Is the end of the Nigerian union finally on the horizon? Even the old guard who’d once fervently supported the coporate existence of Nigeria are now speaking up for a “restructuring” of the union. Former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), lent his voice to the call yesterday.
According to him, the Nigerian federation, as currently structured, is in need of reforms that will emphasise the individual strength and advantages of the component units so that governments can really work to improve the lives of Nigerians.
Babangida, a major player in the country’s power politics, was involved in all the major putsches that threw up military regimes from 1976 . He ruled the country maximally between August 27, 1985 and August 26, 1993 after annulling the June 12 presidential election of that year that was reputed to be the freest and fairest in the nation’s history.
He gave the advice on restructuring in his Eid-el-Fitri message to Muslims yesterday. With this call coming from the former military leader who undoubtedly is one of those considered as conservatives in their sticking to the status quo, which they in fact helped to foist on the country, the demand for true federalism is gaining traction.
As a soldier during the civil war and one of those who held the country together and who even charted a course of democracy, even though not generally seen as a sincere venture, Babangida is a strong voice whose call is capable of drawing out other ex-military chiefs to take a stand in the ongoing debate.
While seeking a departure from the norm and calling for a reform that will put the country on the same pedestal with advanced democracies, he said: “If we have repeatedly done certain things and not getting the desired results, we need to change tactics and approach, and renew our commitment. It is our collective responsibilities to engender a reform that would be realistic and in sync with modern best practices.
“For example, restructuring has become a national appeal as we speak, whose time has come. I will strongly advocate devolution of powers to the extent that more responsibilities be given to the states while the Federal Government is vested with the responsibility to oversee our foreign policy, defence, and economy.
“Even the idea of having federal roads in towns and cities has become outdated and urgently needs revisiting. That means we need to tinker with our constitution to accommodate new thoughts that will strengthen our nationality.
“Restructuring and devolution of powers will certainly not provide all the answers to our developmental challenges; it will help to reposition our mindset as we generate new ideas and initiatives that would make our union worthwhile.
“The talk to have the country restructured means that Nigerians are agreed on our unity in diversity; but that we should strengthen our structures to make the union more functional based on our comparative advantages.
“Added to this desire is the need to commence the process of having state police across the federation. This idea was contained in my manifesto in 2010 when I attempted to contest the presidential elections.
“The initial fear that state governors will misuse the officers and men of the state police has become increasingly eliminated with renewed vigour in citizens’ participation in, and confidence to interrogate power.
“We cannot be detained by those fears and allow civilisation to leave us behind. We must as a people with one destiny and common agenda take decisions for the sake of posterity in our shared commitment to launch our country on the path of development and growth.
“Policing has become so sophisticated that we cannot continue to operate our old methods and expect different results. I also want to appeal to the Nigeria media to be more circumspect in their news reportage.”
Until now, the lone voice from the northern part of the country for restructuring has been that of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Most leaders from the region have often strongly condemned the call for restructuring. They see it as an attempt that would threaten the unity of the country.
It is in this vein that President Muhammadu Buhari has consistently opposed the 2014 conference report that recommends the restructuring of the country.