Southern & Middle Belt Leaders Forum Demands Restructuring Now, Faults Buhari
A forum of some Southern and Middle Belt Nigerian leaders has faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance on restructuring expressed in his 2018 New Year address.
The president, in his broadcast on Monday, said addressing the process of governance rather than restructuring the country was the way out of Nigeria’s crisis.
He said: “In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the ongoing debate about “Restructuring”. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socioeconomic developments.
“We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.
“We tried the Parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now, there are shrill cries for a return to the Parliamentary structure. In older democracies, these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our purposes. We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose.
“However, there is a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better.
“I assure you that government is ever receptive to ideas which will improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability,” the president had stated.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) later clarified that the president in his address did not altogether reject restructuring, a subject the party said is part of its agenda.
But apparently not convinced by the party’s clarification of Mr. Buhari’s stance, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum insisted that Nigeria is facing crises because of the dysfunctional structure of the country.
Its position was contained in in a press release signed by Yinka Odumakin, Publicity Secretary of Southwest group, Afenifere; Bassey Henshaw from the Southsouth; C. Ogbu from the Southeast; and Isuwa Dogo from the Middle Belt.
It said: “The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum welcomes Nigerians into the year 2018 after a grueling and harrowing 2017 in which our people went through untold hardship as the crisis of our dysfunctional structure took its worst toll.
“It was a hellish time when suicide became MAN OF THE YEAR as many of our citizens found life unworthy of further living and jumping into available rivers or hanging on the ceilings.”
According to the forum, the massive loss of jobs in 2017 was tied to government’s deviance to restructuring.
“The National Bureau of Statistics reported a loss of four million jobs in the year with millions of those employed working without pay for several months,” the forum noted.
“Our citizens who fled abroad because there is no hope for them at home were subjected to all manners of degrading and inhuman treatments as the horror tales from Libya where Nigerians were auctioned for $400, turned to sex slaves and subjected to extreme violence.
“On the home front, life is becoming short, nasty and brutish as death and violence are now common place in the hands of AK 47-wielding herdsmen, armed robbers, kidnappers and enraged spouses.
“It is a time when we should be having national introspection to know where the rain began to beat us, how to dry our clothes and ensure that we are no longer exposed to rainfall.
“Unfortunately, we are not addressing the cause of our affliction and only trying to rationalize our needless failure, passing the buck and running from the solutions to our problem.
“We are in a period where empty platitudes are being offered our people instead of concrete assurances on reasoned prescriptions.
“Social scientists have argued correctly that a problem is not resolved either by running away from it or ascribing it to the wrong source. Unfortunately, that is what we are doing as a country by playing down our crisis of “structure” while on a wild goose chase about so-called “process”.
“That is akin to a man going to Benin City while driving towards Benin Republic. The faster he runs, the father he is away from his destination.
“The truth of the matter is that our nationhood crisis has peaked and there are no further opportunities to guarantee opportunities for our citizens no matter the good intentions of leaders or even unrealistic promises packaged to offer them false hope.
“In 1983, when the Shehu Shagari administration was overthrown, its budget for a country of 80 million people was $25 billion. 35 years after, the Buhari government has just proposed a $23 billion budget for about 180 million people!
“The above clearly shows that there is no way out of our systemic crises except we resume productivity which was our hallmark in the years that we practiced federalism as an entity.
“We have exhausted all possibilities of a rentier and sharing economy and all that is left is unemployment, hunger, gnashing of teeth and conflicts among nationalities over shrinking opportunities.
“We cannot become a productive country under a 1999 constitution which keeps 68 items on the Federal Exclusive List, including mineral resources which abound all over the country but which the states whose governors are constitutionally vested with authority over the land cannot touch.
“We need to give authorities to the federating units over their resources for self-sustenance and paying all necessary dues to the Federation to sustain common services. We must devolve more powers and authorities to them to have effective state administrations.
“The Federal police has shown it lacks the capacity to deal with crimes in a multi-ethnic society like ours, the imperative of state police has never been more urgent than now.
“Restructuring means nothing else than the above. It is a call for return to a Nigeria that worked under federalism as against the failing state we are becoming under a unitary structure.
“Nigerians must organize, mobilize and work towards building an inclusive and productive country in 2018 using all democratic and peaceful means. It is a year to battle for the soul of the country by forces of federalism and upholders of a suffocating unitary system.
“May victory be on the side of those who seek the progress of Nigeria,” the statement by the forum concluded.