A founding member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh has said the only credible achievement Nigeria could claim as it marks Democracy Day is its ability to sustain civil rule and transmission of power from civilian-to-civilian administrations in the last 19 years.
In his assessment of Nigeria’s democratic rule, 19 years after, the erstwhile Minister of Information who served under the regime of former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, in a phone conversation with The Guardian said the way democracy is practiced in the country contradicts what is obtainable in other climes across the world.
According to him, “While Nigeria worships democracy and place premium on it above growth and development, the reverse is the case in advanced world where growth and development drives their democratic rules.”He said, “It is true that democracy is considered the best system of government but that is not to say development and growth are not feasible in other countries that does not adopt or practice democratic system.”
Although he said it was commendable that Nigeria is able to sustain civil rule this long, at least for the first time in its political history, he added that something urgent deserves to be done to make Nigeria better than what it is at present for its citizens to thrive and progress.According to him, “What we are experiencing at present in Nigeria is as if the devil is at work but with the prayers of the faithful, God will destroy the works of evil on this nation.”
While he said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is unrelenting in bringing the nation back on the part of economic progress in the last three years, irrespective of skeptics’ perceptions, there had been progresses made in the economic sector. He however warned that “the earlier Nigeria realises the need to restructure itself, the better for everybody, else the country would get to a point where it will get stuck and would be compelled to restructure either in peace or by force.”
On the possibility of Nigeria breaking up if it failed to address the imbalance in the current system, Momoh said it not possible for the country to split stressing, “The fact that Nigeria remains the only nation that was created by the British still standing together today is an indication that God has a divine purpose for its existence and very soon that purpose would be achieved.”
The APC chieftain noted that while it has become inevitable for the country to restructure, what is basseting the demand is the unclear motive of the agitators across the geo-political zones.
According to him, “There is no doubt that the best Nigeria had as a system of government was under the First Republic. Then, the motives and objectives of our founding fathers were clear and genuine. But those championing the course of restructuring today have their different agenda.“For instance, the Niger Delta region is calling for restructuring hinging its quest on resource control; the Southeast hinges its desire on Biafra while the Southwest based its call on true federalism. If at all the government decides to heed the call there will be problem because of the motives.
“The Southwest is the only region that came up with the best suggestion on restructuring, which it titled: ‘Yoruba Agenda’ during the 2005 conference organised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Unfortunately, when the Yoruba delegates got to Abuja, Obasanjo was able to convince them to drop the idea. I called the attention of some of them to the danger inherent in dropping the Yoruba Agenda then but to no avail.”
Although Momoh owned up that restructuring was part of the ruling party’s manifesto, he exonerated President Buhari, who is being accused of unwillingness to heed the call to restructure Nigeria or implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. He said, “It is wrong to continue to blame Mr. President over the issue of restructuring. Even if Buhari is willing to do it some powers would not allow him because of their selfish interest. We are all guilty and our elite, most especially those benefiting from the present structure are not ready to thinker with the system.
“For instance, we should begin to ask questions about the true disposition of the National Assembly to the demand for restructuring. We also need to find out whether any of those who have been part of government, either before or at present, is willing to venture into redesigning the current structure. The truth is some people felt that if the present structure is tampered with, their personal interest would also be affected and therefore they speak restructure in the open but go behind to say a different thing.”
He said whenever Nigeria is ready and determined to decongest the current political space by reducing the power at the centre and make the legislative business a part-time job and unicameral structure, the nation would automatically restructure itself, “but for now, which of the lawmakers is willing to let go what they are currently benefiting from the system?”
Speaking on the three-year scorecard of the Buhari administration, Momoh said, “Under a democratic setting, there is also freedom of speech and expression. That is one of the beauties of democracy that we are all enjoying. It is not expected that the opposition parties that are also struggling to take over from the ruling party would keep quiet, fold their arms and be looking at us without criticising what we are doing. The truth is when we were in the opposition we did fault some of the policies of the ruling party then.
“Be that as it may, it is totally false to conclude that the incumbent administration has done nothing in the last three years as some people were saying considering the fact that the system was messed up and what we inherited was not a thing that we can start working upon immediately. There were lots of cleaning works that was done before we could take off. This is a known fact, not just to Nigerians but also to the international community. “At least for the first in the history of this nation a government is confronting corruption. Yes, we are not there yet but nobody can say this government is abating corruption. What we need is the support of Nigerians.”