Restructuring the nation is not synonymous to call for its breakup – Atiku

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar says there are legitimate reasons to demand the restructuring of the nation.

Atiku, who stated this while speaking during the launch of a book titled: ‘Nigerian Federalism: Continuing Quest for Stability and Nation-building,’ said the call for restructuring is not the same as calling for the nation’s break up.

“Those who see restructuring only in terms of so-called resource control, that is the control of resources by the states from where they are derived. Currently the loudest are from the Niger Delta where oil revenues, which our government depends on, largely come from.

“We are all witnesses to the agitations and complaints by different sections of the country at different times about being marginalised or shortchanged in fiscal allocation and the distribution of such other public resources such political positions, jobs, school admissions, provision of infrastructure, and even social honour.

“In response, many Nigerians have been calling for some form of restructuring of our federal system, while some small fringe groups insist on their part of the country separating from the federation all together.

“These are all legitimate positions to take in a democracy. What I find odd and somewhat unhelpful is the argument of those who say that we cannot renegotiate our union and who proceed from there to equate every demand for restructuring with attempts to break up the country.

“I believe that every form of human relationships is negotiable. Every political relationship is open for negotiations, without pre-set outcomes. As a democrat and businessman I do not fear negotiations.

“That is what reasonable human beings do. This is even more important if a stubborn resistance against negotiations can lead to unsavoury outcomes,” he said.

Speaking further, the former Vice President said the present “unitary federalism” in operation has failed, as he stated that regional governments did not owe salaries or close down schools.

“National unity does not mean the absence of disagreement or agitations. In fact, disagreements and peaceful agitations indicate vibrant and living relationships. The key to making national progress is to manage those disagreements in peaceful and mature ways.

“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

“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.

“In Nigeria’s case we must acknowledge that it is disingenuous if not outright dishonest to say that the system is not the problem. If the problem is just the operators how come we have failed for 50 years to produce the right people? Should we import them from outer space.

“We must acknowledge that what got us to our current over-centralised, and centre-dominated federal system is political expediency and fear, and bolstered by the command and control character of military regimes.

“But after 50 years of “unitary federalism” we are now in a position to clearly see that it has not worked well. The federating units in the First Republic had their disagreements but none claimed to lack autonomy of action, and none waited for federal fiscal allocations before it could implement its programmes and pay salaries.

“The current structure may be working for some elites but it has clearly not worked well for any section of this country and the country as a whole. We should take deliberate steps to change this structure to serve us better. And we should not dither for too long that we let fear and expediency stampede us into another disastrous policy shift that may not serve us well either,” he said.

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