Dickson: Nigeria must be restructured before 2019 polls
Governor Seriake Dickson said on Friday that fundamental alterations can be incorporated into the Nigerian Constitution before 2019 elections — even as he acknowledged outright restructuring of the country can be cumbersome and time-consuming.
“Nigeria must be restructured before 2019 elections,” Mr. Dickson told reporters at the Bayelsa State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja Friday afternoon. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
The Bayelsa governor said Nigerian politicians can no longer afford to punt the ball on restructuring for much longer, commending the ruling All Progressive Congress for finally acknowledging the need for Nigeria to undergo fundamental changes to its political and economic system.
“Even though we have a long way to go to fine-tune this, I commend and appreciate their commitment to building a stable, equitable and, therefore, prosperous Nigeria,” Mr. Dickson said of APC’s latest approach to restructuring, which is expected to be a major issue in the 2019 elections.
His comments came a day after the APC restructuring committee submitted its report to the party’s leadership in Abuja.
Amongst the recommendations of the panel, led by Governor Nasir El-Rufai, were the adoption of state police, independent candidacy in elections, resource control, amongst other key restructuring elements.
The panel, however, declined to grant autonomy to local government areas, dealing a major blow to grassroot governance, with state governments micro-managing local authorities in violation of the Constitution.
Mr. El-Rufai’s committee insisted that local government must be placed under the supervision of state, finding no reason for Nigeria to keep running a three-tier system.
John Odigie-Oyegun, chairman of the APC, said while receiving the report that the party will ultimately forward it to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The president backs autonomy for local government areas, advising local government administrators in a September 2016 meeting to free themselves from “the stranglehold of state governments.”
It was not immediately clear if the president would sign a series of constitutional amendments that did not include local government autonomy.
Yet, Bolaji Abdullahi, the spokesperson for the APC, said that the president was “highly enthusiastic” about the work of the party’s restructuring panel.
Critics accuse Mr. Buhari and the APC of a muddled sincerity of purpose in their recent embrace of restructuring.
Top APC personalities have dismissed the restructuring as a ruse, with Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima stating in November 2017 that “to hell with restructuring.”
President Buhari has not been as harsh against pro-restructuring campaigners, but he has repeatedly declined to see the issue as important much less 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 told Nigerians in his New Year’s Day address. “No human law or edifice is perfect.”
Both the president and Mr. Shettima’s views mirror the position of a significant segment of northern Nigeria, where restructuring is seen more as a way of breaking up the country across tribal lines than as a critical step towards making Nigeria a more acceptable entity for all.
Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and 2019 presidential hopeful, has remained arguably the biggest voice for a revamp of Nigeria’s democratic system in the north, which is the country’s largest region.
Mr. Abubakar canvasses a weakened federal government for a stronger and genuinely autonomous states to pave way for a renewed economic growth and social development, a push that was at the centre of the 2014 national conference.
Other pro-restructuring advocates demand a return to the defunct 1963 Constitution which was run on the basis or regional autonomy.