Sen Ahmed M. Makarfi “I believe with no illusion, that a restructuring which will work for all has to be comprehensive, holistic and fair. And it must be one in which all of our various groups have a seat at the table, discuss, negotiate, dialogue and arrive at consensus. I believe without any iota of doubt, that if our generation does what is required of it, we will establish an inclusive governance, restore mutual trust, eliminate mutual suspicion”
Sen Makarfi in a speech in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State titled, The Quest for Restructure in Nigeria, a Restructure that Makes Sense in a Diverse Nigeria and in an Era of Digital Youths said, that this country has never been as tensed up as it is today; never been so divided; our fault lines never been so accentuated; the fabrics holding us never been so strained as the country seems to dance on the precipice, all because of failure of leadership to inspire confidence in all segments of the society and harness our diversity and convert it into a positive force to take us to higher levels.
The Senator who was represented by Capt Bishop Johnson (US Army Rtd) had this to say, the full text:
*Speech by Sen. Dr. Ahmed M. Makarfi (CON),*
At The Nigerian Youth Summit 2nd Edition, Southeast Chapter at Abakaliki Township Stadium, Ebonyi State, 25th day of August, 2018.
I stand before you today fully cognizant, as are many of you in this audience, that this country has never been as tensed up as it is today; never been so divided; our fault lines never been so accentuated; the fabrics holding us never been so strained as the country seems to dance on the precipice, all because of failure of leadership to inspire confidence in all segments of the society and harness our diversity and convert it into a positive force to take us to higher levels. These are not the best of times for Nigeria. That this country has seen better days is not in doubt; so is our capacity as a people to, not only return it to those better days but even better that. I am always overwhelmed by nostalgia, whenever I remember those good old days when there was mutual trust and confidence amongst our people; when we all looked at issues largely from a Nigerian prism despite our heterogeneity and subsumed all interests into the larger Nigerian one. We are not here to dissect what went wrong, but to proffer a way out. At the risk of falling off the cliff, just barely hanging by a thin thread, we really have no choice than to admit that our country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, lies in the paths of sundry tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, storms, super storms, whirlwinds, and typhoons all of which are rushing towards our Republic with deadly speeds and their catastrophic and devastating momentum.
We all know that humans cannot, with precision, predict what the future holds. But they can interrogate, assess and calibrate the past and present so as to reasonably forecast it, thereby preparing against and averting preventable situations capable of stunting a nation’s forward march. In particular, patriots are duty-bound to seek and say the truth about their country even if doing so results in being perceived, rightly or wrongly, either as the apostles of hope or prophets of doom.
Fortunately as well as unfortunately for Nigerians, we no longer need to predict the approach of any gales for our republic. The gales of doom have not only approached our doors, they gustily and ferociously bang on them.
Those were the words of Professor Sola Adeyeye, Chief Whip, Senate Federal Republic of Nigeria in a public lecture delivered on July 28, 2018 at the University of Ibadan.
Based on the above premise, my job today is by no means an easy one. I am however, hopeful that at the end, I would have struck a chord or two with you on the subject matter.
Every generation of a people has to deal with one challenge or the other. Whether each generation will face a challenge in their lifetime is therefore not the question, the questions is, how any particular generation deals with its challenges or even whether it simply or easily kicks the can down the road for the next generation to confront them, which is an unforgivable abdication of responsibility.
The generation before us had to face colonialism and how to end it and liberate our people from the shackles of foreign rule, while keeping us united as a nation-state with one goal, one future and one destiny. Their goal was to build a vibrant, united and prosperous nation out of diverse and very well-endowed nationalities
So, 58 years ago, the former British West African colony called Nigeria, fought and won the right for self-determination and to chart a new course. All was ripe and Nigeria then was poised to become a political and economic superpower in Africa; arid and fertile soil in the north for agriculture, large fossil oil and natural gas deposits in the south, access to ocean for shipping, commerce and international trade in the west, large deposit of coal in the east for energy, and other mineral deposits abound all over the land and a relatively educated workforce to pilot the affairs of the young nation.
Nigeria was on the match to greatness, then tragedy struck, a coup d’état and counter coup d’état and subsequent civil war that saw hundreds of billions of naira worth of infrastructure and property destroyed, millions of citizens’ lives cut short in a senseless and needless war that pitted brother against brother, friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor.
It will be right and correct to say that Nigeria is yet to recover from her post-independence indiscretions. Since the end of the civil war, Nigeria has found it difficult to truly and properly reintegrate and unite its people. It has been unable to iron out and adopt a working constitution that accommodates the rights and interests of all of her people. It faces various agitations by various groups for various reasons. It has been on downward spiral economically, morally, socially and politically. Hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue have been looted in an endemic and systemic corruption in high places both in public and private sectors, as ordinary citizens wallow in preventable abject poverty, critical infrastructure have decayed and, in any case, grossly inadequate for our fast-growing population.
All manner of security challenges with little or no workable solutions in sight as security agencies seem unable and incapable of halting killings across the land, a planet in peril, farmers and herders clash as the quest for declining resources and land increases, poverty, cost of basic food items and transportation on the rise, homelessness and increasing hopelessness, a broken education system with incessant industrial strike actions as educationists clash with government over salaries, infrastructure and working conditions, a healthcare system in chaos with brain drain order of the day and lack of medicine as leaders jet off to seek medical care abroad, weak institutions, a political system that encourages participation of only the mighty and the powerful, a teeming youth population that is demanding more and more services and rightly so.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, our great youths, brothers and sisters, the challenges we face today are many, they are serious and they are real. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time, but know it Nigeria, they are not insurmountable. They can and will be met, if and only if our generation and the leadership do their part. These challenges could be challenged and conquered if we chose hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. They could be surmounted if we ended the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas that for far too long have divided us, strangled our nation and stunted our economic growth and rendered so many of our young men and women jobless in a country that otherwise should be prosperous.
I come from Kaduna State and Kaduna State as we all know is one state that is divided along ethno-religious lines; with the north and south largely dominated by Muslims and Christians respectively, which makes it a replica of the situation we have in Nigeria as a country. Reason, perhaps why the state is rightly described as mini Nigeria.
When I came into office as the governor of Kaduna State in 1999, my administration came into office faced with mountains of challenges, none of which was a piece of cake. In the entire state, only about six towns were connected to the national power grid and most places were not accessible by road, lack of infrastructure, ethno-religious crisis, largely on account of marginalization and a feeling of subjugation by many communities leading to age-old agitations for self-determination, which were often given expressions through violence, massive youth unemployment, revenue shortfalls and so many other ills that all combined to exacerbate the situation. The state was marred in crisis as ethnic rivalry, mistrust and suspicion amongst the multitudes of ethnic nationalities in the state hampered cooperation and development.
Our government swung into action immediately. We built coalition of the various ethnic and religious groups. We created many chiefdoms and districts to address the yearnings for self-determination. We also ensured even spread of appointments and projects to assuage feeling of alienation and give a sense of belonging to all segments of the state. By so doing, we substantially restored mutual trust, which ensured that all, or most worked together for the common good of the state.
Our handling of the Shari’ah crisis of 2000 was what actually catapulted us and our capacity for leadership of diverse and complex settings, into not only national but international consciousness. The tripartite legal system, which we introduced in consultation with stakeholders across the state, addressed the Muslim agitation for Shari’a, customary court system for the non-Muslims, while the Common Law applied to all. That way, nobody left empty handed.
To tackle the growing youth unemployment and reduce youth restiveness, we established and built Kaduna State University to give our youths more access to university education and develop to their full and God given potentials. We empowered over three hundred thousand youths by training them in various vocational trades and skills and gave them grants to start their own businesses.
We also embarked on massive infrastructural development in the state. We constructed roads to link every part of the state. By the time we left office, we had connected over 80% of the state to the national power grid.
We were only able to achieve all these because they were within our constitutional mandate as a state. As a nation, we definitely can achieve more if we devolve more powers to the states and local governments and grant them more autonomy to manage their own affairs. Each state and local government area can then embark on policies and programs that address their unique challenges.
In 2005, I was appointed the chairman of the committee that laid the ground work for the national political reform conference organized by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The report of that committee was comprehensive, holistic and covered every aspect of our corporate existence as a nation, even though it was later watered down as some parts of it were branded as no-go areas.
We believed, as committee then, (I still do). that if we were to end constant and perennial agitations, accusations and counter accusations of marginalization and put our country on the part of socioeconomic and political growth, create job and employment for teaming youth population and unleash our potential to greatness, we must restructure our country and devolve power in a manner that was comprehensive, holistic and fair to all, a restructure that should address the concerns of the young and not so young, men and women, boys and girls, able and disable, north and south, east and west, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Ijaw, Tiv, Igala, minority and majority, Muslims and Christians etc.
Interestingly, most of Nigeria’s challenges are well known and documented. What we have lacked over the years has been the political will and the right leadership to take the bull by horn by taking difficult, but right decisions.
Going forward, it is imperative that we dust off those reports, particularly the original committee report of the 2005 national political reform conference and the 2014 national conference report, take another look at them with a view to removing what is outdated and addressing new and emerging challenges to reflect the realities of today and tomorrow.
We must not be scared of coming together to discuss how best we can continuously perfect our union, even as we try to understand our diversities and come up with the best ways to harness them for the benefit of all of us. We must also not shy away from discussing any issue(s); we must bring everything to the table for deliberation and resolution.
It has also been my belief and I have tried to make the point at every opportunity, that as we chart a way forward, the debate must carry along institutions and agencies of state so that they too will get a fair dose of the restructuring treatment. You will agree with me that our institutions and agencies, as presently constituted are more of instruments or even toys at the hands of the controllers of the political levers of the country. This is not as it should be. These institutions like the armed forces, Police and other security agencies as well anti-corruption outfits are supposed to be unbiased outfits whose function should be to serve and protect the people, rather than what obtains currently, which sees them, to all intents and purposes, pandering to the whims and caprices of the political leaders. Had our agencies been properly oriented, our recent nasty experiences of harassing leaderships of the National Assembly, including the blockage of the Legislative complex, as well as the politicization of the fight against corruption should have been unbelievable. In fact, even the Independent National Electoral Commission, I believe, should be restructured to include representation from the political parties to avoid its pandering to the whims of the party in power.
In conclusion, I believe with no illusion, that a restructuring which will work for all has to be comprehensive, holistic and fair. And it must be one in which all of our various groups have a seat at the table, discuss, negotiate, dialogue and arrive at consensus. I believe without any iota of doubt, that if our generation does what is required of it, we will establish an inclusive governance, restore mutual trust, eliminate mutual suspicion, build a coalition of patriots and bring together all of our various people to work together for the common good of all.
Such a step will put our country on the path of progress, restore our prosperity, defend our security and build an economy driven by globalization, science and technology, innovations, ingenuity, and the potentials of our people including our women and youths will know no bounds.
Thank you for bringing me back to the region where shortly after the civil war, I enrolled and graduated in 1978 from Federal Government College, Enugu. Thank you for the opportunity to be your guest and to speak at this very important and great event.
Long live Nigerian youths!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!