Saraki: Mis­trust Trig­gered by Hate Speeches Caused Re­jec­tion of Power Devo­lu­tion Bill

Says hope not lost, as bill could be rep­re­sented after more con­sul­ta­tion

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Onye­buchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki said yes­ter­day in Ilorin that the devo­lu­tion of power to the fed­er­at­ing units, which is at the core of the mount­ing re­struc­tur­ing ag­i­ta­tion, was re­jected by the Na­tional Assem­bly due to sus­pi­cion and ten­sion cre­ated lately by a tor­rent of hate speeches from var­i­ous parts of the coun­try. Saraki, how­ever, ex­plained that the power devo­lu­tion bill still stood a chance in the con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment process, with more con­sul­ta­tion to en­able the leg­is­la­tors and other stake­hold­ers get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the is­sues. He spoke after re­ceiv­ing a del­e­ga­tion of the Not-Too-Young-To- Run group in the state.

The Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which are dom­i­nated by All Pro­gres­sives Congress, passed dif­fer­ent bills last week on the al­ter­ation of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion after har­mon­is­ing the re­ports of the con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment com­mit­tees of both cham­bers.

Speak­ing on why the devo­lu­tion of power failed to get the Na­tional Assem­bly’s ap­proval, Saraki said, “We must be hon­est with our­selves that presently there is a lot of mis­trust in the coun­try. The air is very pol­luted and let’s be very frank, that blame must go round; whether it be the politi­cians, or some who are do­ing com­men­taries and even some of you in the me­dia who some­times write stories that are more like hate speeches, that are in­ac­cu­rate.

“I think what hap­pened was that a lot of peo­ple mis­read or mis­un­der­stood or were sus­pi­cious of what the devo­lu­tion was all about; whether it was the same thing as re­struc­tur­ing in an­other way or an at­tempt to foist con­fed­er­a­tion on the coun­try or to pre­pare the ground for other cam­paigns now go­ing on in the coun­try.. And they made a lot of ap­peal that we had not con­sulted with our con­stituen­cies and you can see what is hap­pen­ing; there was a meet­ing in Kaduna yes­ter­day (Fri­day) where it was clear that cer­tain parts of the coun­try wanted more time to un­der­stand what re­struc­tur­ing is for dis­cus­sion.

“So it is clear that not all sen­a­tors were on board. We have spo­ken a lot with the sen­a­tors be­cause we can­not bully them or stam­pede them, be­cause at the end of the day, this coun­try be­longs to all of us. You can­not has­sle me out of the coun­try. Nei­ther can I has­sle you out. What we must do is di­a­logue; re­as­sure each other and let peo­ple un­der­stand that this con­cept is for the pur­pose of mak­ing a mod­ern Nige­ria; that it is not go­ing to in any way un­der­mine any part of the coun­try.

“I want to ap­peal for calm­ness. I am sure with the en­gage­ment go­ing on, there will be di­a­logue. I am also sure that by the time we come back from the present re­cess, peo­ple gen­er­ally would have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing that devo­lu­tion of pow­ers to states as re­gards some of the is­sues that were put in that bill, is not a threat to any part of the coun­try and I am hope­ful that there would be change of mind and po­si­tion.”

How­ever, Saraki said, “Noth­ing is fore­closed in this ex­er­cise; you don’t fore­close pas­sage of bill.”

He said, “The fact that devo­lu­tion lost that day does not mean that after the re­cess, if a lot of con­sul­ta­tions are done again, it will not scale through.”

The power devo­lu­tion bill was among the bills that failed to scale through on the floors of the Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives when votes were taken in the on-go­ing con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment ex­er­cise, even though the two cham­bers are con­trolled by the All Pro­gres­sives Congress.

Even though it promised re­struc­tur­ing to­wards devo­lu­tion of power and greater en­trench­ment of fed­er­al­ism as a car­di­nal po­lit­i­cal and gov­er­nance strat­egy while cam­paign­ing for power in 2015, APC lost con­trol over the process needed to achieve its pro­fessed re­form. THISDAY learnt that the com­mit­tee recently set up by the rul­ing party to ar­tic­u­late its po­si­tion on the burn­ing is­sue of re­struc­tur­ing had hardly taken off be­fore both cham­bers of the APC-con­trolled Na­tional Assem­bly threw out the mat­ter last week, when they voted on items to amend in the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion.

Sec­tion 25 of the party’s man­i­festo for the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion said, “APC be­lieves that our pol­i­tics is bro­ken. Our na­tion ur­gently needs fun­da­men­tal po­lit­i­cal re­form and im­prove­ment in gov­er­nance to make it more trans­par­ent and ac­count­able.”

The party then promised, “APC will ini­ti­ate ac­tion to amend our con­sti­tu­tion with a view to de­volv­ing pow­ers, du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to states and lo­cal gov­ern­ments in or­der to en­trench fed­er­al­ism and the fed­eral spirit.”

APC had be­come rather an­tag­o­nis­tic to sug­ges­tion of a fun­da­men­tal re­strict­ing of the polity soon after its over­whelm­ing vic­tory at the 2015 pres­i­den­tial, gov­er­nor­ship, and Na­tional Assem­bly elec­tions. This was de­spite mount­ing de­mand for po­lit­i­cal re­form. How­ever, bow­ing to pres­sure, APC set up a nine-mem­ber com­mit­tee on July 19, headed by Gov­er­nor Nasir el-Ru­fai of Kaduna State, to ad­dress the ag­i­ta­tions for re­struc­tur­ing and ar­tic­u­late the po­si­tion of the party. Other mem­bers of the com­mit­tee es­tab­lished dur­ing the fifth joint reg­u­lar meet­ing be­tween APC’s Na­tional Work­ing Com­mit­tee and state gov­er­nors elected on its plat­form in­cluded Gov­er­nors Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Ab­dul­lahi Gan­duje (Kano), Si­mon La­long (Plateau), and Ibikunle Amo­sun (Ogun). Also in the com­mit­tee were for­mer gov­er­nor of Edo State, Oser­heimen Osun­bor; APC’s na­tional or­gan­is­ing sec­re­tary, Osita Izu­naso; the party’s na­tional pub­lic­ity sec­re­tary, Bo­laji Ab­dul­lahi; and Sen­a­tor Olubunmi Ade­tun­mbi, who was made sec­re­tary to the com­mit­tee.

But a re­li­able source in the com­mit­tee said at the week­end that the group on re­struc­tur­ing had met only once since it was con­sti­tuted. He dis­closed that there would be an­other meet­ing by Fri­day.

The con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment com­mit­tees of the Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives had de­cided to consider the items pen­cilled in for al­ter­ation in sep­a­rate bills to avoid the ex­pe­ri­ence in the sev­enth ses­sion of the Na­tional Assem­bly when the amend­ment process was ap­proached in a sin­gle bill that failed in the end. The eighth Na­tional Assem­bly de­seg­re­gated the items into about 32 bills, which in­cluded bills on devo­lu­tion of power, state po­lice, and others aimed at strength­en­ing the fed­eral struc­ture. Those bills that tended to­wards greater fed­er­al­ism were de­feated dur­ing vot­ing on the har­monised po­si­tions of the two cham­bers last week.

The passed amend­ment bills will now be for­warded to the Houses of Assem­bly of the 36 states of the fed­er­a­tion, where 24 as­sem­blies, be­ing two-third, must pass each of the bills be­fore they can be sent to the pres­i­dent for his as­sent to make them laws.

De­spite hav­ing ma­jor­ity of mem­bers in the Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, APC failed to a get a firm grip on amend­ment process, re­sult­ing in its leg­is­la­tors tak­ing po­si­tions that con­tra­dict the party’s prom­ises. What this means is that the party and its key stake­hold­ers are work­ing at cross-pur­poses as far re­struc­tur­ing and con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment are con­cerned.

The ini­tial dis­cor­dant tones in the party came when the na­tional chair­man, Chief John Odigie-Oye­gun, de­nied that APC was at­tempt­ing to re­pu­di­ate its po­si­tion on car­ry­ing out a re­struc­tur­ing as con­tained in its man­i­festo. But Odigie-Oye­gun’s po­si­tion dif­fered from El-Ru­fai’s, who like most politi­cians in the North, op­posed re­struc­tur­ing. El-Ru­fai added that the re­port of the 2014 na­tional con­fer­ence should not be used as ba­sis for con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment or re­struc­tur­ing.

How­ever, the na­tional lead­er­ship of the rul­ing party later re­solved, along with the gov­er­nors elected on its plat­form, to set up a com­mit­tee on re­struc­tur­ing. It was learnt that the party re­gret­ted its mis­take of not including the lead­er­ships of its Na­tional Assem­bly cau­cuses as in the re­struc­tur­ing com­mit­tee.

Not­with­stand­ing the ex­is­tence of the APC com­mit­tee on re­struc­tur­ing, the North­ern States Gov­er­nors Fo­rum met in Kaduna on Fri­day and set up an­other re­struc­tur­ing com­mit­tee with the gov­er­nor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tam­bawal, as its chair­man.

Many be­lieve vot­ing on the amend­ment bills at the state as­sem­blies would fol­low the dic­tates of the gov­er­nors, due to their firm grip on the in­sti­tu­tions. It would also be in­flu­enced by re­gional or eth­nic con­sid­er­a­tions, as the rul­ing party has failed to really ar­tic­u­late and push its po­si­tions on the process.

A top APC leader, while ex­press­ing his frus­tra­tion at the con­flict­ing po­si­tions within in the party, said, “I think the com­mit­tee on re­struc­tur­ing has lost its rel­e­vance. It seems to me that what­ever the com­mit­tee may be do­ing now will just be a mere aca­demic ex­er­cise, un­less it is go­ing to guide party mem­bers in the Houses of Assem­bly, who will still have to vote on the amend­ments.”

Asked why APC’s Na­tional Assem­bly cau­cus lead­ers were not in­volved in the re­struc­tur­ing com­mit­tee, the party leader, who did not want to be named, stated, “One of the ini­tial moves that the com­mit­tee made was to get the party chair­man to en­gage the party's cau­cuses at the Na­tional Assem­bly and ask them to slow down on this is­sue of con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment, es­pe­cially the as­pect that has to do with is­sues of re­struc­tur­ing, like devo­lu­tion of pow­ers. But, some­how, the chair­man failed to reach out to the lead­er­ship of the cau­cuses be­fore they be­gan con­sid­er­a­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment.

“Right now, as you can see, the Na­tional Assem­bly has gone ahead to adopt a po­si­tion on the key is­sues in the con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment. It is quite un­likely that when the APC re­struc­tur­ing com­mit­tee com­pletes its work it would im­pact any­more on the po­si­tion the Na­tional Assem­bly had taken.

“The nor­mal thing would have been for the com­mit­tee to fin­ish its work in good time so that the party will be able to com­mu­ni­cate this to their mem­bers in the Na­tional Assem­bly and to high­light its po­si­tion to them.”

The source added, “This is cou­pled with the fact that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of th­ese leg­is­la­tors prob­a­bly may not have seen a copy of the APC man­i­festo. Added to that is the move by the north­ern gov­er­nors to meet and ar­tic­u­late a po­si­tion on re­struc­tur­ing. When con­sid­ered against the back­drop of the fact that most of th­ese north­ern gov­er­nors are APC mem­bers who are also mem­bers of the re­struc­tur­ing com­mit­tee of the party.

“The re­sul­tant sce­nario will be con­fu­sion, be­cause if the north­ern gov­er­nors fo­rum takes a po­si­tion that con­tra­dicts what this com­mit­tee is put­ting for­ward as the party's po­si­tion, then what will hap­pen?

“It just seems that peo­ple are just mak­ing mo­tions with­out think­ing of what its im­pli­ca­tions will be.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.