Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri Adamawa, a former Vice President of Nigeria and a former presidential candidate, no doubt may be one of the most maligned high ranking former public office holders from the North. In addition to the public perception that everyone who has been in government has stolen government money and is corrupt, the experience and challenges Atiku Abubakar had with his then boss, during his time as vice president has contributed to whatever perception of him the section of the public may have. There is a general lack of trust for former public office holders, understandably so. For these reasons, whatever any former public office holder says or does must be for his personal aggrandizement in the perception of skeptics. Of course skeptics are many, and will always be.
But can we stop for a moment and listen sincerely to what this individual is saying? Can we take a look at our own system and analyze how well we have done, how much we have progressed? We all have this consensus that the Nation has not met her potentials. I saw on Omojuwa’s Twitter handle the other day, where he stated: “When you read up on Nigerian’s history, it just feels like this country got frozen in time. The same problems over half a century. Kilode?”
“Kilode” meaning what happened, in Yoruba, an expression I understood to mean nothing seems to have changed. The agitation arising from all regions of the country are signs of the consensus that the people no longer believe in the present system. It is an old saying and a popular one that is only a fool that will do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.
It really does not matter who says it, I think the content is more important than the container. This is not to say I share the view of those who are disparaging the former vice president for his outspokenness and his position on the issue. As a matter of fact I commend him for his courage and continuous faith in the Nigerian project. But the point I want to buttress is “What is he saying?”
Our problems as a people as observed by many have been over centralization, bigotry (be it religious or ethnic) and corruption. The lack of growth and development are only
symptoms of the above tripod of pathology which are in turn complications of our present system. The suspicion and lack of trust amongst citizens from different ethnicities and regions have continuously been fed by our present structure.
Atiku is saying the present system has not worked for even his region despite other regions of the country’s perception that his region, the north presently benefits the most from the present arrangement. This is a view that most other people also share. He has said one United Nigeria is possible if we practice true federalism. He is again not alone in thinking that the period in the history of Nigeria when we made the most progress coincided with the period when our dear country practiced federalism as it was intended. Bearing in mind that there is no such thing as “True federalism”, and that federal systems generally evolved in society in line with their peculiar challenges with a view to solving them. True federalism cannot be some kind of system that is cast on stone otherwise there will not be congresses and assemblies as it is with most democracies. Law making is a continuum and the structure of government is part of the law that needs to be continuously reviewed. Atiku has consistently called for a major change in the present arrangement (Restructuring).
As germane as this call may be, I have heard argument against him with great surprise, especially because such arguments have also come from people you expect should know better. Despite the former Vice President’s courage and visionary ideas, I find it not too surprising that opposition are abound.
The former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida also expressed support for a system change a few weeks ago and the polity was laced with similar reactions. No doubt that some of our former leaders had opportunity to do “right” and they didn’t. But are they not allowed to change their views? Should their views not be affected by
changing situations? From the period of the Ibrahim Babangida’s administration till now is a long time and there is no doubt that a lot has changed.Despite that, Atiku has been quite consistent with his view on the need to practice true federalism. As far back as 2009 at the National Conference On Consensus Building For Electoral Reform held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja as a keynote speaker, despite applauding almost totally all the recommendations of the Justice Uwais commission on electoral reforms, he Atiku still pointedly disagreed with the commission’s recommendation that state electoral bodies be taken over by the federal INEC and reason he gave was that should that happen, it will further make a mess of our federal system of government. As Vice President, he also spoke against the over concentration of power amongst other things at the center and has in different fora expressed the need for devolution of power to the federating units (States).
I do not believe that any one man has the magic wand that solves our numerous challenges nor do I believe that the solution to our problems is one prong and that with restructuring all our problems will go away.The former vice president has also expressed his views that restructuring may not necessarily be an easy sail.
But we shall search for the eye of the fish in the head of the fish as looking elsewhere will only be a waste of time. In the Vanguard Newspaper of 30th July, 2017 the former Governor of Edo state Adams Oshiomhole joined the barrage of individuals who have tried to disparage Atiku’s stance on our political outlook and was quick again to ask what the former vice president did during his time. He “Adams” went further to describe restructuring as some ambiguous word employed by politicians to hoodwink gullible Nigerians. The question being asked is why is Atiku just realizing? Why didn’t he restructure Nigeria when he was Vice President for 8 years? I will like to draw our attention to the Atiku vice presidential era so we will be able to mirror what it would
have looked like calling for restructuring just after returning to Democracy in 1999.The Country was ruled by the military for 16 years and in this period the focus by all well-meaning Nigerians was to return the country to Democracy. A struggle he, Atiku was well part of. Wouldn’t it have been foolhardy to begin to call for restructuring only after the then 1999 constitution has barely been tested?
Well I have news for all naysayers, I and millions of Nigerians are not gullible, we have just refused to be called stupid as doing same thing over again and expecting a different outcome only makes us stupid. A day after Oshiomhole’s vituperation, I read again, Alhaji Yakassai’s interview in the same Vanguard Newspaper. My first observation was his striking mental alertness considering his age and I quite respect him for that. But once again he showed his opposition to restructuring by pointing out the perceived complexity of the process and attempting to puncture Atiku’s position. I do not agree with him or anyone who interpreted Atiku’s speech at the University of Nigeria (UNN) recently to mean he is saying restructuring Nigeria is going to be easy. And I say to them that hard ailment requires hard medication. The country has been held down for far too long by this present system of government and is responsible for all the vices we have now become characterized with.
The cry that time is running out by Atiku is real and to continue to vilify him for his positioning is ludicrous.
Dr. Bright is a Medical practitioner based in Warri, Delta State and can be reached via [email protected].