A former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to ignore the growing call for fiscal federalism and the re-negotiation of Nigeria’s unity.
Soludo specifically warned that Buhari’s attitude towards restructuring at a time when the Biafran agitation was intensifying was dangerous.
He made the call during the public presentation of a book titled, ‘The Politics of Biafra and the Future of Nigeria; published by Chude Offodile, a former member of the House of Representatives.
Soludo said, “If I were President Buhari, I would be very suspicious of anyone who advises me to ignore the Biafran issue. Anyone who says that is either ignorant or being mischievous or quite patently doesn’t mean well for the government and probably wants the government to repeat the mistakes of the past. We must start learning.”
The ex-CBN governor, who reviewed the book, explained that the Biafran argument had two variations.
He said some of the Biafran agitations were underpinned by former President Nnamdi Azikiwe’s concept of fiscal federalism while the other was based on a neo-Biafranism advocating the creation of a sovereign state.
Soludo added, “There seems to be two views: the Neo-Zikism which represents federalist versus the neo-Biafranism which calls for a sovereign state of Biafra.
“Everyone is talking of restructuring. From the book we get an insight into the faulty design of the Nigerian system. There was a modification of Aguiyi Ironsi’s unitary system into a unitary federal structure with a suffocating command post at Abuja. That suffocating command structure was ok for sharing and consuming the oil rent but even while the oil rent lasted, it was inherently politically unstable and inherently unproductive.
“If you see the failed or fragile state indices and the rankings of Nigeria, we have been coming back precipitously from number 54 in 2005 to now number 13. We are one of the countries under the red alert list.”
He recalled that during the First Republic, Ahmadu Bello, who was the leader of the ruling Northern Peoples Congress, opted to be the Premier of the then Northern Region instead of the Prime Minister because the federating units were more powerful.
Soludo said Nigeria would prosper if the states were allowed to exploit their own resources and pay tax to the Federal Government.
According to him, this is the crux of the Biafran agitation.
He added, “It seems to me that if Ojukwu and Zik were alive today, they would probably align more with a reformed federalist Nigeria. Why I say this is because Ojukwu died a federalist. That is my thesis and that is why all through the war and the Addis Ababa congress of the 1960s, he was for negotiation. Aburi was broken, he was struggling for it to work until he saw that there was a way and he saw that Biafra was no longer negotiable.
“But after the war, Ojukwu joined the NPN and even in the 1990s, when political parties were registered, he registered his own party, according to the book but he later joined APGA and became its national leader. And APGA is a national party which among other things, agitates for true federalism and he contested as the presidential cadidate seeking to be President of Nigeria.”
Soludo urged Buhari to release the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, as his prolonged detention had turned him into a hero and was fuelling the Biafran agitation.
He said if Buhari could honour the APC manifesto which promised fiscal federalism, he would be remembered for good.