Recent developments in the last seven months of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in office are beginning to raise concerns among some critical stakeholders. His comments at the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, where he said, “I can afford to be reckless, because I am not going to ask for anybody’s vote” did not help matters, as it aptly lends credence to fears in some quarters that the country is gradually gravitating towards dictatorship.
Some of the issues compelling stakeholders to revisit the agitation for restructuring of Nigeria and the renewed demand for the adoption of the communiqué of Yoruba Summit held in Ibadan on September 7, 2017 include the clampdown on the judiciary by the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) in their attempt to re-arrest the convener of the protest #RevolutionNow, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, at the premises of a Federal High Court, Abuja.
Some Nigerians have also expressed displeasure over the flagrant disregard of laid down rules by President Buhari towards the national question by his lopsided appointments into federal offices under which they claim is an indication of the worst to happen if necessary steps are not taken.
For instance, not many Nigerians agree that the government acted in the national interest by removing and replacing the immediate past Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, with another northerner. Just as Buhari also removed and replaced the immediate past Chairman of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Muiz Banire with another northern. It was noted that for every position vacated by any southerner, Buhari does not hesitate to appoint a northerner as replacement. It is also insinuated that though Buhari may not seek third term, he is, however, creating a scenario whereby it will be difficult or near impossible for his successor to come from the South in 2023. The situation has, however, triggered the call for the adoption of the report for the 2014 National Conference, just as there is a urgent call for the Southwest zone to adopt the Ibadan Declaration.
In separate recent interactions with The Guardian, spokesman for Yoruba socio-cultural organisation Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, expressed similar fears that except Nigeria was urgently restructured to true federalism as adopted in Ibadan in 2017, the country was gradually being dragged to the precipice from the body language of Buhari and his reckless abuse of state power in the last few months.
According to him, “It will only take a Nigerian that is naïve not to see the trend the Buhari’s government is going, as if the entire south is conquered territories of the president and the Fulani and this is very dangerous for the unity of the country.”
Odumakin, who insisted that Afenifere and other ethnic nationalities remain resolute on the Ibadan Declaration for the restructuring of Nigeria, said, “Buhari cannot justify the re-arrest of Sowore inside the court, which represents that third arm of government in a democracy in the country, which is the judiciary. It was the Ibadan Declaration that brought about the formation of Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum that has been championing the agitation for the reversal of the governance system of the country to what it was during the First Republic.”
Also, Chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Mr. Wale Oshun, decried developments in the country under the incumbent government. He stressed that it is a situation that calls for urgent attention “otherwise it poses grave danger to the future of our country.”
He wondered why the government condescended so low as to arresting a harmless Sowore inside the courtroom, adding, “This government should prove to Nigerians where Sowore stored the arms and ammunition he planned to use to create problem in the country. It was a clampdown on the judiciary. That is one of the reasons the country must sit down to readdress the issue of its governance.”
Although Osun said he had no issue with the removal of the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Fowler, who was adjudged to have introduced great innovations to the agency since his appointment, noted, “The government ought to have given other regions a sense of belonging by at least retaining the position for a southerner instead of giving it to a particular section of the country, which already has more than enough in terms of federal appointments in the last five years.”
The ARG chairman particularly expressed disgust that the unification intention of which the Fulani hegemony accused the Southeast over the first military coup, led by Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu in 1966, is what they (Fulani) are now doing since they took over power in July 1966 through a counter-coup.
According to him, “It is not an exaggeration that the south is currently being treated like a conquered region, especially the Southwest zone that believes in the nationality of Nigeria.”
He said with the way things are, “restructuring has become a necessity in Nigeria.”
Another participant at the Ibadan declaration, Dr. Kunle Olajide told The Guardian that he was as worried as other Nigerians over the way President Buhari’s administration is currently handling the affairs of Nigeria “as if other regions have no stake.”
While acceding to the fears being expressed by concerned Nigerians that some cabals operating in line with the agenda of this government are behaving as if other parts of Nigeria are conquered territories, he said, “I want to assure Nigerians that any attempt to breach the gentleman principle of rotation of the presidency between the North and South in 2023 will not work out.
“It is true the indications are there that some elements, and not the whole Fulani, are working towards that agenda judging from the current military leadership structure, heads of parastatals and other indices but my assurance is, it will not work out.”
He lamented that Nigeria is currently turning into a full-blown dictator by the body language of President Buhari, stressing: “We recalled when the late Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, turned himself into a full blown dictator, the system checkmated him. This government is not different. It used the instrumentality of the DSS to harass the National Assembly recently; now, it has also used the same instrument to harass the court, which is the third arm of government. What other indices do we need?”
Olajide said the sincerity of Buhari to the peaceful coexistence and unity of Nigeria is in serious doubt from the look of things in Nigeria.
The Ibadan summit, which was well attended by Yoruba leaders, governors, parliamentarians, Yoruba social-cultural groups, professional bodies, market leaders, youth groups, and friends of the Yoruba nation, recalled with nostalgia the great strides made by the Old Western Region in the years of self-government up until the abrogation of the federal constitution in 1966 evident in mass literacy, novel infrastructural strides, and giant leaps in all spheres of human development. When compared with the current pervasive national decay occasioned by the centralist arrangement, attendees left lamenting the opportunities long lost in the country with widening gaps among the populace,
At the summit it was noted that the crisis of over-centralization has led to mass misery across the country with poverty levels at 72 per cent, unemployment rate at 65 per cent, internal immigration and internal displacement, security threat in the form of Boko Haram, herdsmen, kidnapping, banditry, and organised crime. Summit attendees were convinced that Nigeria was careening dangerously to the edge, and restated that urgent steps needed to be taken to restructure the country from a unitary constitution to a federal constitution, as negotiated by the founding fathers at Independence in 1960.
It was resolved as follows: That Yoruba insist that Nigeria must return to a proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions. This has been our position since 1950 Ibadan Conference and developments in Nigeria over the last 50 years reinforce our conviction. That Yoruba are clear that restructuring does not mean different things to different people other than that a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria can only know real peace and development if it is run ONLY along federal lines.
That the greatest imperatives of restructuring Nigeria is to move from a rent-seeking and money-sharing, anti-development economy to productivity by ensuring that the federating units are free to own and develop their resources. They should pay agreed sums to the federation purse to implement central services. That the federating units – whether states, zones or regions must themselves be governed by the written constitution to curb impunity at all levels. That Nigeria shall be a federation comprised of six regions and the federal capital Territory, Abuja. That the Federal Government shall make laws and only have powers in relation to items specified on the legislative list contained in the constitution of the Federation. That the Regions shall, in turn, be composed as states. That each Region shall have its own constitution containing enumerated exclusive and concurrent legislative lists regarding matters upon which the regions and the states may act or legislate.
Also, that contiguous territories, ethnic nationalities or settlement shall be at liberty through a plebiscite, to elect to be part of any contiguous region other than the region in which the current geo-political zone or state boundaries place them. That states as presently comprised in the geo-political zones into which they fall, which shall become regions, shall continue to exercise the executive, legislative and judicial functions currently exercised at that level of government. That the States within a region shall determine the items on the legislative lists in the Regional constitution for the purpose of good government and the administration and provision of common inter-state social, economic and infrastructural requirements. Residual powers shall be vested in the states. That the power to create states shall be within the exclusive powers of the region, which shall be obliged to create a state, provided a plebiscite is conducted, following a request by an agreed percentage of the residents of the ethnic nationality within a state. The procedure for conducting a plebiscite and the percentage of any ethnic nationality shall be out in the regional constitution. That the power to create local governments and assign functions to them shall be vested in the states. That States shall be entitled to manage all resources found within their boundaries and the revenue accruing therefrom. The issue of the entitlement of littoral states to offshore resources and the extension of such rights from the continental shelf and rights accruing to the federal government shall be determined by the national assembly. That the sharing ratio of all revenues raised by means of taxation shall be 50 per cent to the states, 35 per cent to the regional government and 15 per cent to the government of the federation.
Also, that for a period of 10 years from the commencement of the operation of the new constitution (or such other agreed period to be enshrined in the federal constitution), there shall be a special fund for the development of all minerals in the country. The Government of the Federation shall raise this sum by way of additional taxation on resources at a rate to be agreed by the National Assembly.
The National Assembly shall set up a body to manage the funds with equal representation of nominees from each of the Regional governments and shall also set out and specify the guidelines for the administration of the funds exclusively for this purpose. The president of the Federation shall appoint a chairperson for the entity so formed. That these agreed positions of the Yoruba shall form the basis of negotiations with our partners in the Nigerian project for a United Nigeria based on justice, peace and fair play.
The failure of honoured the communiqué from the summit was, however, blamed on the lukewarm attitude of some Yoruba leaders in the ruling APC based on their selfish interest and ambition to rule Nigeria and mortgage Yoruba’s collective interest for their personal interests.