Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has advocated total fiscal federalism, which will ensure that all parts of the country control their resources.
To him, the system Nigeria presently operate is incapable of leading to growth.
He also said struggling to get a president from a region was not a guarantee of the region’s growth
Atiku spoke at the weekend in Abuja in an address at a youth forum organised by a coalition of civil societies. It was under the banner of Play Forum.
He said: “Left for me, I will ask every part of this country to take charge of its resources while the Federal Government should handle defence, foreign affairs and immigration among others in the Exclusive List.
Describing the present arrangement as unitary in supposed federalism, Atiku suggested that since Nigerians have agreed to remain together, “it should not be complicated to start with all the recurrent items in the Constitution. The President can dialogue with the governors or the National Assembly for states to take charge of the roads, hospitals, schools and such other items in the Concurrent List while the Federal Government will continue with items on the Exclusive Lists. ”
Atiku said for the effectiveness of the leaders in the First Republic, it would have been difficult for somebody from a poor background as him to go to school.
He said: “I would not have gone to school, if I were born today. My parents were so poor they couldn’t afford to send me to school. I was born during the era education was free, food was free for me, I was sponsored from primary school to the university. There was even a job waiting for me before I graduated. Yet, there was no oil boom then. I am certainly not a product of oil boom Nigeria.
“So, I don’t know what those who are against restructuring are afraid of. Those afraid must be lazy. We fought the civil war with the Igbo. Today, the Igbo have been completely rebuilt, but we still find mud houses in the North. Is it the fault of the Easterners that the North is like that?” he said.
“I think that what is most important is the devolution of powers and resources with the various governments whether states or regions. How do the people hold those in power accountable for the resources handed over to them?
“I want to agree essentially that there is every need for us to sit down and talk about our future. This is because the arrangements in the last 50 years or so have not served us very well.
“We cannot determine the nitty-gritty of this restructuring until we are able to dialogue and agree on how we want to continue to live together as a country.”
He said Murtala Muhamed military regime of 1976 created the strong centre, which he rubber-stamped with the Constituent Assembly of 1978.
“It all started after the civil war, when General Murtala Muhammed set up the Constituent Assembly of 1978 and specifically instructed the Assembly to recommend a very strong Federal Government, which no component could challenge.
“He was understandably coming from the perception of Biafra civil war. He felt that the war was caused by the region, which felt that it was too independent to poll out of the country.
‘Subsequently, they kept amending the constitution centralising more power at the centre”
He said the military government failed to implement recommendations of the Constitutional Conference of 1994/1995 of a single term of six years for the President to rotate among the six geo-political zones.
“Of course, I was a member of the Constitutional Conference of 1994/1995 and what we actually drafted was not what they eventually came out with. We proposed a presidential system with single term of six years to be rotated among the six geo-political zones of the country.
“By now, about four zones would have produced the president. We also said that after 36 years, we could review that provision if Nigerians believe it is the best season, otherwise we could discard it.
“By the time we win election in 1999, we saw an entirely different constitution. I was told that they set us a review committee headed by Niki Tobi, which tampered with the draft and ended up with the constitution we now have today.
“However, on a serious note, we have seen that the fact that a zone produced a president does not mean that he will get the zone developed. Former President Goodluck Jonathan could not construct a road from Port Harcourt to Bayelsa.
“Even the Southwest road we started during our administration Obasanjo could not continue. Former President Obasanjo could not complete the road from Lagos to Otta, where his farm is.”