By Owei Lakemfa
AN old friend and fellow journalist, Ya’u Shehu Darazo, called me in 2006 asking if I could arrange a meeting between former Head of State, retired General Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC.
Buhari who was running in the 2007 Presidential elections, was accompanied to the meeting by Darazo and a man introduced as Engr. Buba Galadima. Where Buhari was slow and deliberate in speech, Galadima spoke like a man running a commentary. He appeared confident, knowledgeable and full of ideas.
At the end of the meeting, I joked with Darazo that he was selling two presidential candidates as their party could easily switch Buhari for Galadima. Since then, Galadima has risen to become one of the biggest politicians in the country; one who has been a major player in the last four presidential elections. In his November 15, 2020 interview in The Punch Newspapers, he declared: “ I have a track record; I have always lived my life fighting for social justice and fair play.”
As a claimed fighter for social justice, Galadima was asked a simple question on one of the most dominant issues in Nigerian politics; restructuring the country. In the last three decades, Nigerians can be categorised into two broad groups; those for, and against restructuring. In fact, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC which Galadima helped midwife, and bring to power in 2015, had restructuring as one of its main programmes.
To this straight forward question, Galadima responded: “I don’t understand what restructuring is. If you define restructuring to me, I can give you an answer… There must be a universal definition of restructuring so that we can now agree either to work towards it or against it.” When reminded that restructuring was promised by the APC which he championed, he retorted: “Was there a referendum? …Did the party sit down to agree on what is restructuring? What are they restructuring?”
But Galadima is merely being smart by half. As an engineer, he is literate enough to check the dictionary which generally defines ‘restructure’ as: “to organise something, such as a system or a company, in a new and different way.” Even if he claims not to understand this simple definition, he could have asked any of his seven children who he says are medical doctors and holders of Master’s degrees.
In truth, Galadima understands what restructuring is, but he wants to hide behind a finger as his claims to being a fighter for social justice, will be unsustainable were he to oppose restructuring.
The simple truth is that while the country at independence was structured as a federation, the 1966 military intervention turned it into a unitary state. This has subsisted since then and even when the grundnorm of the country is proclaimed as the “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” we all know it is a lie. So the honest thing to do, is restructure the country as a federation. However, those who benefit from such untruth do not want a change. But for me, those who oppose restructuring are far better and preferable than political elite like Galadima who claim not to understand it.
A large percentage of our citizenry, are Igbos who have cried that they have been marginalised since the Civil War ended fifty years ago in January, 1970. What they are demanding is a restructuring of the country to eliminate this perceived injustice. How can a Galadima claim he does not understand what this cry is about?
There were claims before 1999 that a part of the country had monopolised power so there was the need for power shift to another part, especially the West where Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 elections, had come from. This was why the presidential contest that ushered in civil rule, was narrowed to two Yoruba politicians: Chiefs Olu Falae and Olusegun Obasanjo. When the latter won the elections, his type of cap which was popularly worn in the West, was called ‘Power Shift.’ Would Galadima claim ignorance of these truths?
The revenue derivation formula from colonialism was initially 100 per-cent, then 50 per-cent before the military cancelled derivation. There was a peaceful, then violent agitation for its reintroduction. The restructuring of the Revenue Allocation formula is reflected in Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution which states that derivation shall be “ not less than thirteen per cent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly from any natural resources.”
Despite this, the people of the Niger Delta where the country derives its oil resources, continued to agitate leading to the restructuring of the Ministries with the creation of a special Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Are these matters lost to Galadima? Just like Obasanjo and the ‘power shift’ cap, when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan became President, his hat and dressing which is common in the Niger Delta, became known as ‘Resource Control’ in recognition of the demand for restructuring along the lines of derivation.
There is a coalition of the Yoruba Afenifere in the West, the Igbo Ohanaeze in the East and some Middle Belt Nationality groups who are agitating for fundamental restructuring of the country.
If Galadima claims not to understand this, even if an elephant stands on his nose, he would claim not to see it. He also makes a not too honest argument that the Presidency should not rotate between the South and the North as the ruling class had agreed to in principle. This is self-serving.
The fact is that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar whom he worked for in the 2019 elections is still eyeing the Presidency, so if this gentleman agreement on power rotation is respected, Galadima’s principal will lose out. I have not set out to argue for or against restructuring which by the way is inevitable; I have merely expressed my preference for arch-conservative and ethnocentric people who take a stand, than shifty politicians who stand on no principle. I like the rhetoric and reverberation of Galadima’s reformist voice, but like William Shakespeare would have noted, it is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”