We take Buhari’s pronouncement on federalism with a pinch of salt ― Afenifere

It isn't mere grandstand ― UPGA

Nigerians at the weekend reacted to the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigeria was desirous of true federalism and his administration commitment to it.

The Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere in its reaction took President Buhari’s concern with reservation as it noted that it was not impressed with the mere pronouncement.

The national publicity secretary of the forum, Yinka Odumakin in an interview said the present administration has enough document to examine and implement if truly it was committed to putting the nation on the path to what the major and minority ethnic groups have longed for: true federalism. Odumakin cited the report of the constitutional conference set up by the former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and report of true federalism committee led by Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai.

Tribune Online checks revealed that the Nasir el-Rufai committee was a creation of the All Progressives Congress national working committee under its erstwhile chairman, Odigie Oyegun.

He said: “The statement doesn’t say much. In 1947, Chief Obafemi Awolowo wrote a book, Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution where he predicted what is happening now. He predicted fighting amongst the ethnic groups if we don’t run Nigeria as a federation. That was before the 1957 Constitution and since then there have been various agitations that Nigeria can’t continue along unitary lines. We have had NADECO, we have had PRONACO, Southern and Middle Belt Forum.

“In 2015, the APC had federalism in its manifesto, but now they are telling Nigerians that they don’t know the meaning and asking Nigerians for the definition of restructuring. The party set up the Nasir el-Rufai committee on true federalism. The committee came up with similar recommendations of the 2015 national conference.

We had an election and Atiku campaigned on restructuring. So, what does he mean when he is now talking about federalism? He should look at the report of the 2015 conference set up by Jonathan or the el-Rufai committee report.

“It is a mere pronouncement that he is now pandering to true federalism. He doesn’t want to hear about State police and yet he is talking about true federalism. How?”

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National chairman of the United Progressives Grand Alliance, (UPGA) Chief Chekwas Okorie, however, disagreed with Afenifere. He told Tribune Online that Buhari was not known for frivolities as he noted that he made the pledge after general elections have been won and lost and therefore, did not make the pronouncement to curry the favour of voters.

He said: “I can tell you that I know a little bit of Buhari. He isn’t somebody that speaks to patronise and he wouldn’t say what he wouldn’t do. He isn’t into political correctness like Atiku would say something that isn’t even in the manifesto of PDP. Atiku talked about restructuring even when his party doesn’t even believe in it.

“But true federalism is in the manifesto of APC. Instead, what it was being accused of is that it needed to implement that aspect of their manifesto.

“I am also aware that the el-Rufai committee which the national working committee of the APC set up came up with very strong recommendations for a true federal structure which included so many things that are being talked about in restructuring. That document is before him and since he won his election, he has been making the right statements of an inclusive government, he has said severally without being prompted that he will correct some of the lapses of his first tenure and it is in that regard that he has now made this very profound statement that at this juncture in our political evolution that a true federal structure is highly needed.

“He is a serious-minded person. Having said this, I can assure you that it won’t be long you begin to see things to show that it wasn’t mere grandstand because he made this statement after the election. So nobody can accuse him of making a politically expedient statement to win the election. He has already won. So, what I expect to come from him in due course is Executive Bill to the national assembly to address some of the issues that will make Nigeria a better federation. “