Restructuring Versus Power Shift By Emeka Omeihe

Those opposed to the compelling imperative of restructuring through a national conference, must now have cause to reason to the contrary. Contemporary developments in the country have shown very unmistakably that we can only continue to postpone this idea at our own peril. Events regularly underscore the need to engage the distinct groups in this country to fashion out safe routes out of the nation’s unresolved problems of existence.

The war of attrition in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party PDP and efforts to recruit leaders from all sections of the country to resolve it can in a way, be regarded as PDP’s version of a national conference. What the party is currently passing through is a crisis of confidence among leaders due to failure to evolve acceptable templates to nagging issues of our federal order.

One of it is the location of power at the centre and which of the geo-political divides should have control over it. That there is constant and very bitter struggle for power among the various ethnic groups to control the centre is no longer news. The fact of this inordinate struggle underscores the point that we are yet to arrive at an ordered way of circulating power between and among the various interest groups.

But more than anything else, it clearly pictures the mutual suspicion and mistrust among these cleavages regarding the use to which they intend to deploy political power.

Its logical corollary is that the struggle for power is fuelled by general thinking that those who hold it do so largely for the interest of their primordial units and members of their immediate families. That is what foremost Afro-American political scientist Richard Joseph referred to as prebendal politics. Or how else do we rationalize the inordinate domination of primordial sentiments in the current agitations for power shift? The fact that sections of the country are threatening fire, lime and brimstone should they fail to capture power come 2015 is a sufficient signal that all is not well with the power matrix in this country. It is a clarion call for all to sit down and address the power equation and all the issues that constantly breed suspicion and mistrust among our diverse peoples. If there are no problems with our federal order, such issues as which section of the country the president comes from would not have assumed the dangerous dimension it has now taken. It is obvious that all is not well with us as a country. It is also no less obvious that a way has to be fashioned out to resolve these recurring deficits and fault lines if we are to record any genuine progress as one indivisible country. These sore points include rising insecurity, increasing slide to primordialism, fiscal federalism; devolution and rotation of power and resource control.

Scepticisms on the capacity of the federation to give hope to its constituents and the slide towards centrifugalism have been in the upsurge of recent. They got to such a point that two former rulers of this country, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida had to issue a joint statement lamenting that even (those they referred to as) patriots are beginning to question the basis for the continued unity of this country. Both personages should know what they are talking about. Embedded in this statement, is the current mood of the country.

If after 53 years of independence and nearly 100 years of coming into being of this amalgam, patriots are still questioning the basis for our continued unity, then the frustrations of millions of ordinary people whose hopes this country has dashed can be better imagined. Our leaders must fashion out the right atmosphere to tap into the temperament of the citizenry. Information gathered will be a veritable tool in fashioning out policies and measures that will catalyze co-habitation and launch the country on the path to peace, progress and development.

Before now, the ruling party had been under the illusion that all is well with us. This has resulted in the rebuffing of genuine agitations for restructuring through a national conference. Because a parasitic class monopolized the apparatus of governance and deployed it to self-serving ends, the impression had been conveyed that as long as they hold tenaciously to power, safety nets have been evolved for the nation’s political stability.

That accounts for recurring references to the limitations imposed by the constitution against such a conference. But erudite constitutional lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabueze who spoke for the patriots has said there is a way out if the leadership is committed to the idea.

For him, the 1999 constitution is a product of decree 24 of 1999 and once we repeal that decree, all impediments to full blown national conference by the 390 nationalities to fashion out a peoples’ constitution would have been removed. He therefore does not see any reason for official ambivalence to get the federating nationalities on a conference table especially now the controversy over power shift is upbeat.

Good enough, President Jonathan told the nation a fortnight ago, that his regime is not averse to the conference. As a matter of fact, he said his administration was reviewing the possibility of a national conference among Nigeria’s various ethnic nationalities. The only snag he noted is that the constitution appears to have given that responsibility to the National Assembly.

But Nwabueze has offered a way out through the repeal of the decree giving authority to that constitution. The fact of that decree is a potent reason that constitution cannot approximate the wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian people as they were not party to it.

The question now is the propriety of the current negotiations within the PDP on power shift in 2015 when it is just a mirror to the systemic infractions that have held this country down over the years. Are we not about to fritter away a golden opportunity to redress all nagging issues of our federal order by confining that negotiation to power shift within the PDP in such an unstructured manner? And to what extent can whichever way the matter is resolved assuage the feelings and aspirations of the multifarious ethnic nationalities that also desire a shot at that office? These are the issues to ponder.

The current negotiation within the PDP is limited in time and scope and therefore inherently deficient in charting the path for sustainable peace and progress of the country. It is incapable of addressing the fears, mutual suspicion and mistrust that propel bitter struggles for power among constituent units. What is now required is for Jonathan to set the stage for a national conference where the nationalities will brainstorm on various issues of our federation including but not limited to power rotation. This will not only save him the heat generated by raging agitations for power shift but more importantly, chart a roadmap for power sharing in a more ordered and sustainable way. The matter could also be resolved by diluting the concentration of power and financial resources at the centre through devolution. These are the real issues that must engage the minds of all those who do not desire the disintegration of this country. And only agreements reached by the federating nationalities hold the key for the peace, progress and development of the country. Jonathan has a golden opportunity to take advantage of the crisis in the PDP to transform this country for good through this conference. His contentious ambition to run again is also better resolved through it.

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