Nigeria: Regional Govt Can’t Help Nigeria Anymore – Yakassai – Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Pandef Disagree

*He’s in order – Sani, former ACF scribe

FIRST Republic Politician and Elder Statesman, Tanko Yakassai, yesterday, said reverting to a regional system of government as being clamoured for can no longer help the Nigerian situation.

Regional system of government is a type of government where each region is allowed to control resources found in its domain and pays royalty to the central government.

According to him reverting to regional system of government would not correct the various challenges Nigeria is facing especially giving the current precarious situation which the country has found itself in.

Rather, Nigeria should drop the American presidential system and adopt the French model, Yakassai canvassed this at the annual lecture of The Niche themed: “2023 elections and the future of Nigeria’s democracy,”held at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.

Those present at the event included Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, former NIMASA Director General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, among others.

Yakassai’s position at the event was opposed by Mr. Fashola, the guest speaker, who argued that “Our democracy has delivered an interstate train service, the first and only one since the one built by the colonial government” among other achievements.

Although, Yakassai’s stand got the backing of former Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, the Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF; and Middle Belt Forum, MBF, picked holes in his argument against regionalism.

Why regionalism can’t work now — Yakassai

Yakassai said: “It has been my long standing argument that the regional system of government worked better for the country when compared to all other experimentations.

“However, in view of the changing local and international dynamics coupled with institutional limitations, reverting to the regional system may not be helpful and feasible under our current precarious situations.

“For this, I advocate for people-oriented change and peaceful restructuring of the current federal system to devolve power and responsibilities to the sub-nationals which would, in turn, offer better opportunity for stability and unity,” Yakasai said.

The first Republic politician, however, advocated for the adoption of the French presidential system of government over the American presidential system of government.

According to him, the French presidential system of government is cost effective and suitable for Nigeria.”We should do away with the present system which is prone to waste, corruption, squandermania and discourages accountability.

“The decision to drop parliamentary system during the military is largely influenced by American trained elites in Nigeria rather than exhaustive debate and objective evaluation of the full potential of the parliamentary system in Nigeria.

“In my opinion, that decision was not driven by proper rationale on the suitability of the American system in our own peculiar national situation. The decision has not done justice to the parliamentary system and Nigeria as a country and its developmental needs and economic circumstances.

“This is because parliamentary system is more democratic in its nature than American Presidential System.

“It is for that reason that I have been advocating the adoption of French Presidential System of Government for Nigeria.

“In my opinion it is easier to replace non performing Government in that system than in the American Presidential System.

“Another important reason why I am advocating the adoption of the French presidential system is that it is far cheaper to operate and therefore more suitable to our own reality as a developing nation.

“The operation of American system that made administering Nigeria which is a Federal State with diverse nature more expensive to run and extremely difficult to develop and prosper, unlike many of its sister developing nations,” the elder statesman added.

Our democracy is working — Fashola

However, the Guest Speaker, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, faulted the call for restructuring, and insisted that a lot of work still needs to be done.

He said: “The democratic experience since 1999 came at great cost. Our democracy has delivered an inter-state train service, the first and only one since the one built by the colonial government.

“Our democracy is delivering solutions to problems that seem to have defied solutions, like a road and bridge network to Bonny Island, like the Second Niger Bridge and the reconstruction of the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, Kano-Maiduguri Expressway and an extensive broadband rollout nationwide.

“Our democracy delivered access to telephone service for many Nigerians. Our democracy has delivered an increasing reliance on tax revenue as the basis of Government expenditure.

“This is important because it increases the focus on representation. While there is still a lot to do, these are building blocks of hope around which to build our prosperity.”

ACF chieftain, Sani backs Yakassai’s stand on regionalism

Reacting to Yakassai’s comment, former Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, said his position that Nigeria should move beyond regionalism in her quest for national development, is in order.

Sani, in a chat with Vanguard, noted that the challenges facing the country are not rooted in structure “be it geo-political or economic.”

He said: “We started with three regions and moved to four regions with a weak centre under a parliamentary form of government.

“These were abolished using corruption as the excuse and supplanted with unitary system with strong centre. We now have 36 states which is federalism where national government is balanced by appropriate state level power.

“We had mixed economy that has been replaced with privatization. Don’t forget that the Presidential system works in America, parliamentary model works in Britain which does not have a written constitution and a combination of the two works in France while communism and state capitalism works in China.

“Do not forget too that the American constitution is not more than five pages and Britain has no written constitution but Nigeria has a book called constitution that is observed more in the breach.

“America has nine Supreme Court justices who manage 350 million Americans while Nigeria has 21 Supreme Court justices that manage 216 million Nigerians, yet America judiciary delivers on justice much more than Nigeria.

“With these experiences, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Nigeria needs cultural renaissance about the way things are done than structure.”

Regionalism still best for Nigeria — Ohanaeze

However, Ohanaeze disagreed with Yakassai over his assertion that regionalism can’t help Nigeria anymore, insisting that Nigeria will best be developed under regional arrangement.

National Publicity Secreatry of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Ogbonnia said: “Alhaji Tanko Yakassi is a knowledgeable elder statesman but sometimes he is very rigid on his views, even at the detriment of a fast failing country he owes a duty to protect.

“Yakassai is reminded that only the insane expect different results from performing the same functions over and over again. Every reasonable person knows that Nigeria has, in actual sense, failed in many respects.

“All over the world, humongous entities are resolved into smaller manageable units for effective and efficient service delivery. Same way, humongous power by the Federal Government should be devolved into a few manageable structures for efficient services.

“Each of the structures should have authority over its revenue and expenditure profiles and pay a certain percentage to the centre.

“Whatever nomenclature, region, zone or any other does not matter but what is important is that our forefathers conceived and envisaged a one Nigeria on the principles of federalism.

“There is nowhere on this planet that our form of federalism is practiced. The world mocks us on our stupidity; hoping to swim successfully with huge luggage on our back. It is impracticable.”

Yakassai is living in the past–Afenifere

In like manner, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said the elder statesman is living in the past.

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Jare Ajayi said: “As far as we are concerned, some people are still living in the past.

“Anywhere in the world, it is known that people, who are in a position to determine their fate, usually do better.

“Regionalism is another way of saying self-determination and each region will be in a position to determine its fate as it was in the First Republic.

“It is only those who want the status quo to remain that are not in touch with the present reality anywhere in the world.

“Each region will be in a position to determine their fate and we in Afenifere are convinced that unless we restructure this country and nationalities are allowed to determine their fate, control their resources and have state police, this country cannot move forward.

“As a matter of fact, things can only get worse and may lead to an undesirable consequence for the country.

“So, the earlier they let us go into restructuring, the better it would be for us to have a sustainable country where there will be unity, peace, harmony and progress. That is Afenifere’s position and we insist on that.”

We are not surprised over Yakassai’s conjectures — PANDEF

Also, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, said it was not surprised at another attempt by Tanko Yakassai to fault the imperative for restructuring Nigeria.

Ken Robinson, National Publicity Secretary, PANDEF, in response to Yakassai, told Vanguard that, “we won’t give much consideration to Tanko Yakassai’s comments on regionalism that Nigeria’s problems can’t be solved by merely reverting to the regional system of government as was obtained in the First Republic.

“This is a position he (Yakassai) has reiterated several times in recent years. PANDEF also notes that the well-known northern elder statesman had, in the past, also made similar inferences on calls for the restructuring of the country.

“The reason for his conjectures is known, to sustain the skewed status quo.

“Tanko Yakassi and his kind must come to terms with the fact that the precarious situation in which the country has found itself cannot be corrected by continuing with the extant faulty structure, and lopsided governance framework.

“The patriotic clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria is a quest for a better and more egalitarian country.

“Though PANDEF’s position on restructuring does completely align with the idea of regionalism, it is unarguable that Nigeria was a fairer country in the First Republic.

“PANDEF upholds three broad areas as the essence of the quest for Restructuring viz:

“True Federalism and Devolution of Power, Fiscal Federalism and Resource Justice, as well as, the Composition of the Federation – the Federating Units.

“The 1999 Constitution undermines the principle of federalism by the overt concentration of power and resources at the centre, which has impeded national development, security, peace and stability.

“There is, therefore, an urgent need for decentralisation or devolution of powers to the states from the federal government.

“Most of the 68 items in the Exclusive Legislative List in the Second Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution should be expunged from that List.

“What we are demanding under Restructuring is a reversal to the fundamental principles and provisions of the 1963 Constitutional.”

We must get Nigeria working again — MBF

On its part, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, said that the clamour for the restructuring of the country is not for the purpose of returning the country back to regionalism but to get the country working again and returned back to the path of sustainable peace and development irrespective of the system of government.

National President of MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, said: “We had regions before we came to the presidential system of government and the regions operated up till the time the military came just before the civil war, and we knew that Nigeria was working fine.

“We had the groundnut pyramids in the North, the cattle trade and all that. The West and East were doing fine.

“At that time we were very young and wouldn’t have understood the workings of government but all we knew was that things were working well.

“We are not saying we should turn down the wheel of progress by adopting regionalism. But in the presidential system which is the contentious issue, have we adopted the principles of true federalism in this system we are practicing?

“We are not, we just took some parts that are convenient from the American system and then centralized everything at the top because the military wanted to be in control of everything.

“Now we are in a civilian regime and we have adopted the same governance pattern of the military which was for their own convenience. It will not work because it has never worked. Instead Nigeria is falling apart.

“I am not saying that regionalism is better but what we are saying is that the restructuring of the system we have will do us better. If that restructuring takes us to true federalism, so be it.

“If that restructuring keeps us with the same federating units which are the states, with the devolution of power that will ensure that things at the local levels work well, so be it.

“Why are we asking for state police? We copied the American system and in that system there is local police and each one has its jurisdiction.

“So when the people are attacked and you cannot defend yourself, the local police are the first line of defence.

“So people who do not want such things are the supporters and perpetrators of this evil in the land because they do not want the evil to stop.

“They do not want the people to defend themselves. They want the people to be killed like rats.”

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