Following the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta and related agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, has said that the All Progressives Congress-led government under President Muhammadu Buhari, has not learnt from the past administrations on how to tackle such challenge.
Atiku, an APC stalwart, also called for a restructuring of the country’s unity, because every section of Nigeria virtually feels marginalised, “meaning, they believe that other segments of society are prospering in ways they are not.”
Atiku was the number two citizen between 1999 and 2007 under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja at the public presentation of a book; We are all Biafrians, written by a journalist and scholar, Chido Onumah, the former vice-president said, the current “federal government is too big and too powerful relative to the federating states; that situation needs to change, and calling for that change is patriotic.”
When asked to comment on the farmers/herdsmen skirmishes and similar agitations in some parts of the country and efforts by the current administration to nip them in the bud, Atiku said:
“Again, here we come back to the same economic challenges that are facing the country, but we also have leadership that is not prepared to learn from the past and the leadership that is not prepared to lead.”
While noting that the “amnesty programme in the Niger Delta should be about stick and carrot approach,” the APC leader, recalled that he decided not to serve on the power committee under his former boss, Obasanjo, because the administration did not agree with his gas-to-power idea.
By this approach, he said, the system would be compartmentalised, whereby power will be generated from multiple sources, hence there won’t be heavy reliance on gas.
While recalling some of his blueprints as a presidential aspirant in 2011, he listed amnesty programme, the creation of Ministry of Niger Delta right in the region, introduction of coast guards, as some of the ideas he propounded.
On the state of the economy, the former vice-president urged Nigerians to be patient with President Buhari, even as he commended the administration for properly tackling the issue of Boko Haram insurgency.
Speaking on the nation as presently constituted, Atiku said, “Nigeria is not working as well as it should.
And part of the reason is the poor way we have structured our economy and governance especially since 1960.
“We must refrain from assuming that anyone calling for restructuring of our federation is working for the breakup of our country. Absolutely not. And I reject that notion.
“An excessively powerful centre does not equate to national unity. Absolutely not. If anything, it has made our unity more fragile, our government more unstable and our country more unsafe. We must re-negotiate our union in order to make it strong.”
While urging Nigerians to support a restructured nation, he said: “Greater autonomy, power and resources for state and local authority will give the federations units greater freedom and flexibility to address local issues for their priorities and peculiarities.
“It will reduce the premium placed on capturing power at the centre. It will reduce insecurity. It will promote healthy rivalry amongst federations units.”
Continuing, the ex- VP said what the nation desired now is, “first, a smaller, leaner federal government with reduced responsibilities; this means devolution of powers and resources to states and local governments. State and local governments should control education, health, agriculture, roads and other infrastructure.
“A true federal system will allow the federating states to keep their resources, while the federal government retains the power of taxation and regulatory authority over standards.
The result will be a political and governmental system that empowers local authorities and gives them greater autonomy to address peculiar local issues, while enhancing accountability and contributing to the general good of the country. Such a robust federal system would reduce the tensions that
are built into our current over-centralised system.
“Second, autonomy for the component states and localities to determine their development priorities and wage structures.For instance, there is no reason for the governor of Akwa Ibom state to earn the same salary as the governor of Benue state or for a teacher in Orlu to earn the same salary as the one in Abuja or Port Harcourt.
The costs of living and revenue generating capacities vary widely across the country.
“Third, a tax-centred revenue base; modern democracies derive their revenues from taxation whether or not they have fossil fuels and other natural resources – personal income tax, property tax, sales tax, corporate tax, licences, and duties.
Taxation is a sustainable revenue base and one that compels governments to promote increased economic activities, and respond to the demands of their taxpaying citizens.”
Speaking on the motive of the author, the book reviewer, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, said the book is never about the breaking up of the country, rather, the author is very passionate about the unity and oneness of Nigeria.
According to him, the book is an appeal to all Nigerians to embrace a country where equality, fairness and justice reign.
—- Okorochukwu Ikechukwu ( Correspondent)