Atiku canvasses true federalism, says Nigeria’s structure “not working”

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on Tuesday said the Federal Republic of Nigeria as currently constituted was not working, saying greater autonomy to states remained the panacea to the country’s multi-faceted internal crisis.

Mr. Atiku’s recommendations came when he spoke at the official launch of “We Are All Biafrans”, a new book by journalist and scholar, Chido Onumah, in Abuja.

Mr. Atiku, who was Nigeria’s vice-president between 1999-2007, said Nigerians had suffered for too long under a poorly-designed structure.

“Nigeria is not working, as well as it should,” Mr. Atiku said. “And part of the reason is the poor way we have structured our economy and governance especially since 1960.”

Mr. Atiku said the federal government’s powers dwindle those of states, consequently making it difficult for states to carry out customised initiatives for their individual residents, a situation he said “needs to change.”

“The federal government is too big and too powerful relative to the federating units,” Mr. Atiku said. “That situation needs to change and calling for that change is patriotic.”

Mr. Atiku also urged Nigerians to desist from labelling those clamouring for a weak centre in Nigeria’s political system.

“We must refrain from assuming that anyone calling for restructuring of our federation is working for the breakup of our country. Absolutely not. And I reject that notion.”

Mr. Atiku, who chaired the book launch, said the federal government could not foster national unity even with its enormous power, adding that it was worsening the country’s circumstances.

“An excessively powerful centre does not equate to national unity. Absolutely not,” Mr. Atiku argued. “If anything, it has made our unity more fragile, our government more unstable and our country more unsafe. We must renegotiate our union in order to make it strong.”

Mr. Atiku, therefore, urged Nigerians to embrace a restructured Nigeria, saying it would also reduce the importance politicians place on elections into federal positions.

“Greater autonomy, power and resources for state and local authority will give the federations units greater freedom and flexibility to address local issues for their priorities and peculiarities.

“It will reduce the premium placed on capturing power at the centre. It will reduce insecurity. It will promote healthy rivalry amongst federations units,” Mr. Atiku said.

The launching of “We Are All Biafrans”, which the author said took him three years to put together, was attended by former education minister, Oby Ezekwesili, civil society leaders, Jubrin Ibrahim and Nnimmo Bassey.

The book, which explains how the agitation for Biafra is actually a metaphor for all the tribes in the country, was reviewed by Chidi Odinkalu, a professor of law and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.

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