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By Femi Falana
The late Professor Abubakar Momoh was a celebrated polemicist. Looking at the confused state of the nation, he would have wanted to join issues with members of the ruling class on the growing demand for the restructuring of the country. In paying tribute to our fallen comrade, permit me to expose the official lie on the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria. As we are being told that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable, the federal government is busy negotiating the unity with armed groups that have decided to wage war against the State. Very recently, the authorities in Abuja negotiated with the Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups to ensure uninterrupted supply of crude oil. In the same vein, the negotiation between the federal government and the Boko Haram terrorist sect has led to the release of not less than 100 abducted Chibok girls.
Let the federal government proceed to negotiate with other armed gangs, including armed robbers, armed kidnapers and armed herdsmen who are terrorising the populace. Instead of negotiating with leaders of ethnic groups, the federal government should enter into meaningful dialogue with separatists and landlords who have threatened to forcefully eject from a section of the country. Since the young people who are asking for the balkanisation of the country and those who insist that Nigeria be kept together at all cost are disenchanted with the status quo, the APC should be prevailed upon to implement its welfare programme, including the creation of one million jobs per annum, the building of three million houses per annum, and ensuring free and compulsory primary and secondary school education for every Nigerian child. Let the federal government be told that the unity of Nigeria cannot be based on the wish of the ruling class but on social justice and equal opportunities for all citizens.
In his highly misleading rejection of the call for restructuring, Chief John Oyegun, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was reported to have said that at no time did the ruling party promise to restructure the country. According to him, “when the APC manifesto was being put together it was discussed extensively. We chose our words carefully in putting our words together and we are committed to what we have said in that manifesto.” Another leading member of the party and one of its ideologues, Mr. Nasir El Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State has, in his characteristic arrogant manner, descended on the proponents of restructuring. As far as he is concerned, “those who are calling for restructuring are opportunists and irresponsible.” Before his latest outburst, the Progressive Governors Forum, of which Governor El Rufai is a member, had supported the call for restructuring.
It is regrettable that Chief Oyegun and Governor El Rufai are not familiar with the Manifesto of their ruling party. In the Preamble to the APC Manifesto, it is clearly stated that, “To achieve this laudable programme APC government shall restructure the country, devolve power to the units, with the best practices of federalism and eliminate unintended paralysis of the centre.” Furthermore, it is expressly stated in Section 25 – Politics & Governance – of the Manifesto that, “the APC believes that our politics is broken. Our nation urgently needs fundamental political reform and improvement in governance to make it more transparent and accountable. APC will: initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench Federalism and the Federal Spirit…”
With respect to the realisation of its change agenda, the APC made it categorically clear to the Nigerian people in the Manifesto that, “Our mission is to construct and institute a progressive state anchored on social democracy, where the welfare and security of the citizenry is paramount.” Since the APC has not amended its Manifesto, Chief Oyegun is totally estopped from repudiating the commitment of his party to restructure the country in order “to entrench Federalism and the Federal Spirit.” With respect, Governor El Rufai’s inconsistent position on restructuring should not be taken seriously. Although the governor may now wish to call Alhaji Atiku Abubakar names for supporting the call for political restructuring, it is on record that both of them had no fundamental disagreement over the restructuring of the national economy in the recent past. Under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, both Alhaji Abubakar and Mr. El Rufai were the chairman and director-general, respectively, of the Bureau of Public Enterprises. In both capacities, the two neo-liberal apostles ensured that the nation’s asset were sold in the most fraudulent manner ever witnessed in any part of the world.
The Senate, under the leadership of Senator David Mark, was compelled to pass a resolution for the cancellation of the dubious privatisation exercise carried out by the duo. Regrettably, the Jonathan administration could not muster the political will to implement the resolution. Since he was not prosecuted for such fraudulent restructuring of the economy, Governor El Rufai had the temerity to request the federal government to conclude the privatisation of our remaining national asset. The request for the complete restructuring of the economy was contained in his letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, which was leaked to the press last year.
On the basis of his consistent campaign for the restructuring of the economy through privatisation, it is Mr. El Rufai who has displayed unbridled opportunism and irresponsibility in the ongoing debate for political restructuring. Since the Nigerian people voted for the APC on the basis of its Manifesto, its leaders, particularly Chief Oyegun and Governor El Rufai, should apologise to the electorate for saying that the party never promised to restructure the country. However, in view of the undeniable fact that the APC has subscribed to the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in Chapter Two of the Constitution, the party is duty bound to restructure the country and ensure public control of the national economy in strict compliance with section 16 (2) (c) of the Constitution, which stipulates that “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or a group.”
In concluding my remarks, I believe that the greatest tribute that Professor Abubakar Momoh deserves from us is a renewed commitment on the part of ASUU and other progressive forces to mobilise the Nigerian people to campaign for the actualisation of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution, which is only feasible under a socialist Nigeria. This is not my original idea but that of the Political Bureau set up in 1985 by the Ibrahim Babangida military junta
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), writes from Lagos.
This remarks were delivered at a symposium in honour of the late director general of the INEC Institute, Professor Abubakar Momoh in Abuja.
Source: PM News