says Okunnu, Attah Federalism has failed in Nigeria.
LAGOS—FORMER Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, SAN, and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, and some leaders, yesterday, dissected the state of Nigeria’s federalism and returned a grim verdict: Federalism is dead in Nigeria. BOOK LAUNCH: From left; Mr Lucky Igbinedion, former Edo State Gov; Mrs Peace Attah, wife of the author; Arc. Victor Obong Attah, former Gov of Akwa Ibom State and author; and Alhaji Femi Okunnu, Chairman of the occasion, at the launching of the book: “Attah on Resource Control” (Revised) at Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, Victoria Island, Lagos, yesterday. They fingered former President Olusegun Obasanjo for being principally responsible for killing federalism in the country through the 1979 constitution and his opposition to restructuring, resource control and devolution of power to the federating units. They spoke in Lagos at the launching of a revised edition of the book: ‘’Attah On Resource Control’’ edited by Dr Dele Sobowale. The 156-page book noted that resource control is another synonym for the principle of derivation, which is the bedrock of all federating units all over the world, and if properly applied it will ‘’inexorably lead to devolution of economic, social and political power to the state and local governments making the struggle for power at the centre less attractive, less violent and less divisive. ‘’Indeed, no single amendment to the 1999 Constitution will go far to correct most of the contradictions in the constitution as resource control alone. In one step, we will not only enthrone justice, we will lower the tension associated with the struggle form power at the centre,” they noted. Hold Obasanjo, APC, PDP responsible —Okunnu However, Alhaji Okunnu said the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were playing a game of cat and mouse on the issue of restructuring and accused former President Obasanjo of being part of Nigeria’s problems rather than a solution which he masquerades himself to be. Alhaji Okunnu, who chaired the event said: “The issue of restructuring is in the air and both the APC and PDP are playing a game of cat and mouse and nobody is taking the issues seriously. Sadly, constitution amendment has become a thing of past Nigeria because there was no National Conference which I was part that any of the recommendations saw the light of the day.” Accusing Obasanjo of being part of Nigeria’s many problems, he said: “When I went through the Clifford’s constitution of 1922, the Richard’s Constitution 1946, the Macpherson’s Constitution of 1951, Lyttleton’s constitution of 1954, I discovered that Nigeria ceased to be a federation in 1979 and the federation was killed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He is part of the problem not the solution to the problem. Though he is masquerading himself to be a solution and the saviour of Nigeria today, he is to be held responsible for some of these problems.” He continued: “Major issues that need to be addressed in our Constitution include Finance, Fiscal federation, Judiciary, Local Government, Resource Control, and Independent Candidacy because what we have today is partly dictatorship. People should be able to stand for election whether they belong to a party or not. In all this, it is necessary we re-shape the country by going back to the 1963 constitution. “The 1979 constitution killed the Federation of Nigeria. Under the 1963 constitution, we knew that 60 per cent of the revenue from minerals goes to the state of origin, 20 per cent to the Federal Government and 20 per cent to others and that was the exact template followed by General Murtala Muhammed and General Yakubu Gowon. But in the the 1979 constitution, the Federal Government grabbed it all and no kobo went to the state of origin. He, however, advised cultural groups like Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and Arewa Consultative Forum to stay off politics and maintain their cultural arena rather than dabbling into politics. Resource control, solution to our problems—Attah In his welcome address, Obong Victor Attah said the revised edition of the book is a compilation of his speeches, television and newspaper articles on resource control. Noting that resource control is a phenomenon that is misunderstood by a lot of people, he said: “If President Obasanjo was a believer of federalism, Nigeria will not be where it is today. He not only opposed resource control, he brought back offshore and onshore dichotomy. I believe the hen that lays the golden egg should take 50 per cent of what belongs to it and the other 50 per cent can go elsewhere. “I am happy that resource control is today being recognised as the solution to Nigeria’s problems. It is one of the remedies for true federalism which will help this country grow.” Derivation should be 50 per cent – Sobowale Editor of the book, Dr. Dele Sobowale, said the first book on resource control was about the struggle, the second edition is about what has been achieved so far from the struggle. If Attah didn’t fight for 13 per cent, what states would have got is one per cent. We are looking at getting to the next level which is 50 pe cent. “Resource control is not about being partisan, it is not about politics or ethnicity, but a matter of national justice. If oil was found in Yoruba land, I am sure they would have gotten the 50 per cent or there would be no Nigeria. It is the right thing to do. Everyone should line up behind 50 per cent or nothing.” The struggle for Resource Control not over — Ibori Also speaking at the well attended event, former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, said the struggle for resource control is not over, and will continue until Niger-Delta is developed. His words: “I must thank former Governor Attah for his role in ensuring that our zone got the 13 per cent derivation but I must say that the fight is yet to be over. We still have a long way to go and everybody from the region must support this advocacy. What we are fighting for is supported by ordinary women even in the creeks, they are holding on to it and waiting earnestly that one day, the zone will wake up to realise that the entire region has been turned into a paradise. “When we were governors and we used to have meetings in Edo State, all the Niger Delta governors were resolute in their support for this. Even some South-West governors including Bola Tinubu of Lagos supported what we are clamouring for. “I was having a meeting recently with some people from Nembe and they were showing me the level of degradation happening in the region, I must say it is worse than what we left. There are illegal refineries all over the place and even in places like Port-Harcourt, people can no longer have fresh breathe due to gas flaring caused by the oil companies. So, we must all leave this book launch with the impression that the struggle is far from over.” Attah is a man of courage —Etiebet In like manner, former Minister of Petroleum, Chief Don Etiebet, who recalled his long relationship with the author said the contribution of Attah to the resource control struggle cannot be quantified. His words: “First, I must say my relationship with Attah started in the early 60’s, so we have been family friends for a long time and I contributed immensely to his campaign election in 1999, even when he decided to realise his governorship ambition through the party I formed then. We also schooled together in Canada and United States as well. When we were done with school, I wrote Attah and others that it is time to relocate to Nigeria and contribute our own quota to the country and that was how we returned. “Our relationship did not stop there, my elder brother and Attah were members of the Abacha 1994/95 Constitutional Conference where this issue of Resource Control was seriously discussed. Though I was Minister of Petroleum under Abacha then, we all worked together to ensure that the 13 percent derivation was achieved.” Attah wanted his successors to succeed—Udom Extolling the virtues of Attah, Governor of Akwa-Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, described Attah as a man of excellence who always want his successors in office to succeed. He said: “He is a clear example of excellence who wanted the best for his state hence his support to his successors in office. His support and doggedness towards achieving the 13 percent derivation cannot be quantified and that is why our Governor, Udom Emmanuel is also working hard to achieve diversifying away from oil.” Attah is an advocate of a functional Nigeria – Makarfi Commending Attah for his leadership roles, former Governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi, said Attah remains an advocate of a functional Nigeria. Makarfi who was represented by his aide, Mukthar Sirajo, said his take on restructuring remains the same. “Restructuring means different things to different people. However, I agree with the fact that there is nothing wrong in coming together and agreeing to what needs to change in our country. Nothing is wrong with coming together and discussing our problems and the way out.” Attah is a defender of Justice—Udoma Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, who was represented by Mr. Akpandem James, described Attah as a fearless and resolute defender of the Niger-Delta region, adding “he was a defender of the South-South region, he was a dogged fighter, he is a man of fairness especially as it concerns our region. He will forever be remembered for his defense of the region”. Eminent personalities at the colourful event included: former Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, Secretary to the Akwa-Ibom State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, who was represented by his Commissioner for Regional Integration, Hon. Bola Ilori; Senator Senator Aloysius Etok; Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka; former Commissioner for Health and Works in Akwa-Ibom State, Bob Ekarika, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, retd; Vice Chancellor, Western Delta University, Professor O.C Okobiah; Chairman, Elders Council of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Akwa Ibom State, Otuekong Sunny Jackson among others.