honouring a cardinal campaign promise remain curious, as it borders on integrity, trust and faith, three ingredients critical to nation-building in a plural society like Nigeria. The manifesto of a party is not just another document in any serious democratic system. It becomes sacrosanct when a party forms government as evident in Nigeria in the Second Republic when the defunct Unity Party (UPN) hit the ground running on its four cardinal programme of free education and health care in 1979 in five states in the Southern part of the country. Through this, the government and the party bonded seamlessly.
Therefore, when the ruling APC set up its committee on true federalism headed by Kaduna State governor, on July 19, 2017, not a few Nigerians, especially those who have been in the vanguard of the clamour for the restructuring of the country, doubted the sincerity of the ruling party.
The prevarication by the APC administration on the dizzying demand for restructuring has diminished the enthusiasm and excitement that would trailed the report of the party’s special committee on the matter. Most people had doubted and were indeed skeptical about the sincerity of the APC. Others think it is a political bait meant to hoodwink the electorate ahead of the 2019 elections. There are others who believe the government might lack the political will to go the full hog of implementing the recommendations of the committee. Of course, another category of stakeholders claims the entire recommendations were not only diversionary but completely cosmetic, given the avalanche of criticisms and outrage against the government because of its poor performance after almost three years of being in power. Coupled with this is the assertion that the APC decision to act now on power devolution was coming when the fresh amendments carried out by the National Assembly on the 1999 Constitution as amended was virtually at the concluding stage. This is because whatever the party now proposes will still have to be subjected to serious and thorough scrutiny in the National Assembly before being incorporated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Be that as it may, how far-reaching are the recommendations based on the needs and desire of the ethnic nationalities making up the Nigerian federation? What are the peculiar needs of the component units, and to what degree did the panel report incorporate the germane recommendations contained in past constitutional conferences since the military era to the 2014 National Constitutional Conference?
However, with the conclusion of work and eventual submission of the report of the el-Rufai committee, many Nigerians who had earlier criticised the APC appeared to be having a rethink, calling for sincerity on the side of the party and the Federal Government in implementing the report of the committee. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark and the Bayelsa State governor, among others, were among the first set of Nigerians to demand a sincere implementation of the el-Rufai committee’s report. There are, however, fears that though the APC had, Time to conduct LG election in Kadunaindeed, set up a committee, which has given its own recommendations on how to restructure the country, the Federal Government might not be willing to cross the Rubicon of restructuring. With the challenge of implementation of reports and recommendations of past constitutional conferences and confab always bedevilling the Nigerian state, there have been fears that the APC committee’s report might go down the lane of the previous ones before it, with some agitators of restructuring even noting that there was nothing different between the latest recommendations and those of the 2014 National Conference.
While there are bound to be points of divergence between the positions of the APC committee and the demands of key agitators for restructuring, especially given the ethnic dimensions and regional colourations the restructuring clamour has taken over the years, some of the key recommendations of the el-Rufai committee, which border on resource control, devolution of powers, state police and fiscal federalism, among others, showed that a major aspect of the restructuring question would have been answered by the time the recommendations are implemented.
Some of the recommendations of the committee included: merger of states, derivation principle, fiscal federalism, among others.