"Restructuring Will Spell Doom For Nigeria" - Senator Wakili

IM

Senator Ali Wakili, who
represents Bauchi South in the
Senate, has questioned the
renewed call for restructuring of
Nigeria by some prominent
Nigerians notably former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole
Soyinka. In an interview with
Daily Sun in Bauchi, Wakili, who
is the Chairman, Senate
Committee on Poverty Alleviation, warned that any
attempt to restructure the
country would spell doom for its
future. Rather than restructuring,
he said the country’s leadership
should be more engrossed in improving the worsening
conditions of living of the
citizens. There is a renewed call for
restructuring of Nigeria as a
country which is spearheaded
by former vice president,
Atiku Abubakar with
prominent Nigerians like Professor Wole Soyinka also
calling for it even though
some Nigerians are opposed to
it. Where do you stand? I don’t want to take up an issue
that is allegedly being
spearheaded by the former vice
president, and also another
respected Nigerian, Professor
Wole Soyinka. First, I don’t know the concept of the restructuring
you are talking about. I have not
read it and I am not familiar with
what they said, but you know
every day the issue of federalism
continues to resonate. The late Professor Bala Usman has
written explicitly on this issue of
restructuring. Are we going
back to that sort of setting? Are
you trying to say that we are
going back to the era of the Sokoto Caliphate that has so
many emirates, or are we going
back to having the Yoruba
nation? Even Professor Bala
Usman said that the word
Yoruba does not connote anything in Yoruba language as
it is a name given by an Islamic
scholar that coined the word
Yoruba. If you look at the
Itsekiris in the Niger Delta today,
they are complaining about the Izons, so these are issues. We
have more issues that should
worry Nigerians than
restructuring.
The proponents of restructuring
argue that the centre is too strong and that is why there are
agitations for true federalism
and resource control.
When people talk of the centre
being too strong, I don’t know
what the yardstick for measuring strength is, because,
as far as I know, the constitution
of the federal republic of Nigeria
allows for that. The issue of
restructuring revolves around
the control of resources, and that is why people are thinking
that the federal government has
enormous powers. If we
devolve powers, I do not think
that we would need to
restructure. If we all agree that restructuring means that Nigeria
should be balkanised, then the
smaller ethnic groups would
have no place to go, because the
issue of marginalisation would
continue to resonate even to the lowest level. For instance, the
people of Akwa Ibom are
complaining that the minister of
National Planning, the chairman
of the Niger Delta Development
Commission(NDDC), and the Special Adviser on National
Assembly matters come from
one ethnic group to the
exclusion of about six ethnic
groups, which they say make up
the major ethnic groups in Akwa Ibom. So, I don’t know why
some Nigerians want
restructuring, because if you
balkanise Nigeria, so many
minority groups will regret it. What is your take on the
budget controversy in the
House of Representatives? The brouhaha over budget
padding in the House of
Representatives is an
unfortunate distraction. Any
right thinking legislator should
be thinking about serious issues, like how to alleviate the poverty
and economic downturn being
experienced in the country. I
feel what should be discussed is
that many Nigerians are living
below the poverty line. People hardly meet their ends, they
hardly feed, they hardly pay
their bills. Right now, we are in
the rainy season and our people
are complaining because they
need fertilizer; that is what should preoccupy our minds.
Jibrin Abdulmuminu is practising
political brinkmanship, because
padding a budget is not criminal
as Jibrin and his co travellers are
making the issue seem. The budget has gone through due
processes and the two chambers
and the executive were
involved. Where there were
issues, they went through it
before the president assented to it. I will stand by the Speaker of
the House, Yakubu Dogara,
because he did a good job as
regards the budget. We have
never had it so good in terms of
the constituency he represents. Because of his influence, over N7
billion is going to be spent
within parts of Bauchi South and
Bauchi Central. That is a good
one for me. That is what is
occupying my mind and not the issue of padding. I don’t know
what padding means, because it
is not in our criminal books.
These are political statements.
Today, if you go to the man at
Burga, Tuldul, Balbiyu or Gwaranga, they want a road,
and that road has been captured
in the budget, and it has been
advertised. We are overheating
the polity with political
statements, and that is not what Nigerians want. The average
Nigerian wants to see food on
his table.
But Jibrin now claims that certain
monies were injected into the
budget by Dogara and some principal officers and has already
filed a petition at the Economic
and Financial Crimes Commission
(EFCC). If the present
administration claims to fight
corruption, don’t you think it should move in now because
critics of this government believe
the anti corruption war is all
targeted at the opposition?
Part of our national tragedy is
that we speak on what we don’t know and we don’t learn what
we have not inquired into.
Section 59 of the constitution is
quite explicit as to the power of
the legislature, and it defines the
role of the National Assembly in the passage of the budget. This
section does not in any way limit
the extent to which the National
Assembly may alter the
budgetary estimates submitted
to it by the President. Section 59(4), gives the National
Assembly the veto power, where
the president declines to give his
assent to what the legislature
considers fit and proper for the
country. The legislature has great powers to vary budget
allocations and policy priorities
as long as they do not exceed
the total spending limits.
Constitutionally, the legislature
has the power of appropriation. I am not in the House of
Representatives, so I don’t want
to join issues with Jibrin and his
co travellers. Some of those who
are making noise hardly attend
sittings, so the noise is just political brinkmanship. Nigerians are also focusing
their attention on the Senate
because of the controversy in
the lower chamber. What
lessons are Senators learning
from it? Our focus is on agriculture, and
we are trying to diversify and
see how it will help the average
Nigerian. We have complained of
the fact that the federal
government is in control of everything, and now we want to
ensure that some of these things
are outside the exclusive
legislative list. These are the
things that should worry us. The
2016 budget like I told you has gone through the accurate
processes. I take the padding
issue as a distraction and some
of us should be left out of it
because it is taking too much
attention from our main problems. Every day we do
things that make us look bad in
the eyes of the world and the
world complains about our bad
behaviour; so some of these
things should be better left, rather than focusing on them.
Dr. Junaidu Mohammed, a well
known staunch critic of
Goodluck Jonathan
administration recently criticised
President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism, appointing people
from his state, Katsina. Junaidu
Mohammed is a respected
Nigerian. His antecedents did not
start and end with Jonathan. If
you know his contributions when he was in the House of
Representatives during the
Second Republic, you will see
that he has his conscience to live
by. He is a great intellectual, elder
statesman and scientist, who has made his impact and he is
entitled to his opinion. You have many critics who
brand you as anti Buhari and
even alleging that you are
one of those plotting to
impeach the president. Why
are they calling for your recall? From the beginning of the
creation of the All Progressives
Congress (APC), some of us
played prominent roles, but
along the way, some who didn’t
benefit now attribute some of the problems to some of us.
Some of them we helped to
become something out of
today’s reality chose to say that
we are nobody. For instance, the
governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, was not
at the foundation level in the
formation of the party, but
before we had the primaries,
providence smiled on him. He
became the governorship candidate and God has willed
that he became the governor.
He is one of those that had the
governorship seat on a platter of
gold. If you look at the struggle
that former governor, Adamu Mu’azu had to go through, and
the intrigues Isa Yuguda had to
go through, you would know
that God smiled on him through
some of us that gave him a
helping hand. Bauchi gave great support to President Buhari, and
so it is expected that all of us
should behave and think like
him.
Unfortunately, when we came,
we started on a wrong footing by the fact that those of them
that became leaders at the state
level were not running an
inclusive government, because
of the fact that they do not
consult before they make certain decisions.
Because of that, we discovered
that the economy has been
bastardised, salaries have not
been paid for months and then
there were debts that were inherited. But despite the
economic crunch, we were able
to collect billions from the federal
government. It is expected that
the billions would translate to
improvement in the lives of people. But like I told you,
because of non inclusiveness, it
became a problem between
some of the elected officials.
They feel that those of us in the
National Assembly should stay in Abuja and should not be
bothered about what is
happening locally. So, today in
the North, and in Bauchi, if you
want to smear any body’s name,
just send him a flier and accuse him of being anti-Buhari, then
everywhere would catch fire. So,
for some of them, in order to
cover their inadequacies, they
would just accuse you of being
anti-Buhari. The impeachment threat was a
hoax because nobody raised
any motion to that effect. It is not
easy to impeach any president in
Nigeria. Because of the integrity
of the president and his huge support base, nobody will
commit suicide by saying he is
going to impeach any president
in Nigeria.