Recently, an All Progressives Congress (APC) committee on True Federalism headed by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el Rufai, submitted its report to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. The report made strong recommendations in favour of Resource Control, State Police, Prisons, Independent Candidacy, and Abolition of State of Origin. It was not so favourably disposed towards Local government autonomy and state creation.
The report also recommended that 10 items should be moved from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List, and for more devolution of powers to the states.
The items so recommended to be moved are foods, drugs, poison, narcotics and psychotropic substances; fingerprints and identification of persons with criminal records; registration of business names; labour; mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas; police; prisons; public holidays (to be classified as national public holidays and state public holidays); railways and stamp duties.
Receiving the report, APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said that by middle of February, all structures of the party would have met and considered the report. He expressed the hope that the recommendations in the report would lay to rest the agitations that have been rife in the country for a truly federal system of government.
This newspaper commends the ruling party in this effort that is aimed at amending what many perceive as the structural imbalance that has tended to slow the pace of growth and development which a true federalism can guarantee.
Though it is coming almost three years after the party assumed the reins of office, we are persuaded to argue that the move portends a favourable outcome for the country in dire need of a more purposeful arrangement that will make her grow faster. In our opinion, it is a positive indication that the party is responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of majority of Nigerians who have been clamouring for restructuring and a true federal system of government.
However, we are worried that the will to implement the recommendations of the report is another matter altogether. We fear that, based on past experiences in this regard, it may not be as momentous as it should be. We recall that the 2014 National Conference addressed similar issues though nothing worthwhile ever came out of it. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo also conducted a Sovereign National Conference under his watch which went down lack a pack of cards and as another waste of time and resources.
Part of the allegations against previous efforts at putting in place a template on which a more acceptable structure for the country could be built was that they lacked altruism in their approach and timing. The general belief was that they were not genuinely, patriotically inspired.
Good as these reports might have been, Nigerians were not sufficiently enamoured about their sincerity given the pervading political undertones at the time which influenced the convocation of the conferences. That may also explain why the failure by succeeding administrations to implement the reports that emanated from them received tepid response from the people who ordinarily would have insisted on their adoption and implementation.
However, we are willing to flow with the pledge by the party that by the middle of February, the el-Rufai committee’s report would have been considered and decided upon by stakeholders and that whatever was agreed upon will be presented to the authorities as the considered views and decisions of the party reflecting its position on the whole issue.
We welcome this development even as we appeal to the party to shorn it of undue politics directed at using same as a vote catching gimmick. It is on the basis of that understanding that we are disposed to give it the benefit of doubt in the hope that it will mark a clear departure from what used to be.
We belong to the school of thought that insists that Nigeria can be restructured without necessarily dismantling it. In our considered view, the country has all it takes to run as a true federation where all the federating units can enjoy an unfettered freedom to develop at their own pace exploiting all the resources, human and material, within the territory and using same to actualise their God-given potentials.
The outcome of the APC report on Federalism, if it reflects the presumptions of the average Nigerian, at the end of the day, will prove that there is, indeed, a government that is attuned to their needs. The party does not need to be told that sacrificing national interest on the altar of political expediency is certainly not an option this time round. The people are tired of conferences to discuss what ought to be a true structure for the country. They want action, decisive and lasting.