Permit me to start by appreciating the leaders of All Progressives Congress (APC) who organise this APC-USA Second Annual Convention and who have kindly invited me to attend it as a Special Guest of Honour. I am excited and challenged by the theme of the convention, namely: “Advancing the APC Change Agenda, the Report Cards and the Role of the Diaspora”.
In this address, I am merely restating the summary of the APC Change Agenda, which is clearly contained in the APC Manifesto launched in 2013 and which should have been well known to most members of this convention as leaders of APC in the USA.
I am not qualified to talk about the “Report Cards” because, due to my personal phobia for holding public offices in old age, I have refused to accept direct participation in any of our APC governments in Nigeria.
I would like to invite APC leaders at the convention and our entire members in the Diaspora to research into and to attempt a clarification of what we describe as ‘Devolution of Powers’ in our Manifesto, vis-a-vis its mix-up with what is being described as ‘Restructuring’. The purpose of that clarification is to prevent our opponents from successfully misleading the general public about the “Report Cards” of our various governments on implementing the APC Change Agenda.
APC CHANGE AGENDA
In a paper delivered by APC Deputy National Chairman for the North during the 1st Convention of the APC-USA held at the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel in New York, from 17-18 September, 2015, Senator Lawal Shuaibu said:
“the party’s manifesto was encapsulated into three:
- To create jobs;
- To eradicate corruption; and
- To bring peace back to Nigeria.
These three summaries of APC manifesto have since become the ‘Change Agenda’ of our party for Nigeria.”
Please, permit me to adopt as my summary of the APC Change Agenda for Nigeria the above encapsulated statement by Senator Lawal Shuaibu.
DEVOLUTION OF POWER
In my understanding, the means to achieving “devolution of powers” is just persuading the national and state assemblies to reduce the exclusive functions of the central government, and to rearrange the concurrent responsibilities between the central government and the state governments in the list of functions recorded in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to giving more residual powers to the states. With intensive debates and negotiations among all political parties that have members in the national and state assemblies, this can be easily achieved. APC federal government alone cannot do it.
However, the biggest problem will be how to fund the various functions by non-viable states, if Nigeria remains consisted of thirty-six(36) or more states, and if the existing crude oil rental economy falters or is no more.
This is a most complex exercise in nation building.
Only political illiterates would not appreciate what ‘Restructuring’ involves. It is a function of population manipulation within the ethnic nationality spreads and power redistribution.
In the South of Nigeria today, for reasons of variables of Western civilizations, majority of men marry one or few wives and majority of women practise family planning and birth control. In the North, however, for reasons of culture, majority of men marry several wives, majority of women marry when they are young and prefer to have as many children as possible; birth control is even religiously abhorred. There is more tendency, therefore, for the North to continue to have more electoral representative constituencies than the South in the National Assembly as long as its population continues to grow higher and faster.
By nature, the military that ruled Nigeria for twenty nine(29) years since independence created states and local governments according to selfish demands by fiats rather than by any scientific political reasonings during their tenures. These states and local governments have been enshrined by the military decrees in the 1999 Nigerian constitution. They might have inequitably created more local governments per population per state in the North than in the South with a view to making the North continue to benefit from higher revenue sharing from the national treasury.
‘Restructuring’ is, therefore, the equitable rearrangement and redistribution of the existing local governments and states per population within the various ethnic nationalities, and making appropriate amendments to the Nigerian constitution to accommodate such rearrangements and redistributions. It is sheer political illiteracy, however, to think that the word ‘equitable’ can be easily defined to convince those who might have had extra advantages under the existing constitution to surrender those advantages easily.
HOW NIGERIA WAS STRUCTURED IN HISTORY
We all know that, it involved series of foreign military expeditions to translate the consulates into the British colony of Lagos in the mid-nineteenth century. After properly taking hold of and settling down in Lagos, it involved another series of British military expeditions to structure together the villages, towns and settlements around the network of rivers that flow into Lake Chad and into Rivers Niger and Benue to constitute the land mass called the British Protectorate of Northern Nigeria later in the same century.
Hundreds of years earlier, with series of internecine wars, history had witnessed the structuring of what had been known as Bornu Empire, the Zamfara Empire and other empires and kingdoms in the areas being established into the British Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. It must also be remembered that the century immediately before the advent of the British witnessed the Fulani military jihads that replaced the Habe dynasty with the Fulani Emirates under the Sokoto Sultanate in the same North. The sole design of the Fulani jihads was woven around what they pronounced as “introduction and reformation of Islam”, which involved series of wars and inter-communal bitterness.
Towards the close of the same nineteenth century, by similar series of military expeditions, the British Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was also created. Before then, through wars of expansion of one ancient authority over certain numerous communities, Oyo and Benin Empires had been structured for centuries in the area to be eventually established as the British Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. By the same use of force, the British Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914 with the Colony of Lagos to establish the British Nigeria colony.
There were constant intra and inter-communal resentments of the British managements of those “community marriages” called Nigeria. For three or more decades thereafter, the British was adopting all forms of military repressions to sustain the amalgamation of 1914. In 1939, Nigeria was split into Northern, Western and Eastern regions for ease of colonial control.
From its initial structuring, the geographical entity called Nigeria has the Hausa land under the Fulani emirate governments based on Islamic footings, otherwise known as Hausa/Fulani people. The Kanuri, Tivs, Yoruba, Edo, Urhobo, Igbo, Ibiobio and Ijaw (as major ethnic nationalities) have been interspersed with minor ethnic nationalities like the Gwari, the Margi, the Bata, the Longuda, the Angas, the Nupe, the Igala, the Ebira, the ldoma, the Efik, the Ekoi, the Itsekhiri and such other ethnic groups.
In the 1950 National Conference at Ibadan, the agitation for merging of Ilorin and Kabba provinces with the then Western Region was begun by Oba Adesoji Aderemi, the Ooni of Ife. That was the beginning of agitations for restructuring in Nigeria. Thereafter, the politicians increased the tempo of the agitations for restructuring by demanding for the creation of a Middle Belt from the North, the Mid-West from the West and the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers State from the East. Side by side with the agitations for geo-political restructuring, there were demands for power allocation. While some politicians advocated the unitary form of government for Nigeria, others canvassed for a federal form of power allocation. There might have been some sense in the knowledge of our leaders that reduced those agitations into a series of constitutional conferences that led Nigeria to the adoption of a federal form of constitution up to Independence in 1960.
The British, knowing that agitations for geo-political restructuring usually tended to involve wars, cleverly evaded those demands but, instead, granted Nigeria Independence in 1960. Within the first decade of the independence, there was a bloody military coup and another bloody military counter-coup resulting in a three-year civil war before the military adventurists had the opportunity to mis-structure Nigeria and to mis-allocate powers as contained in the present unworkable 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
GEO-POLITICAL RESTRUCTURING OR NOTHING?
Therefore, “restructuring” must be seen as a more Herculean major task for all Nigerians than a mere political change of power for which APC was put together.
The North is a largely Hausa-speaking people traditionally mix-bred and assimilated with and governed by minority Fulani rulers through Islamic emirate system since two centuries ago. The North has been amalgamated with the South in law and in fact since a century ago. And, presumably, the Fulani has been perceived to be manipulating the North to rule Nigeria since Independence in 1960.
Even if one does not like the minority Fulani rulers of the North for being hegemonic in characteristics, can one easily separate them from the original majority Hausa-speaking people of the same North? Unless one was ready for another civil war, could one ostracise the whole North in the political considerations of Nigeria?
It is within that context that those of us who do not wish to wait for another civil war to effect a geo-political restructuring, have decided to go ahead with the APC arrangement, while our opponents are left behind to assume a loud coarse noise on mere sloganeering – ‘Restructuring’- without any clear definition or a peaceful workable strategy.
HOW TO MAKE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION WORKABLE: THE “DAWN” EXAMPLE
Constitution amendments or not, Nigerians have already begun to see themselves as peoples belonging to the North-western, North-eastern, North-central, South-western, South-eastern and South-southern areas, euphemistically called “zones”.
The South-west, on its own, has moved further to create a Development Agenda Commission for Western Nigeria (“DAWN Commission”). The major role of that commission, at the moment, is to conduct research to generate pieces of advisory information for the benefit of each of the South-western state governments on integrated development programmes.
As a first step, the people of each of these South-western states are trying to key into All Progressives Congress (APC) to back up the possibility of their governments to speak with one political voice, using one manifesto under one political party.
It is an experiment worthy of encouragement and emulation by the people of the other zones for the strengthening of a federal political attitude towards physical and social development within each zone.
I thank you for your attention.