OPINION By Yomi Edu
When we ushered in our present democratic dispensation just over 21 years ago, we were all excited and hopeful that Nigeria was, at last, heading in the right direction.
But today majority of our people are frustrated and hopelessness seems to have taken over the land. Are Nigerians better off today than they were twenty-one years ago?
The scorecards of our two dominant parties (APC and PDP) leaves very much to be desired. Are the parties any different from each other? Does anyone know their ideologies? Is one liberal and the other conservative? In truth they are just different sides of the same coin. That is why it is easy for our political actors to move freely from one to the other.
I retired from partisan politics five years ago, when I turned seventy, and have not held any party membership card since.
As we approach the 2023 Presidential elections, it is becoming increasingly clear that our forthcoming elections could well determine the future shape of our country. The stakes are very high and we should all be concerned about the directions our active politicians are heading. Our country has never been more divided than it is today. Thankfully many of our elder Statesmen and women are speaking out loud and clear out of concern. The situation is very worrisome and profoundly grave.
We now more than ever need a leader who can bring us all back together as one united family under the roof called Nigeria. We have had such Nigerians in the persons of The Right Honourable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief M.K.O Abiola, Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Ibrahim Babangida.
There was a time Dr. Azikiwe of the N.C.N.C. won the elections in the old Western Region and almost became the Premier of Western Nigeria (An Ibo man winning elections in Yoruba land!).
Not too long ago, we had a Muslim/Muslim ticket of the SDP (Abiola/Kingibe) winning a Presidential election.
Can anyone see that happening today? In those days nobody cared whether Dr. Azikiwe was Igbo, Fulani or Yoruba. No one cared whether he was a Christian or Muslim. Those were, indeed, the good old days.
Our current drift towards looming chaos was confirmed in an article recently written on the back page of THISDAY Newspaper of February 6, 2021 by my brother Dele Momodu. The Article was titled “The Shape of Things to Come in 2023”. The particular paragraph (I quote as follows):
“The scenario I therefore foresee and predict is that if the ruling party APC picks its candidate from the South, the PDP would most probably pick its own from the North” (end of quote).
We may now have a situation of a Northern candidate of the PDP against a Southern candidate of APC in a country that is now more polarized than ever. Can everyone not see the danger?
Not too long ago, the two major parties of the time, nominated two Northern candidates as their Presidential flag bearers. The NRC produced Mallam Adamu Ciroma and the SDP produced Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua – two really great Nigerians (May they both continue to rest peacefully).
We also in our most recent elections had candidates from the same region (President Buhari against V.P. Atiku, and President Obasanjo against Chief Olu Falae).
Currently the ruling APC Government has a Northern President in the person of Gen. Buhari. Unless the APC want their party to disintegrate, they should not offer us another Northern candidate come 2023. They are therefore compelled to look Southwards. Also, knowing that the bulk of Gen. Buhari followers are from the muslim far North, the APC would be tempted to pitch for a Southern muslim come 2023 (Enter Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and Sen. Ibikunle Amosu).
Now the PDP, having been out in the cold for eight years by 2023, would desperately want to win back control of the Federal Government. They cannot afford the luxury of zoning and would present whatever combination they believe would win the election. Knowing that, rightly or wrongly, the bulk of the votes they need to win may also come from the far North, they would be tempted to nominate a Northern candidate.
The danger the country faces in this possible situation is obvious. There is no better time than now that we need a leader who can unify us as one family under the same roof. A competent unifier. We cannot achieve any meaningful development if we are all pulling in different directions. A leader who is also committed to the restructuring of our federation.
The other dangerous direction is our resistance to restructuring the present structure of our Federation. The present structure is simply not sustainable. A house cannot be built on a faulty foundation. It will eventually collapse.
Decentralisation is not an invitation to the breakup of the country. The present excessive centralization concentrates too much power in the Presidency.
We need to urgently review the structure of the Nigerian Federation. We may start along the basis of the current six geo-political zones as regions and the zones as provinces. Many of the existing States are simply not viable. They are too weak materially. We cannot continue to gather State Governors in Abuja once a month to share revenues dished out by the Federal Government. We must encourage production and not distribution.
The development strides achieved by our First republic leaders were achieved without oil revenues. Now, we are almost totally reliant on oil. The world is moving towards solar energy, electric cars etc. Alternatives to oil are being found. Many nations like Singapore and Japan have developed almost without natural resources by developing their human capital.
Our present structure, not only obstructs our development and the realization of our full potentials, it is also a major contributor to our present political conflcts.
Some of the mainstream Northern establishment are suspicious of the call to restructure. We should try to understand their fears and calm their nerves.
The present structure is about 50 years old. In what way has it benefited the North, who have been in control of the Federal Government for a large chunk of that time? Is it in education, industralisation, healthcare, or security?
Let no one be under the illusion that the task to restructure will be easy, but where there is the will there is a way. We can make progress if we lay aside our suspicions of one another. We will all have to make sacrifices and compromises. May the Almighty make the task easy for us.
May God bless Nigeria