APC’s Volte Face On Restructuring

WEEKS after President Muhammadu Buhari rejected the popular clamour for national restructuring in his New Year message to Nigerians, the ruling party’s (All Progressive Congress’)Committee on Restructuring turned in a report that was clearly at variance with the position of Mr. President. In the message, he reiterated his claim that the nation’s problems had to do with process more than structure, a feeble attempt to unilaterally silence the most popular political quest yet in the nation’s history. But the Nasir El-Rufai committee submitted a report that okayed true federalism, especially as it relates to resource control, state police and revenue allocation, among others.
Since the advent of the incumbent government, the President has never hidden his disdain for national restructuring. Among his frontline supporters in efforts to bury the legitimate quest is El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State, who was appointed as chairman of the party’s restructuring committee at its inauguration in August 2017. His choice raised quite some doubts about the integrity of the project. The constitution of the committee meant that the much applauded 2014 National Conference report, which contained some 600 recommendations, had been dumped.
On resource control, the APC committee recommended that states should have considerable control over solid and oil resources in their domains subject to the approval of the National Assembly. But the control of all offshore oil resources should be vested in the Federal Government. It further recommended a reduction in revenue allocation to the Federal Government, while allocation to the states should be increased. The committee also recommended that policing should be moved to the concurrent list to enable states establish their own police, which should co-exist with the Nigeria Police.
The party’s National Chairman, John Odigie Oyegun, to whom the report was submitted, said the process of implementation of the recommendations would be sped up by the National Assembly. El-Rufai had hinted that draft legislations on the implementation of the recommendations had already been prepared to ease the process.
Against the backdrop of Buhari’s negative disposition to the subject matter and APC’s seeming positive stance, Nigerians question the sincerity of the party in relation to national restructuring. It has been perceived as an attempt by the party to curry the favour of the electorate while buying time in office. It has also been dismissed as a smokescreen to deflect public attention from the ruling party’s perceived poor performance and state of insecurity in the country. The arguments sound more plausible with the 2019 general elections just 12 months away. We agree with their submissions.
The recommendations seem to be direct products of the 2014 conference report given their similarities, which raises the question as to why public fund was wasted on a subject that had been more elaborately and efficiently dealt with by a national body constituted by the immediate past administration. Instead of wasting five precious months collating inputs from 409 memoranda, 8,004 stakeholders and groups spread across 12 states and the Federal Capital Territory, a more sincere and patriotic party would have simply reached into the 2014 files to extract whatever aspects of the 600 recommendations it deemed necessary. Then the APC would have been taken more seriously.
Quite frankly, the unfolding scenario leaves us with no option than to doubt the credibility of the party in power as far as the restructuring question is concerned. How can we not doubt when the President who should drive the implementation of the laudable objective is diametrically opposed to the vision? It is shocking and strange that the APC and Mr. President sing dissonant tunes with regard to the subject.
The issue of the nation’s political restructuring had remained on the front burner, particularly since 1999 when the current democratic dispensation commenced. Beyond geo-political restructuring, the issue, as we perceive it, is more about reinventing real federal system of government as truly practiced in advanced democracies. We had it during the First Republic when there were only three, and later, four, regions before the inglorious intervention of the military in politics and the unfortunate imposition of unitary rule on a federal structure.
The agitation for restructuring is even more intense now than a decade ago, a factor of citizens’ increasing political awareness. The Jonathan administration was profoundly determined to ensure a seamless return to true federalism after the 2015 general elections but he lost. The smart thing the winner and incumbent President ought to have done is to ride on the popularity of the subject and deliver the restructuring agenda to Nigerians. He would have, by that political stroke, transformed into a political hero of some sort among the people.
Well, we look forward to see how the ruling party can prevail on the President to drive the political process that could lead to the implementation of the El-Rufai committee recommendations. It should prove to citizens that it has the capacity to walk the talk and that its volte face on restructuring is not a fluke.

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