In the manifesto that Buhari and his party waved as contract with the electorate last March, the section on Reform states unequivocally the commitment of Buhari and his party to bring fundamental changes to the way governance is organised in the country.
Our change slogan is not a campaign gimmick but a promise that must be kept. We are determined to bring about tangible changes in the lives of our people.—President Buhari
With a new budget that is fully Buhari’s and his ministers already in the saddle, Nigeria appears finally poised for change that is expected to bring the country’s dark past to an end. And with clarity of evidence of serious efforts of the Buhari presidency to fight Boko Haram and to recover stolen funds from corrupt public officers, other areas of Buhari’s manifesto that are yet to be given attention deserve to be highlighted by citizens. Today’s piece is an effort in that direction.
As this column had observed several times in the past, it is not Jonathan’s regime that created the culture of corruption, despite the reality that Jonathan’s administration worked to become the poster child for venality in governance across the globe. While it may be a waste of resources—financial and emotional—to go and probe every government that had ruled the country since 1960, it is proper for those holding the levers of power to address political and social behaviours that have brought Nigeria to its current state of anomie.
But as the Buhari regime sets out to reconfigure our institutions in a way to make corruption unattractive, this column seeks permission of its readers to bring back a recurrent theme that has been discussed almost ad nauseam in the column: re-designing the architecture of governance in a way that will bring more input from citizens into the way they are governed. Using the end of 2015 to repeat or re-open the discourse of re-federalisation may not be out of place at a time that the country’s Change Regime is poised to be at full throttle.
It is entertaining and also depressing to learn about Dasukigate and Rice-gate that capture nuances of how big men charged with the responsibility of securing the country as members of executive or legislative branch of government wantonly rape the country. Citizens seem to be enjoying the naming and shaming drama of Dasukigate in particular while some are salivating ahead of what is likely to come out of the new revelation about a new crisis: promoting rice farming through rice smuggling. It is one thing for citizens to take joy in the naming, shaming, and even jailing of those who have been caught for sabotaging the country in various ways in the last four years. But it is another thing for citizens to be encouraged to worry about how our country came about this mess and how to get out of it.
Surely, citizens in large numbers are already expressing support for no holds-barred attack on corruption and corrupt individuals. There is no day that citizens and groups do not express support for the efforts of Buhari’s government to fight corruption. Such support may be in a way a reflection of citizens’ anger and desire to get back at those they have perceived to have functioned more as enemies than leaders of state and its citizens. Just as it is with circuses, citizens are also likely to get tired of watching the video of corruption or of trial for corruption before long. They are likely to get more ‘long-termist’ in their search for solution to a problem that has been an abiding aspect of the political culture of the country for about half a century. Indeed, citizens are already asking why they are ruled under a political system that is centralised to the point of robbing the average citizen of the space to participate in how they are governed, especially at the grassroots level. They are worrying about a political system that has taken the opportunity of easy revenue from petroleum to alienate them from governance at both local and state levels.
It is instructive at this point in Buhari’s administration to recall sections of his manifesto that are designed to make the country better governed than before. In the manifesto that Buhari and his party waved as contract with the electorate last March, the section on Reform states unequivocally the commitment of Buhari and his party to bring fundamental changes to the way governance is organised in the country. The section on Reform includes several visionary statements: We will not only clean up our government, we will reshape it—reforming and strengthening the law enforcement agencies…. We cannot achieve these reforms without strengthening our public institutions away from the “Strong Man” model, which has devastated our economy and institutions . In another statement, the manifesto says: We will devolve more revenue and powers…We pledge to bring the government closer to the people through fiscal and political decentralization, including local policing. And with special reference to the constitution, the manifesto adds: APC government at the federal level will initiate action to amend our constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit (My emphases).
Quoting copiously from Buhari’s contract with the electorate is to demonstrate that President Buhari in his manifesto gives as much attention to the structure of governance as he places on national security, corruption, and national development. The recent decision of the 8th Senate to establish a special committee on constitutional amendment signals that the legislature is also ready to move to the governance component and constitutional aspect of the APC manifesto. It is instructive that the Senate’s decision to re-open the issue of constitutional amendment was made on the day that the federal government announced its success in ending the territorial thrust of Boko Haram’s terrorism. This move by the Senate appears indicative of the APC government’s readiness to focus on the Good Governance component of the Buhari/APC manifesto. As the Senate moves in the direction of amending the constitution, it is necessary to invoke the call by Buhari in his manifesto on the need for “all Nigerians to collectively chart our future as a people and our destiny as a nation,” by providing a space for participation by citizens in creating a constitution that citizens will feel happy with across the length and breadth of the country.
The process of amending the constitution under the federal government of APC must be different from what obtained under the PDP regime. Citizens were not sufficiently included in having input in the process when the two houses were dominated by PDP members. There was a public hearing in six regional centres for half-day interaction between lawmakers and citizens who could afford to travel to and pay for accommodation at such centres. Even when President Jonathan convened a national dialogue, the PDP-dominated legislature was not able to provide any covering legislation for the national conference before and after. In fact, Jonathan’s party did not openly endorse the conference, delegates to which were handpicked by Jonathan and his supporters who were largely not openly affiliated with the PDP. In addition, the PDP refrained from making any formal reference to the 2014 national conference during and after the exit of Jonathan from power. If anything, it was groups and individuals that were not in the PDP that have been promoting recommendations of the Jonathan conference since the last election.
Since amending the constitution “to entrench true Federalism and Federalist spirit” is a noticeable part of the Buhari/APC manifesto, it stands to reason for citizens to expect that the party of change will take the opportunity of being in power to encourage an inclusive process for constitutional amendment or review. Citizens at the level of federal constituencies should be mobilised by the ruling party to get involved in making suggestions to their legislators on what type of federalism they desire. It is up to citizens to choose the method they prefer for preparing suggestions for their representatives before constitutional amendments are forwarded to state assemblies by the federal legislature. Similarly, state assemblies should give their constituents opportunities to think along with them before ratifying such amendments.
Unlike the former ruling party, APC came to power with a clear manifesto to devolve power to the states and local governments and in the process enhance the process of citizen participation in governance at the grassroots. Consequently, APC has no reason to be afraid of adding options of referendum on critical matters to the new constitution, as it is done in advanced democracies.

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