Former Minister of Information and one of the founding members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh said his party has the responsibility to stand up to the challenges of restructuring Nigeria. He also said the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has not said anything out of the ordinary when he called for restructuring. SEYE OLUMIDE reports
Atiku’s call for restructuring?
I have no misgivings over a call by the former Vice President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku that Nigeria needed to be restructured. He is free to express his opinion.
He simply expressed his mind on how Nigeria could move forward and I did not see anything bad about what he said. This country needs to be restructured, if actually we want it to develop.
In the first instance, the former vice president didn’t claim to have spoken for the party and therefore his position has nothing to do with the government.
I also do not see it as a means to frustrating President Muhammadu Buhari for second term or in anyway is he trying to use that to launch his presidential ambition ahead of the 2019 election, as some people tend to interpret it. In what manner has Atiku’s call shows there is internal friction in the APC?
I’m also a staunch apostle of restructuring because there is nowhere in the world where democracy comes before development, except in Nigeria. That is the reason our problems persist and to the best of my understanding those challenges facing our system will not go until we do something about it.
Let me make a statement, which I want anybody to disprove; democracy is the luxury of development and I insist there is nowhere democracy comes before development. The term democracy is just a system of government people adopt to govern themselves it has nothing to do with development. We have seen in this world where a military dictator seized power and brought development to his country.
Secondly, not all the developed countries of the world patterned their government after the American democracy that Nigeria copied. So therefore democracy in this context is different from development. One of the mistakes some Nigerians are making is equating our democracy to development.
The type of restructure we are agitating for, which I am so much convinced some elite within the system will never allow to materialise, is the one that will grow and develop our nation.
For instance, the democracy we practice at present, which we based on the 1999 Constitution can never allow for the development and growth of this nation as long as we continue to spend the bulk of our earnings on recurrent expenditure.
I have said it severally that we do not need a bicameral and full time legislators. It is not healthy and economical for our country. Our democracy also allows a situation where elected officers depend on government appointees like commissioners and ministers because they sit on several billions of naira but are not accountable to the people. It is here in Nigeria you see an elected public officer going to solicit assistance for the community he represents from an appointed minister or commissioner.
Today many states cannot pay workers salaries, there is no money to develop infrastructure. It is a case where few cabals live affluently because they are in government at the expense of millions of Nigerians who do not have access to common basic needs of live.
We need to rethink this thing that we call democracy and this is where restructuring comes in. Alhaji Atiku has not said anything out of the ordinary nor has he in anyway said anything against the government or Mr. President, as some tried to infer.
Implications of restructuring?
There are no cost implications if we decide to do it. We can re-arrange this country under 48 hours and go ahead to implement whatever we deemed fit to benefit us as a nation.
As a political analyst, I remain passionate about restructuring Nigeria and I believe the 1954 Constitution remains the strongest document ever, to grow this country. Today, Nigeria has the strongest central government in the world with enormous powers and responsibilities, which of course reduced the components state to parasites and indolent.
I have no apology to say it is mere greed that is making some few people who are enjoying political power or close to corridors of power to deny this nation the opportunity to restructure in a way that will accelerate our growth and development. There is the need for Nigeria to deregulate power to facilitate our growth and development.
To me our party has the responsibility to stand up to the challenges of restructuring like Alhaji Atiku said.
Disadvantages of present structure?
This current structure or let me say that the 1999 Constitution takes away the potentials of the regional government now states and placed it in the hands of few people at the centre.
It also pauperized the components state and makes them beggars, indolent and to lack focus. Instead of the healthy competition for development and growth among the regions, which we experienced when we practiced regionalism, this present democracy breed hatred, distrust and violent competition for struggle for power at the centre. Today everybody wants to get hold of the power at the centre.
Let me give you example of the Labour Congress, the Nigerian work force is so small compared to our population. Organised labour is not up to one per cent of the people, which indicate that this country lacks productivity profile. This was not the case when we practiced regionalism. It is part of the reasons we are one of the most unproductive civil services in the world.
Government is not supposed to be a businessman but in our case, our government controls a lot of businesses without making any profit. Until we slim down our national structure to give more space for the states to function, I doubt where we are heading.
Can you explain what you mean by some cabals will never allow the restructure of Nigeria?
Beyond the perception in some quarters that the north is against restructuring of this nation, if we take a look at the Yoruba Agenda for the 2005 conference, which the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo stopped them from presenting at the conference, the proposal was perfectly conceived and it would have gone a long way to help this nation develop if implemented.
I recall Yinka Odumakin played very active role then but the same people went to the 2014 National Conference to settle for 52 states because some people didn’t like Bola Tinubu.
I was so pissed off about the idea of 52 states proposal because we are still complaining there are too many states some people are saying create more. This is greed.
Let us also look at the Niger Delta oil that everybody is craving to explore and enjoy. Nobody has agreed to restructure because of the Niger Delta oil but very soon something will happen and everybody will be forced to look for an alternative or to agriculture.
Today, states like Akwa Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers that used to collect billions of naira as monthly allocations are seriously complaining due to the activities of militants that were bombing oil installations.
I will use this opportunity to appeal to the Niger Delta youths to stop destroying their environment otherwise it is the people of the region that will later bear the brunt of the repercussion when others would have returned to their various places to look for an alternative means of survival.
APC drag footing on the issue?
As I said earlier, our party has the responsibility to stand up to the challenges of restructuring this country but I don’t think it is drag footing. Everybody has been trying to settle down since we took over power. I personally believe in restructuring and I believe many members of the party also do.
President Buhari’s remarks that the 2014 Conference recommendation is best for the archives?
Mr. President should be persuaded to read the recommendations first. As for me, the aspect of the recommendations, which proposed creation of 52 states, pissed me off and I decided not to read it but Odumakin urged me to go through it. To be honest there are some good aspects of the recommendations that will help this country. President Buhari is not rigid as many people think, he is only principled and someone who wants justification for whatever he wants to do.
Published on Guardian Newspapers, 15th June, 2016