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‘Niger Delta can’t manage its oil’ | 9 things we learnt from Balarabe Musa

There have been numerous calls for the restructuring of Nigeria along the lines of regional government as opposed to federating units that depend on the central government for revenue.

In this interview with The Punch, the Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties and a one-time Governor of old Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, speaks on why Nigeria should be restructured.

Here are seven things we learnt from the interview.

1) Making a case why Nigeria should be restructured

“The calls for the restructuring of Nigeria are genuine and they have been going on for a very long time in the country. But it has always been an issue of the country returning to a situation whereby we have the regions and there is the centre. In the past, the centre was stronger than the regions. I advocate for a return to the regions, as we had before, with a strong centre capable of uniting the country and also bringing progressive, even development throughout the country, which certainly a weak centre cannot do.”

2) Greed and personal interest has prevented the restructuring

” Again, in our experience of campaigning for restructuring, one of the big problems is that some groups with some other interests got involved and made the whole call for restructuring threatening. For instance, the role of the (National) Reformation Council and the National Democratic Coalition were not helpful to the genuine call for a restructuring because they tended to look at the problem of Nigeria as a matter of tribalism, ethnicity and so on. But it is not! The ethnicity, tribalism, etc. are reflections, but not the real thing.

“I think this time, if we really want to campaign for genuine restructuring of the country, it should be for reasons of uniting the people. We have a lot of work to do on unity; we have a lot of work to do on reconciling Nigerians. For that reason, definitely, we need restructuring.”

3) Ways Nigeria can be restructured

“There are three approaches to restructuring; we can talk about them altogether or individually. The first one is a return to the original system whereby the regions become the federating units. Then there is (the option of) a return to the parliamentary system. And the third one is a return to the leading role of the states in the economy.

“These are the three most important (types of) restructuring and all the three can be combined. For instance, we can have a return to the regional set-up under the presidential system and stay with the leading role of the states in the economy to ensure peace, equality, justice and development of the country. We can have all of them because they are complementary.”

4) Good leadership is the bane of Nigeria

“But whichever we choose, we must understand that we must have credible leadership. We have not been having credible leaders since 1966 when the military came in. We had credible leaders before the military came in 1966, but we were able to manage the situation in the country.”

5) President Buhari abused his office

“For instance, we have the most recent one, where the President appointed his kitchen cabinet of about 23 persons; not a single one from a particular zone of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. Only a few people are allowed to assume power and nothing happens. In other countries, no president will abuse his power and get away with it. We know of so many countries where presidents who were supposed to resign were impeached because they misused their powers.”

6) Every state should work for the good of Nigeria

” But if we have a responsible leadership, every unit will work in cohesion with the other units in the whole interest of the country. For instance, now we hear this nonsense in Nigeria of a state saying it will ban people from other states from coming into its territory or moving freely in its territory, while this contradicts the constitution. The constitution gives every Nigeria freedom of movement throughout the country.”

7) One man cannot be the President of Nigeria

“It has always been there. People say Nigeria is too big to have one man as president controlling everything. It is true. The country would be better off if it is restructured into regions and the regions are the federating units. The regions are big and viable enough. People break Nigeria into six regions. Each of the regions would be more viable and that would be in the interest of the whole country.

“For instance, the North will concentrate on agriculture in the interest of the whole country, while the other regions will also pay more attention to the sectors that are more favourable to them. Now, we have a situation whereby we have a neglect of everything. But if we restructure into regions, we would have a region taking full responsibility for what are the best resources in their area. It doesn’t mean that they would deny the centre any right.”

8) The South-South cannot successfully manage its oil

“Some resources should be kept at the centre because they are better managed (there); for instance, mineral resources are better managed by the centre—that is, some of the mineral resources, not all. I am sure, if we leave some of the resources to the regions, they would not be able to cope.

“Take the case of oil, for example; if you say only the South-South, where oil is produced, should have total control, you may find that they may not be capable doing it. There are certain things that must not be at the centre. That’s why the centre has to be stronger to handle the interest of the whole country.”

9) National conference served only Jonathan’s political agenda

“It was an abuse to the conscience of Nigerians because it was (former President Goodluck) Jonathan who originally outlawed a national conference.

“Later, when he found it useful, he welcomed the idea of having a national conference. He went arrogantly to appoint every member of the national conference. The President is right if he says he doesn’t want to have anything to do with this conference because it was not legitimate. It was just the design of Jonathan for his political purpose.”

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