By Ehichioya Ezomon
It looks ludicrous, even childish that the two leading political parties in Nigeria – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – would be fighting over who owns “restructuring” of the country, as an item in their agenda for the people.
There shouldn’t be any skirmish if the parties present and/or represent clear-cut ideologies. Even when they have something akin to ideology, it’s only meant for the campaigns, and would sooner be dropped when actual governance stares them in the face.
Nonetheless, the APC-PDP imbroglio over who possesses “restructuring” couldn’t have come at an opportune moment when the top issue in the polity is a possible re-examination and redefinition of the “non-negotiable” UNITY of the Nigerian State, as established in 1914 when the British colonial masters cobbled the Northern and Southern Protectorates into one entity.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, reportedly started the snivelling over “restructuring” when he censured the PDP as “not interested in restructuring,” but only bringing it up through the 2014 National Conference, ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Trust the opposition to fire back immediately through its national spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, who said the APC’s sudden interest in restructuring was a bait for the 2019 general elections, “after several months of denial” by its top officials that the party “did not promise restructuring in its manifesto and during the campaigns in 2015.”
Of a truth, the sudden altercation between the APC and PDP wouldn’t have occurred had the top shots of the ruling party not engaged in vacillation, equivocation and doublespeak on the hot-button issue of restructuring of the polity, which the party promised in its ‘Manifesto’ presented to the public on Wednesday, August 21, 2013, by then APC Interim Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, in Abuja.
In the 11-paragraph ‘Preamble’ to the Manifesto, at paragraphs 7-9, the APC, showcasing itself as an “Agent of change” for committed, transparent and focused leadership, declares:
“As a change Agent, APC intend to cleanse our closet to halt the dangerous drift of Nigeria to a failed state; with a conscious plan for post-oil-economy in Nigeria.
“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.”
And in its seven (eight) cardinal programmes offered to the Nigeria populace, the party specifically lists “Devolution of Power” as the sixth (6) item.
Indeed, several of the 28 Sections of the “Guiding Philosophy” of the APC Manifesto contain declarations for “restructuring” and “devolution of powers” that are so germane in Nigerians’ agitation today. Samplers:
Under Politics & Governance, the APC promises to, “Initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.” It also pledges to “Amend the Constitution to remove Immunity from prosecution for elected officers in criminals cases.”
National Security: “Begin widespread consultations to amend the Constitution, to enable States and Local Governments to employ State and Community Police, to address the peculiar needs of each community.
Conflict Resolution, National Unity, Social Harmony: “Initiate policies to ensure that Nigerians are free to live and work in any part of the country by removing state of origin, tribe, ethnic and religious affiliations and replace those with state of residence.”
Jobs and the Economy: “Amend the Constitution and the Land Use Act to create freehold/leasehold interest in land with matching grants for states to create a nationwide electronics land title register on a state by state basis.”
Local Government: “We shall ensure that the Local Government system of administration is autonomous so that it can perform the constitutional role demanded of it.”
Prisons Service & Correction Centres: “We will explore the option of suspended sentence, community service and more frequent periodic pardon.”
For initially questioning, “What is restructuring” that’s cardinal to its ‘Manifesto’ and which it campaigned with at rallies for the 2015 elections, the APC literally ceded “ownership” of the subject to the opposition PDP, which is clutching it tenaciously, aftermath of the consensus for it across the country.
However, it should be stressed that although it didn’t campaign with, and had been silent about it, “restructuring” forms part of PDP’s ‘Manifesto’ and resolution on the party formation passed on Wednesday, August 19, 1998, at the Sheraton Hotel in Abuja.
In the ‘Preamble’ to the document, under items 5 and 6 of the ‘Resolution,’ the PDP promises: “(5) To restructure Nigeria in the spirit of true federalism, so as to achieve a just and equitable distribution of power, wealth and opportunities.
“(6) To resolve such fundamental matters as proper devolution of powers, power shift and power sharing in a federal structure, so as to create the socio-political conditions conducive for our living together in peace, unity and social harmony.”
And under ‘Indivisibility of the Nigerian Polity’ in its 32-item programme of action, the party states: “The PDP believes in the perpetual unity of Nigeria under the federal system of government,” and “… shall also promote geopolitical balancing (which the South-East particularly clamours for) as a fundamental principle of power sharing in the country.”
So, between the APC and the PDP, which is “interested” in “restructuring” of Nigeria: The APC, which promises the matter in its 2013 Manifesto, campaigned with it ahead of the 2015 polls, questioned it thereafter, and finally set up a committee for its possible adoption in the wake of challenges facing the country?
Or the PDP that drew up the item in its 1998 Manifesto, but never campaigned with it for 16 years nor advanced its implementation even after the 2014 National Conference convoked by the government it controlled?
Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.