APC and the unfulfilled restructuring promise
When the then opposition All Progressives Congress took to the rostrum to seek votes in 2015, it made numerous promises. One of them hit the right cord with a sizable number of Nigerians, especially in the South West region. It was a promise to restructure the country.
Perhaps, to convince Nigerians it meant business, the party included the issues in its Constitution. Specifically, Article 7(ii) of the April 2014 APC Constitution (as amended), said its Aims and Objectives was: “To promote true federalism in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
In the foreword to its vision for a New Nigeria (Page 3, second paragraph), the APC Manifesto commits the party to “implement efficient public financial management strategies and ensure true federalism” as well as “restructure governance in a way that kick starts our political economy so that we begin to walk the path of our better future.”
Also, on page 7 of its Manifesto, the part entered what it referred to as a “Honest Contract” with Nigeria to create a federalism with “more equitable distribution of national revenue to the states and local governments because this is where grassroots democracy and economic development must be established.”
Several promises were contained not only in the APC Manifesto but also in other campaign documents and were canvassed by the party and its officials publicly. The manifesto and campaign materials which contained most, if not all, of the party’s promises were made available to the public at the time.
It did not stop there. The party held several public lectures and symposiums to explain how it intended to deliver on these promises and the benefit which would accrue to Nigerians. The party’s campaign which was anchored on the slogan of “Change,” took the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, and the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party to the cleaners on virtually every issue. The Boko Haram menace was at its peak. There were bombings in almost all the states in the northern Nigeria. The Federal Capital Territory was not spared as the terrorists on a few occasions entered the nation’s capital where they wreaked havoc.
The opposition latched in on the failings of the then government in the area of security to dismiss the entire administration as a joke. Former National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who led the campaigns along with other party leaders, was so confident that the party would deliver when given the chance, that at each campaign stop, he challenged Nigerians to “hold our party accountable if we do not deliver.”
In the end, Nigerians brought the 16-year rule of the PDP to an end and the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) was sworn in as President.
However, no sooner than the party got into power than its leading lights began to sing discordant tunes on its true agenda.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), threw the first salvo when in his New Year address to the nation in January 2018, said, “When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.” Other party leaders took a queue from his body language and began to dodge the subject in public. Nonetheless Nigerians were not relenting in asking the party to live up to its many promises on restructuring.
However, the APC bowed to pressure in response to public agitation over the matter with the 2019 general elections at hand. It quickly set up the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led APC Committee on True Federalism. The committee held public hearings across the six geo-political zones of the country and turned in a report. The committee recommended Fiscal federalism among other things. It recommended that “Government needs to be explicit regarding the true meaning of derivation principle and fiscal federalism and revenue allocation formula for better public understanding, also in order to effectively manage the complexities of adoption of state control of resource and payment of taxes to the federal government. The committee believes that it would be beneficial for all, if there is an upward review of the current revenue formula in favour of states.”
As another election cycle approaches in 2023, pundits are beginning to wonder whether the issue will remain as a campaign tool for the election.
A former Director, Directorate of Military Intelligence, Col Kunle Togun (retd), however, expressed doubts about the commitment of the current regime to restructuring. He said, “Those shouting restructuring know very well that the present government will not do anything about it. They won’t do anything about restructuring so those advocating restructuring are just wasting their time.
“Yes, they used it to campaign. Agitation for restructuring did not start today. It was there during the administration of Jonathan. If this government wants to fulfil its campaign promise on restructuring, we would have seen the signs that they are interested in restructuring. But this government is not ready for restructuring?
‘But don’t you think they will want to fulfil the promise because they used it to campaign and some people supported the All Progressives Congress because of this?
Togun said, ‘‘Nigerians should ask (Asiwaju Bola) Tinubu. He is the leader of the APC. Ask him why he and his party are not fulfilling their campaign promise on restructuring. Go and meet him. He is their leader and they all made the promise to restructure but it is not happening. He should give Yoruba people and other Nigerians the reason why they have refused to fulfil their promise. They made a promise they did not intend to keep.’’
In an interview with Sunday PUNCH, a former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, said the current federal structure being operated in Nigeria- especially in the area of security, was not sustainable. He said, “Most Nigerians today agree that the over centralised system we have especially in terms of our security architecture is not working.”
He further explained that the current system which he described as “feeding bottle federalism” could not be sustained in the long run. “A situation where 36 states gather in Abuja at the end of each month to share money derived from oil taken from one part of the country is not federalism.”
On his part, the chairman of the South West Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, expressed optimism. He said, “This county must be restructured, we have said so openly, the APC has it in its constitution and part of our manifesto. Restructuring was stated clearly, that we will do it, why we have not done it (yet), nobody knows, but we have to.
“There have been some efforts at restructuring in one way or another. For us, restructuring is not something we can compromise because that is the only way for this country.
“The country is hydra headed. Everybody must feel a sense of belonging and the only way is for us to carry out this restructuring.”
The President, Voters Assembly, Mashood Erubami, expressed the opinion that if Nigeria is to move from where it is today to where it ought to be, we must restructure.
He said, “Restructuring will bring about the innovation the whole of Africa and the world are waiting for. It will bring about the devolution of powers, revenue generation and every part of the country will be allowed to grow at their own pace. What we have today is a unitary system of government foisted on us by the military. This is not a federal system in the true sense of it.
“For instance, there is no way you can talk of resource control under this constitution. Successive governments have paid lip service to the issue of restructuring, but we can’t escape it again. We must restructure in order to grow.”
The el-Rufai committee had on page 25 of Volume 1 of its “Main Report, Summary of Findings and Recommendations” recommended that, “The party put its political weight behind the overwhelming popular demand for devolution (of powers) to states by the federal government.”
Action on this recommendation is still being awaited even as the Senate has inaugurated its committee on Constitution Review.
Chairman of the Buhari Media Organisation, Niyi Akinsiju insists that contrary to claims in certain quarters, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is a man of his words.
He further explained that most of the items contained in the report of the APC Committee on True Federalism, can only have life when they are reviewed by the National Assembly which he said has kicked-started the process by inaugurating the Constitution Review Committee.
Akinsiju said, “The APC as you know, has done the appropriate ground work and the process is still on, the National Assembly will do its bit before it gets to the president’s desk. We must give them all the benefit of the doubt.” A public affairs commentator, Mr. Emmanuel Adole, on his part said, “It is my hope that the APC is not keeping this issue in the cooler with the hope of using it again as a campaign gimmick for 2023.”
Whether or not the APC will deliver on this promise to Nigerians within the life of this administration remains to be seen. The party needs to act fast before being accused of swindling the voters and taking them for granted.