Why we must restructure Nigeria, by Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice President and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday called for the restructuring of the country.

At a public presentation of a book entitled We Are All Biafrans by Chido Onumah in Abuja, Atiku said his call was based on ongoing allegations of marginalisation by some Nigerians.

According to Atiku, the structure of the country is heavily defective as it does not provide the enabling environment for growth and progress among the 36 component states of the federation.

The former vice president who spoke against the backdrop of renewed agitations by militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) recalled how Nigeria once operated a federal system at independence that allowed the regions to retain their autonomy, raise and retain revenues, promote development, and conduct their affairs as they saw fit, while engaging in healthy competition with others.

He said: “Agitations by many right-thinking Nigerians call for a restructuring and renewal of our federation to make it less centralised, less suffocating and less dictatorial in the affairs of our country’s constituent units and localities.
“As some of you may know, I have for a long time advocated the need to restructure our federation. Our current structure and the practices it has encouraged have been a major impediment to the economic and political development of our country. In short it has not served Nigeria well, and at the risk of reproach it has not served my part of the country, the North, well.
“The call for restructuring is even more relevant today in light of the governance and economic challenges facing us. And the rising tide of agitations, some militant and violent, require a reset in our relationships as a united nation.”

Atiku who chaired the occasion noted: “Some may say that we are saddled with more urgent challenges, including rebuilding our battered economy, creating jobs, fighting corruption and securing our people from terrorism and other forms of serious crimes. I believe, however, that addressing the flaws in our federation will help us address some of those very economic and security challenges facing this country.
“Nigeria must remain a united country. Our potential is enormous. But I also believe that a united country, which I think most Nigerians desire, should never be taken for granted or taken as evidence that Nigerians are content with the current structure of the federation.

“Making that mistake might set us on the path of losing the country we love or, as Chido Onumah puts it, result in our ‘country sleepwalking to disaster.’”

He continued: “Let me quickly acknowledge that no federal system is set for all time. There are always tensions arising from matters relating to the sharing of power, resources and responsibilities. But established democracies have developed peaceful mechanisms for resolving such conflicts among the tiers of government. They recognise that negotiations and compromises are eternal.”

Blaming over-dependence on oil for the rot in the polity, he canvassed the devolution of powers and resources to states and local governments, a tax-centred revenue base, diversified economic activities and productivity in order to enlarge the tax base, an end to the indigene-settler dichotomy, and state police to augment the federal police for the states that so desire that system.

He thereby urged well-meaning Nigerians to refrain from assuming that anyone calling for the restructuring of the federation is working for the breakup of the country.

“An excessively powerful centre does not equate national unity. 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 stronger. Greater autonomy, power and resources for states and local authorities will give the federating units greater freedom and flexibility to address local issues, priorities and peculiarities.

“ It will help to unleash our people’s creative energies and spur more development. It will reduce the premium placed on capturing power at the centre. It will help with improving security. It will promote healthy rivalries among the federating units and local authorities. It will help make us richer and stronger as a nation.”

Atiku who fielded questions on the multifaceted problems besetting the polity advised the authorities to use the “carrot and stick “approach to resolve the problems associated with militants in the Niger Delta region.

Recalling how he came up with the master plan for the development of the Niger Delta, he disclosed that he was the brain behind the establishment of the Niger Delta Ministry, wondering why the ministry was sited in Abuja as against the original intent of siting it in the Niger Delta to be able to address the developmental needs of the oil-rich region.

Atiku also enjoined the authorities to privatise the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and set aside no less than $20 billion to address the developmental needs of the Niger Delta region.

Regretting that Nigeria had the misfortune of ending up with “accidental leadership,” he expressed the hope that the country would get the right leadership in due course.

He expressing dissatisfaction with President Muhammadu Buhari over the spate of the farmers-herders clashes in the polity saying: “We have a leader who is not prepared to learn from the past.”

Atiku who recollected how he lost 300 cows to cattle rustlers from neighbouring Cameroun said: “Again, here we come back to the same economic challenges that are facing the country but we also have a leadership that is not prepared to learn from the past and the leadership that is not prepared to lead.”

He, however, gave Buhari a pass mark over his performance in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency, and on the ant-graft campaign just as he maintained that Buhari needs more time to fix the comatose economy.

He insisted that as long as the problems of insecurity in the Niger Delta persist, Nigeria would not be able to tackle the problem of power supply since it remains dependent on the supply of gas.

Recalling the Philippines experience, he insists that the viable solution to the power problem remains the establishment of captive power stations dependent on hydro, coal and other sources of energy supply.


  1. See what State creation did for you in Nigeria, folks: – IBB’s administration was advised to make the Old Regional HQs – Kaduna, Ibadan, and Enugu Cosmopolitan Centers like Lagos for the obvious reason that the people in the centers have lived together for over 150 years and have not only developed but built the zones to almost Industrial towns such that to let their older generations move to new areas would not only be detrimental but infringe hardships of unpredictable proportions on them – i.e. the older generations! He was told to leave the old HQs as nucleus and to create new States as ‘satellites’ areas comprising of the LGs already structured on ethnic and customary affiliations and dictates! The aim of the suggestion was to still maintain (not to disturb) that homogeneity or miscegenation and the cohesion nascent over the 100 years the people have been living together! And possibly maintain or continue with the same old financial sourcing for the entire, ‘Federated – i.e. the six geo-political’ system as being proposed, would have afforded them against what the situation is now whereby some of the States cannot fend for themselves after the creation leading to the bailing-out policy by the Federal Centre now and again!

    The State creation therefore brought about the collapse of the already inherent miscegenation such that in worse case scenarios, families had to break up and established businesses and such as industries had to be closed under the pressure of the new policies by the managers in the ‘Old HQs States – if you can decipher/visualize what I mean here! The model if they had accepted it would have meant that technicians and the old hands in the ‘Old HQs’ would have been deployed – i.e. poached to go to the new satellites States to help out with technical problems and the maintenance of same with the aim of given time, to gradually transfer such know-how than what was the outcome – envy, acrimonious and hatred as a result of the wrong approach to the exercise! If his administration did it the way it was proposed to them, obviously Nigeria would have been better off with the arrangement than what we have presently – some of the States not only do not have the means financially but no technicians to help in maintaining any structures they have! And such Infrastructures like Air port could have been shared as in the past! To now aspire to build such air ports and other facilities that could have been used commonly and also sustain the financial resources but gone to tarnish the old-age relationship over the 100 years in some of the weaker States! It is these lost grounds that the recommendations of the Confab seek to re-kindle or restore for Nigerians – the confidence and trust in the people as before the creation of State and indeed the civil war for meaningful development having lived together and maintaine such ties ub their relationships all these useful years only to be disturbed/ tampered with State creation!

    A revert to ‘Confederated States’ as suggested as part of the Confab recommendations would therefore bring back or go to repair/restore some of the lost grounds as a result of the failed State creation policy!


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