by Luke Onyekakeyah
Two contending issues of urgent national importance are confronting the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and may be giving the party headache. First is the issue of restructuring, which Nigerians are overwhelmingly demanding from the leadership. The other is the cattle colony proposal by the party arising from the spiraling massacres of innocent Nigerians in parts of the country.
Faced with these daunting challenges in less than a year to the 2019 general elections, the APC may be having sleepless nights. Notwithstanding the general low perception arising from unprecedented hardship, how the party handles these two critical issues would tell much on its chances in the 2019 general elections.
For instance, it is not clear how the APC intends to restructure the polity and at the same time proposing cattle colonies. The two are opposed to each other. Whereas Nigerians want restructuring for better governance, most people are opposed to cattle colonies particularly in Southern Nigeria. Only states in the Northern eco-zone, where cattle rearing are a traditional occupation, can buy into it. Otherwise, the two can’t go together.
When the country is truly restructured with each state being in full control of its own affairs including land resources, then the Federal Government would have no business with how farmers in the states should carry on with their farming operations and likewise the herdsmen. All these activities will automatically be the responsibility of the states. It is better for the APC to focus on restructuring and see it through.
On the restructuring issue, for instance, now that the APC appears to have made a sharp volte-face against its perceived earlier obdurate stand by reeling out what sounded like what Nigerians want. Over the past week, the APC Committee on Restructuring, headed by Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State, presented its report to the national Chairman of the Party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun in Abuja.
The committee’s key recommendations on devolution of power, resource control, making local government an affair of states, constitutional amendment to allow merger of states, state police, independent candidacy and fiscal federalism among many others are in tandem with restructuring and true federalism.But that is not the end of the story. Where do we go from this point? It is not just enough for the party to come up with recommendations at this point in time if they have no intention to implement and see them through by way of appropriate legislative amendments.
Let the restructuring commence without further delay since the recommendation has been made, otherwise it would appear that the party is tricking Nigerians because of the forthcoming elections.As would be expected, since the committee released its report, there have been criticisms against the APC with regard to the timing of the report. Why now many are asking? What is the next step? Many see the recommendations as designed to hoodwink Nigerians in the face of the impending general elections.
The only way the APC could dispel the reservations is to push the recommendations through the National Assembly (NASS) for them to be made operational through appropriate legislation. I have previously said it in this column that the APC has a duty to restructure Nigeria as part of its change mantra or another party will do it. The challenge is on the party and time is running out. Whatever needs to be done should be done urgently without delay.
Party Chairman, Odigie-Oyegun had stated, after receiving the report, that before the middle of February, the party would consider it. That is timely enough. Nigerians are waiting to see what next the APC is going to do on restructuring.Perhaps, one way out is for the APC-led Federal Government to back down on its proposed cattle colony and instead allow states to take charge of land resources as appropriate. Reports indicate that government may have “dumped the cattle colony” idea and asked states to handle the herdsmen/farmers clashes on their own.
A report by Daily Trust says the 10-man working committee set up by the National Economic Council (NEC) to end the attacks by herdsmen has decided that every state should design its own solution after consulting rigorously with stakeholders. That is to say, the Federal Government is allowing the states handle the matter, which is in tune with restructuring.
The committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo comprises the governors of Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Edo, Plateau, Ebonyi and Oyo states. Indications are that the committee has resolved that the Federal Government would not impose any solution on any states with regard to the herdsmen/farmers clashes.
The committee’s position corroborates with that of the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who said the best way to end the crisis between herdsmen and farmers is to dump open grazing for ranching, which he described as archaic and anachronistic.Ekweremadu who stated this at the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, where he delivered a lecture titled, “African Politics: The Dynamics and Lessons,” urged states to make laws to end open grazing.
Fortunately, some states have already enacted anti-open grazing law to curb indiscriminate killings by herdsmen. Ekiti and Benue states are examples. But some other states in the South are papering over the matter for selfish political interest. Ekweremadu reiterated that cattle rearing is a state matter as all lands are vested in the respective states under the Land Use Act in Nigeria. But his statement that the Federal Government should provide policy direction is uncalled for since the same government does not direct how poultry and other farmers carry on with their businesses.
Once the states take charge, the Federal Government would have no role to play in these domestic state matters. States will, as well, roll out appropriate policy instruments to direct the operations of farmers in all ramifications.It is clear from the foregoing that nothing would stop the APC from enacting the change it promised Nigerians by way of restructuring. Only the APC can stop itself. Nigerians are no longer political neophytes. Every step taken by any party in the political arena is carefully analysed and recorded. The score card shows on the Election Day. And nothing would thwart the will of the people.