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Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has exposed the reason northern leaders are opposed to restructuring of the country’s federal system. He noted that fear of losing certain economic benefits makes the North hold back on restructuring of the polity.
Atiku reiterated his advocacy for restructuring while speaking at an annual public lecture at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, on Monday.
The former Vice President observed that he understands the reason many of those calling for restructuring are from the South, while the bulk of the opposition to it comes from the North.
He emphasized that fear of losing oil revenues is major reason some people are opposed to restructuring of the polity; adding that loss of trust in the current structure is reason some people are clamouring for true federalism.
Atiku acknowledged that concentration of too much power at the centre has impeded the development of the country. He maintained that the restructuring he has been advocating would devolve powers, responsibilities and resources from the centre to the zones.
He expressed the need for proper dialogue, negotiation and consensus building to guide in acceptable compact of restructuring.
“Our current constitution does, indeed, concentrate too much power and resources at the centre, which has, in my view, impeded national development, security, peace and stability,” he stated.
He declared: “At some point our leaders and representatives will come together, discuss and work out a framework for restructuring our federation in order to renew it to serve our people better.
“The restructuring that I have been calling for involves changes to the allocation of powers, responsibilities and resources among the states or zones and between them and the federal government.
“It is clear to me that the resistance against restructuring is based on three interrelated factors, namely dependency, fear and mistrust. Dependency of all segments of the country on oil revenues, fear of loss of oil revenues by non-oil producing states or regions and mistrust of the motives of those angling for restructuring.
“This can be seen in the regional patterns of the advocacy for and opposition to restructuring.”
He pointed out that the current structure which concentrates too much power and resources in the centre has made the country “economically unproductive” and “politically weak.”
“There is no doubt that many of our states are not viable, and were not viable from the start, once you take away the federal allocations from Abuja. We have to find creative ways to make them viable in a changed federal system. Collaboration among states in a region or zone will help,” Atiku remarked.
“Nigeria must devolve more powers and resources from the federal government and deemphasize federal allocations as the source of sustenance of states. We need to start producing again and collecting taxes to run our governments in a more sustainable way with greater transparency and accountability.
“We have a unique opportunity now, with all the agitation and clamour for restructuring, to have a conversation that would lead to changes in the structure of our federation in order to make it stronger, enhance our unity and promote peace, security and better and more accountable governance,” Atiku stated.