by Samuel Ogundipe,
Nigeria as currently constituted is an entity that is rooted in corruption, impunity and injustice and thus must be reconstituted, a former vice-president said on Monday.
Atiku Abubakar, who served under former President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999-2007, said at a forum in Abuja that the current system is the bane of Nigeria and not the individuals running it.
“Political and civic leaders from across the country must come together, discuss, negotiate and make the necessary compromises and sacrifices needed to restructure our federation to make us a stronger, more united, productive, and competitive country,” Mr. Atiku said while expanding on a paper titled: “Nigerian Federalism: Continuing Quest for Stability and Nation-Building.”
Mr. Atiku has been at the forefront of renewed calls for a reconstituted Nigeria since the beginning of the year.
In June, he used his remarks at a book launch, also in Abuja, to call for a more federal system which would put to rest the disparate yearnings of Nigerians from all sections of the country.
Mr. Atiku said there’s a perennial cry of marginalisation from every section of the country, a situation, he said, was caused by the flaw in the country’s constitution.
“No section of this country can claim correctly that its people are better served by the current structure of our federation. When we were not dependent on oil revenues and when the federating units had greater autonomy of action and were largely responsible for their affairs, they, that is our regional governments, did not owe workers their salaries for several months.
“They did not shut down schools and universities for several months because of teacher strikes and inadequate funding. Take a look at the industries that the regional governments established and ran and the quality of schools that they established, and see if you can see a state government or a group of state governments that have bested them since the emergence of our unitary federalism.
“And also ask yourself which of those establishments taken over or established by the federal government since, has performed as well as they did under our pre-1966 federal system.”
The former vice president said Abuja should be prepared and willing to relinquish some of its powers over the remaining 36 federating units.
This call, Mr. Atiku said, does not mean a call for a break up of Nigeria, but only a call for the imposition of a system where transparency, efficiency and equity will prevail.
“National unity does not mean the absence of disagreement or agitations. In fact disagreements and peaceful agitations indicate vibrant and living relationships,” Mr. Atiku said. “The key to making national progress is to manage those disagreements in peaceful and mature ways.”