By Chief Akintayo Akin-Deko
“I will never restructure Nigeria” and “the President… has vowed that his administration will not restructure Nigeria”. This is what a few media headlines reported President Buhari as having said during the launching of the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation in Zaria, Kaduna State on June 19th, 2021.
To add to the confusion the President did not utter the words in person. Neither was it Shehu Garba nor Femi Adeshina, his established spokesmen. It was not even Lai Mohammed, the Minister for Information, nor any ranking member of the President’s cabinet. Instead, such profound information was released by Alhaji Mohammed Bello, the Executive Secretary of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, whose mandate does not even cover political affairs.
In short, the statement raises eyebrows to say the least, renews the impression of a government at sixes and sevens, and damages recent efforts to reboot the image of the president as a true democrat. Frankly, I for one do not believe any such statement was knowingly authorized by President Buhari.
Why? Firstly, whatever his shortcomings, President Buhari is known to be a deeply religious man and deeply religious people rarely speak in absolutes. Statements that include words like “Never”, or “has vowed” are clearly daring God. Secondly, General Buhari is a ram rod straight officer and a well-meaning gentleman. Such people do not tell blatant lies.
Prior to his election, PMB signed on to the APC campaign manifesto where the first sentence states, “initiate action to amend the Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and Local governments to entrench true federalism…” . Similarly, in the sixth paragraph of the same Manifesto, President Buhari and his APC promised to “Restructure government for a leaner, more efficient and adequately compensated public service”.
Need I say more? No, not really, but with due respect I intend to.
It is either PMB and the APC leadership lied in their manifesto or Alhaji Mohammed Bello spoke out of turn. Either way, heads should roll.
There are many of us who used to feel that working to get good people elected to public office was enough to improve the standard of governance in Nigeria. But this has proven to be nigh impossible in these days of “vote and cook soup” elections. Meanwhile several other quirks in the Constitution surfaced along the way and they need to be addressed.
For example, the corruption trap, where serving Senators and Ministers, some of them already under investigation at the EFCC, are the ones to confirm the appointment of the head of the commission and thereafter supervise his or her performance in office.
Or the issue of technically bankrupt states and Local governments, which in the face of dwindling oil revenue, their federal allocation and Internally Generated Revenue cannot meet their cost of running government and repaying loans, not to talk of investments in developmental infrastructure. This reinforces widely held views that the federating units in the current federal structure are too many and too cumbersome.
There is no doubt, pressing need to review the Constitution and to make changes to some of the way things are done. That is what Restructuring stands for. The direction and extent of those changes is what needs to be soberly considered by academics and selected representatives of the diverse stakeholders before being presented to the NASS and then to the country in a referendum.
The least President Buhari can do is to keep to his campaign promise that his government and party would “initiate action”. He should set up a Review Committee to consider and advise NASS and the country on how our nation should be restructured