Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has said the need to rework the current federal arrangement in the country should be a major focus of delegates at the on-going national conference.
In a speech delivered at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, the former Vice President observed that the current federal structure arrogates too much functions and resources to the government at the centre, and thus killing the spirit of innovation and enterprise among the people – which is a critical component in building a self-sustaining economy.
While acknowledging his initial stance in opposing the constitution of the national conference, Atiku said that delegates at the conference should make the best of the opportunity.
“I want to assume that a new and improved Nigeria is the goal, and I believe that any opportunity for people to talk is better than to fight,” Atiku said.
According to him, “the National Conference should focus on designing a political and governmental system that empowers local authorities and gives them greater autonomy to address peculiar local issues, and enhances accountability, while contributing to the general good of the country.”
He said the envisaged robust federal system would reduce the tensions that are built into the nation’s current over-centralized system.
He noted that the current federal structure in Nigeria -which he termed unitary federalism – is a creation by and for the military governments of the past.
“As more power was concentrated in the centre, the federal government appropriated more resources and expanded its responsibilities.
All of these were done in the name of promoting national unity. And the process was relatively easy as the unified command structure of the military ensured little opposition.
“Therefore, fixing Nigeria, to me, will require reversing decades of over-centralization of power and over-concentration of resources at the centre,” he said.
The former Vice President also observed that whereas the purpose of the unified federal structure was to foster national unity, “the notion that over-centralization and an excessively powerful centre is equivalent to national unity is false” and had indeed “made our unity more fragile and our government more unstable.”
He advocated the renegotiation of our union in order to make it stronger by granting “greater autonomy, power and resources for states and local authorities” which will ultimately “unleash our people’s creative energies and spur more development.”
He debunked insinuations that the top-heavy federal arrangement as is currently being operated is working to the favours of a section of the country.