Lagos lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Femi Falana has thrown his weight against recent calls for restructuring, arguing that restructuring the country will not guarantee unity and political stability of the country.
Falana stated this in a paper he presented at the 19th Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos on Wednesday, saying “The country has always been restructured by the ruling class and that the current structure was imposed by the fiat of military dictators. No doubt, the country is ripe for restructuring or power devolution but it cannot guarantee unity and political stability without the democratisation of powers and equitable redistribution of the commonwealth along egalitarian lines.”
According to Falana, “Restructuring without the equitable redistribution of the commonwealth will not promote unity or political stability. Unity is not an abstract phenomenon. In concrete terms, unity means the corporate existence of Nigeria. The fact that the unity of the country is based on ruthless exploitation of the working people is of no moment as far as members of the ruling class are concerned. Since the rich are united in exploiting our national resources the exploited poor and oppressed people should unite to free themselves from poverty.”
The paper read in part: “A leading PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has become one of the leading proponents of restructuring. But his support for restructuring has not addressed the crucial issue of the redistribution of the national wealth. After all, in his capacity as the nation’s Vice President and chairman of the National Council on Privatisation, Alhaji Abubakar presided over the restructuring of the nation’s economy through the liquidation of public assets and the privatization of the commanding height of the economy.
“The policy led to a situation whereby all major public enterprises and assets including oil blocks were sold to the so called “core investors”. Such official transfer of the commonwealth to a few local and foreign corporate bodies will have to be reversed in the interests of the people.
“The nation cannot be seriously restructured without equitable redistribution of wealth. Therefore, those who have cornered our commonwealth should not be allowed to talk of restructuring in vacuo. In other words, the campaign for restructuring should encompass the decentralization and democratization of political and economic powers which have been privatised by all factions of the ruling class.
“Since the Constitution has clearly stated that the welfare and security of the people shall be the primary purpose of government, Nigerians must demand an end to a policy that allows political office holders and civil servants who constitute less than 1% of the population to continue to allocate 70% of the nation’s resources to themselves.
“If the Federal Government could withdraw US$12.4 billion from the foreign reserves to pay questionable external debts and subsidize the local bourgeoisie with intervention funds running to trillions of Naira it cannot turn round to complain of lack of fund to fix collapsed social infrastructures, education, health transportation and agriculture and create jobs for our army of unemployed youths.
“The recovery of the stolen wealth of the nation by foreign and local thieves should be a collective battle while the fund recovered from corrupt public officers and their privies is spent on job creation and fixing of hospitals and schools as well as the provision of other social services.
“Out of despondency and disenchantment with the political system some groups of young men and women have demanded for the balkanization of the country. However, the majority of members of the ruling class have insisted on restructuring as a basis for the corporate existence of the country. Religious groups have recommended prayers as the panacea to the myriad of problems plaguing the nation. On its own part, the Buhari regime has identified corruption as the root cause of the nation’s underdevelopment.
“While the working class and the masses are left out of the debate the ruling class parties and the retired army officers who wield enormous influence in them have kicked against any form of power devolution. These propositions are being canvassed to cover up the real cause of the underdevelopment of the country.
“The Minister of Information and the spokesperson for the Buhari administration, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has cautioned Nigerians not to make the mistake of returning to Egypt by voting for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Although the Minister did not say whether the All Progressive Congress (APC) is actually taking the Nigerian people to the Promised Land it is indisputable that we are currently stranded in the desert.
“Convinced that the programmes and manifestoes of the ruling party and the mainstream opposition political parties cannot take Nigeria to the Promised Land I challenge the Nigerian people to take their destiny in their own hands by organising themselves to demand for the actualisation of the fundamental objectives and directive principles set out in Chapter two of the Constitution.
“The economy cannot be transformed in favour of Nigeria on the basis of the dangerous prescriptions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Nigerians should therefore be prepared to challenge the recycled neo-liberal managers of the economy who continue to insist on the dominance of market forces which have been discredited by the crisis of global capitalism.
“While religious leaders are entitled to prepare the country for heaven they must team up with patriotic forces to organize, empower and mobilize our people through their unions, associations, collectives and religious groups to rebuild the country on the platform of social justice and equity. Otherwise, the unity of Nigeria will remain a mirage.
“To achieve the objective of empowering our people religious bodies must join the struggle for equitable redistribution of the wealth of the nation. In praying for our country religious bodies must expose the Christian and Muslim public officers whose policies are promoting poverty in the society.
“We must reject the shameful categorisation of Nigeria as a rich country with the largest concentration of poor people in the world. It is high time that poverty was seriously attacked through the empowerment of the masses and job creation for young people. We must reject poverty alleviation or reduction and demand poverty eradication.
“Even though President Buhari has threatened to jail corrupt elements in the society he has no control over the criminal justice system that is largely controlled by the suspects and their lawyers. As no corrupt-free government can be established in a country where the majority of the citizens wallow in abject poverty, it is high time government reviewed its market-oriented economic programme inspired by imperialist forces.
“The political class which inherited the structures of colonisation has perfected the manipulation of ethnicity and religion to keep the oppressed people divided and disunited so that they will not challenge the basis of their poverty and ignorance. Since the ideas of the ruling class are the prevailing and dominant ideology many professional and religious groups have equally been divided along ethnic lines. In view of such manipulation the masses have been made to believe that Nigeria cannot be a united country.
“The PDP which never altered the status quo when it had the opportunity of ruling the country for 16 years is currently demanding restructuring as a basis of moving the nation forward. The leading sociocultural groups have also opted for restructuring to guarantee the development and corporate existence of the country. But the Buhari administration has kicked against restructuring so as to prevent the purported break-up of the country and has therefore insisted on the fight against corruption and judicious management of resources.”
RipplesNigeria… without borders, without fears