Hails Lagos, Kano at 50
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has said for Nigeria to get over current challenges facing it, there must be a change of approach in political and economic field.
Atiku who spoke on a topic: ‘Building a Nation that Works’ as part of his acceptance speech of the ‘Hero of Nigeria Democracy Award’ conferred on him by Hall of Grace Magazine in Lagos, said things are not functioning as it should be at present.
He said the feedback from an interface he had with ordinary Nigerians showed that they desire transparency and basic things like power, roads, railways, ports security, employment and job creation; accountability and less corruption.
“When you talk to ordinary Nigerians as I do regularly, what they profess to be at the top of their priority list include the provision of and access to high quality education and training; infrastructure such as power, roads, railways and ports; security; employment and job creation; and accountability and reduced corruption.
“They also call for a reorientation of values, which I think will come mainly from the change of behaviour by leaders. A Nigeria that works would be the one that effectively and efficiently meets these needs. But there are two huge impediments to doing that,” he said
At the political level, the former vice president said for the country to get things right, it must have to restructure the federal system in such a way that it will devolve more powers and resources to the federating units.
This he said would encourage states to compete to attract investment and skilled workers rather than merely waiting for monthly revenue allocations from Abuja.
He also said the country need to reform her politics by reforming the electoral system.
According to him, such reform must ensure that whoever emerges as winner after an election is really the one freely chosen by the people. “The electoral reform should largely be along the lines recommended by the Justice Mohammad Uwais panel on electoral reforms.
For example, funding the electoral umpire from the first line charge in the Consolidated Revenue Fund is critical; transferring the power to appoint the chairman of the electoral umpire from the president to the National Judicial Council (NJC) will help as efforts to curb the role of money and godfathers in our elections.
“We must be open to changing the nature of the federating units such as using the existing geo-political zones as federating units rather than the current 36, of which only a few are financially viable,” he said.
On the economic front, Atiku who first contested the presidential election in 2007 on the platform of the Action Congress (AC) said political decentralisation must have to go with diversification of the economy.
He reemphasised the need to diversify the economy away from the dependence on oil and to create opportunities for the people to engage in diverse economic activities which government will then tax for revenues.
The former vice president said: “We also need to reform the anti-corruption agencies to help depoliticise them and make them really independent. This will help to strengthen the fight against corruption, which is critical in renewing our people’s belief in the integrity of public institutions and officials.”
Meanwhile, Atiku has scored Lagos and Kano States high for their proven ability to maintain the status of cosmopolitan and historical states.
He said the states are first among equals and golden examples which others should emulate and surpass in the federation.
In goodwill message to mark the 50 years of the creation of the two states, Atiku, said he “admires the socio-economic and political dynamism, innovation and evolution of both Lagos and Kano States from primordial to contemporary times.
“Both states have wonderful and memorable historical heritage that dates back to centuries of rich cultures, plural dense population, immense socio-economic networks and versatile political consciousness.
“Aside, both have remained true homes where all Nigerians of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and business orientations continually strive and thrive happily together,” he said.
In a congratulatory message issued by his Media Office in Abuja yesterday, Atiku said he heartily felicitated with the governments and people of Lagos and Kano States on the auspicious occasion of their golden jubilee anniversary.