The Upper Crust

Restructuring with Ibadan declaration


With Uche Nnadozie

My advocacy against restructuring or any such buzzwords will subsist until our people realise that we are being duped by politicians. This is so because, each time we are supposed to focus on the big picture, our politicians have a way (like the Yoruba abiku) to draw us back or at best leave us in the lurch, stranded. They always invent one thing or the other. It could be a coup, war, constitution, buzzword, something to force whichever faction of the ruling elite to pay them heed. For me that was what happened in Ibadan last week. As the “Yoruba” gathered to accentuate the ante of restructuring.

A lot of the people who gathered at the stadium are pre-eminently qualified to do so. Some are well-heeled historians while others are legal juggernaut. There were political science experts too and politicians. Nevertheless, in spite of the array of personalities and the demands or declarations made, one thing stood out: nobody sent them! And it is quite interesting that these eminent people could denounce the 1999 Constitution because according to them, the document lied against itself by ascertaining in its opening paragraphs, “we the people…” The question i ask today therefore is who sent those who gathered in Ibadan to deliberate on behalf of the Yoruba?

Secondly, I understand that a communique was issued at the end of the rendezvous. In spite of the eminence of the persons, it is instructive that there was never a time during the “rally” where any system was applied to deliberate on whatever was up in the agenda. In fact, there was no agenda. This brings me to the shocking conclusion that people were called together to endorse what they never presented papers for. There was no discussion at the venue, rather a prepared document was handed down by a faceless group or person to such quality August occasion and those present could not even raise a voice in disagreement? Ladies and gentlemen, those are the people that condemn our constitution. They want process, order and civility but they continue to wallow in deceit, fraud and imposition. To think that at least one of the attendees of the party in Ibadan later came out to issue threats of his preparedness to lead a campaign to break up the country clearly shows the motive behind the Ibadan stadium jamboree.

All the same, let us look at parts of their communique. The document reads: “that Yoruba insists that Nigeria must return to a proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions. This has been our position since 1950 Ibadan conference and developments in Nigeria over the last fifty years reinforce our conviction”. This kind of mindset is just what it is, a mindset. The 1960 and 1963 constitutions were not cast in stones. They were the prevailing constitutions which between them three or six years later the military struck, then a counter coup, before the civil war. There was nothing special about these constitutions otherwise such earth shattering events would not have taken place. Except if the Yoruba by that Ibadan declaration is suggesting that we should fight another war. Somebody may argue that some of the things that happened then are no longer feasible now, but there was intense ethnic tension as a result of the major political parties leaning towards regional bases of their leading lights. And that will repeat itself. Regional parties will emerge that will deepen our culture of impunity.

Another impossible part of the communique has to do with this: “that the greatest imperatives of restructuring Nigeria is to move from a rent-seeking and money sharing anti-development economy to productivity by ensuring that the federating units are free to own and develop their resources. They should pay agreed sums to the federation purse to implement central services”. I am sorry, this is Africa. Africans do not trust themselves as a result, it will spell a death knell on Nigeria if we ask states or regions to make payment to the federal government. They will not. They will ensure the death of the federal government by retaining federal money, starving the centre of funds until it is crippled.

The communique had other points and they include: “that the federating units- whether states, zones or regions must themselves be governed by written constitution to curb impunity at all levels; Nigeria shall be a federation comprised of six regions and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; the Federal Government shall make laws and only have powers in relation to items specified on the legislative list contained in the constitution of the Federation; the regions shall in turn be composed as states; each regions shall have its own constitution containing enumerated exclusive and concurrent legislative lists regarding matters upon which the regions and the states may act or legislate; contiguous territories, ethnic nationalities or settlement shall be at liberty through a plebiscite, to elect to be part of any contiguous region other than the region in which the current geo-political zone or state boundaries places them”.

There were several other nice looking demands or suggestions as contained in the communique but they all looked and flowed from the same flawed process. My position has been clear all along. Our problem is not paper; our problem is us. Leadership or a poverty of same is the reason we keep fiddling with our work tool. The only reason the elite refuse to accept this reality is because they are not trying to disrupt the system because they want progress for the country, they skim for progress for themselves. If the current ruling elite leaves the stage for those who gathered in Ibadan, none of those provisions will see the light of day. After all, majority of the eminent persons in that stadium have had one thing or the other to do for Nigeria even at the highest levels. So why didn’t they prioritise these laudable proposals?

There are surely things to improve about us, but I will continue to say until we follow our rules to the letter now, there is nothing to show we will suddenly begin to obey a new constitution whether 1960 or 1963. After all, this 1999 constitution says government should abolish all forms of corruption, however, people join government to be able to intensify corruption.

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