President Buhari Rejects Call ForRestructuring, Says It’s Unnecessary

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In his New Year address to the
nation, President Muhammadu Buhari dismissed calls for a holistic new look at
Nigeria’s political structure, saying he does not see it as a priority.
“When all the aggregates of
nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more
to do with process than structure,” the president said.
“No human law or edifice is
perfect,” Mr. Buhari insisted in the State House announcement which lasted for
nearly 20 minutes.
The president said Nigeria should
continue to operate its current presidential system, but welcomed ideas on how
to make it less permeable to extravagance, waste and corruption largely.
“There is a strong case for a
closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to
extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better.
“I assure you that government is
ever receptive to ideas which will improve governance and contribute to the
country’s peace and stability,” he said in the address, which is his first to
the nation since August 21, 2017.
The president urged Nigerians to
be patient with the current presidential system and allow it to evolve until it
becomes suitable enough to accommodate the country’s peculiarities.
The comments appeared targeted at
shutting down back-end insinuations that the president may eventually yield to
growing agitations for fundamental changes in Nigeria’s political structure.

Critics argue that Nigeria’s
current federal system has become too centralised and its expenses have become
bloated overtime.
Powers such as policing and
control of natural resource, have resided almost exclusively in the federal
government, a situation that has left the states largely subservient to the
centre, critics say.
They favour a more decentralised
structure in which state and local authorities are allowed to keep most of the
resources generated within their respective boundaries, while remitting only a
fraction good enough to keep the federal government running to the centre.
It is not immediately clear how
the president’s party would take the latest rejection of restructuring by its
leader.
The ruling party constituted a
committee last year to look into calls for restructuring and prepare modalities
for the parties approach to the issue.
The panel is led by Nasir
El-Rufai, an APC governor and key ally of the president.
Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s
national spokesperson, and Joe Igbokwe, who speaks for the Lagos State chapter,
were not immediately available for comments Monday morning.
However, Phillip Obin, an APC
member, appeared miffed by the absolute dismissal of restructuring by the
president.
“Even a union between a husband
and wife could be re-negotiated,” Mr. Obin told PREMIUM TIMES Monday morning.
He said the president should have
avoided taking a definitive position that could be seen as undermining the
supremacy of the party.
The president’s comments came a
few weeks after another
APC leader asked those clamouring for restructuring to forget it.
“To hell with restructuring,”
said Kashim Shettima, the party’s governor in Borno State.
The APC set-up the committee
following condemnation that it had abandoned one of its major campaign
promises.
Its leaders had rejected the
outcome of a 2014 national conference that produced hundreds of resolutions on
how to address the country’s protracted political crisis.
A political analyst, Victor
Okhai, said the president missed the fundamentals of restructuring in his
speech.
“The president said Nigerians
want to go back to the parliamentary system which they had once abandoned. This
shows that he doesn’t understand the fundamentals,” Mr. Okhai said.
“He failed to mention that
Nigerian did not willingly abandon the regional system in the sixties. It was
the military who seized power and dismantled a working system,” he added.
Nigeria ran a regional system
with a federal prime minister and federal parliament between 1960 after its
independence and 1966 when the first military coup occurred.
The country would be controlled
for the ensuing 13 years, during which several states were created and more
powers concentrated at the centre.
The system was not reversed when
a democratic president was elected in 1979 until 1983 when it was again deposed
in a military coup.
The military remained in charge
from then until 1999 when Nigeria returned to democracy, but the Constitution
that was adopted has been criticised as a carry on of military edicts.
Mr. Okhai said advocates of
restructuring are keen on giving more control to the states and a
reintroduction of regional system if possible.
“This would make the states be in
charge of their resources and development and no one would need to wait for a
sick president at the centre to come and approve nearly everything for them,”
Mr. Okhai said.
He said Mr. Buhari’s statement
showed how insincere the APC has become.
“The president has always made it
clear that he’s not interested in restructuring. It is the APC using propaganda
to deceive the people,” Mr. Okhai said. “Let’s not forget that he had since
distanced himself from the party’s campaign promises.”
“This shows that the president
has a mind of his own and will go ahead with whatever he decides,” he added.
“But since Nigerians did not
willingly abandon the regional system in the first place, it’s now left to the
citizens to show the president that he cannot control their destiny in a
democratic system. If they want restructuring, they will get it.”
The issue could play a serious
role in the 2019 elections, as some of the major hopefuls, including Atiku
Abubakar, have already tailored their messages towards a decentralised system.
Mr. Obin said pro-restructuring
campaigners should be more vocal and lucid in their agitations if they want to
have the ears of the citizens.
“When they say they want
restructuring, they need to be clearer about the specifics,” he said.
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