The restructuring of the country advocated by most progressive-minded Nigerian citizens is an idea whose time has come. Whether some people call it reconfiguration, devolution of powers, resource control, regional government or true federalism, they mean the same thing. Nigeria can only postpone restructuring to its own peril sooner than later. Prominent and well read Nigerians have, times without number, discussed, argued, analyzed and explained what they really mean by restructuring the current lopsided Nigerian unitary structure that has decades impeded our socio-economic development.
Let me add to their well articulated position that restructuring Nigeria will involve a tinkering of the present retrogressive unitary and unbalanced structure of 36 unequal states and disproportionately allotted 774 local government areas in the country that were created through military fiats and skewed heavily in favour of the North, especially the North-west geo-political zone. While the entire South is unfairly treated by the present structure imposed by past military leaders from the North, the South-east with only five states and 95 local government areas is the worst hit.
For this structural mistreatment, the South-east has cried out for so long but the authorities concerned did not do anything. It has complained bitterly over the state-imposed marginalization and pressed that it be given one additional state and some local government areas to, at least, balance the equation of six states per each of the prevailing six geo-political zones in the country. Leaders of the country are aware that the South-east demand and aspiration is genuine but they have adamantly refused to do the needful.
They have acted like the ostrich that pretends that all is well and buried its head on the ground. Since all military, para-military, civil service and political appointments in the country are based on states and ridiculously, at times, based on local governments (as was done during the last recruitment of police constables), there is no doubt that the South-east is the worst victim of our present structure. The youths in the zone have decried this state-sanctioned wickedness, discrimination and injustice, yet the Nigerian state seems not to care.
When members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) demanded for a referendum on Biafra independence, the Nigerian state visited them with maximum violence in the name of military exercise code-named Operation Python Dance Part 2. We saw the wicked and malicious outcome of that dehumanizing macabre dance whose pictures went viral to global condemnation and outrage. As a result of that ill-advised and badly prosecuted python dance, some members and non-members of IPOB were killed and some were declared missing and the country moved on as if nothing gruesome has happened, could have happened or likely to happen in future to challenge the status quo.
While it is true that former President Goodluck Jonathan convoked a national conference of all Nigerians in 2014 to chart a new course for the country’s future, it is unfortunate that he was not in power post-2015 general election to finish the patriotic task he midwifed along with other Nigerian patriots from all the six geo-political zones. Since the emergence of the erstwhile opposition APC to power via the 2015 general poll, Nigerians have severally called on this bunch of former progressives that actually promised restructuring during the political campaigns to implement some of the far-reaching recommendations of the confab.
Has the APC government forgotten so early that government is a continuum, whether it is PDP or APC that is in power? It is sad and unfortunate that a party that promised restructuring is now paltering on the idea simply because power is in its hands. President Muhammadu Buhari has not helped matters in this regard. During his 2018 New Year address to the nation, Buhari said among others that “in respect of political developments, I have kept close watch on the on-going debate about “Restructuring. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to the changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments.”
“We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.”
Therefore, in Buhari’s view “our problems are more to do with process than structure.” While the president is eminently entitled to his views, I vehemently beg to disagree with him, like some other Nigerians have done. I do so because it is incontestable fact that our problems can be traced to our unbalanced unitary structure than process. Moreover, it is the structure that determines the process and not vice versa. If the structure is faulty, the process will also be faulty. This can explain our wobbling and fumbling over the years. Our problem is not even the much-touted “corruption” that this government is feebly and politically confronting.
Our problem is the structure that makes it easy for people to engage in wanton corruption without qualms. The present unitary structure encourages corruption, avarice, nepotism, ineptitude and other societal ills. Except the country is restructured, we are indeed heading to cataclysm of unknown proportion. The saving measure and panacea is to restructure the entity and make it workable. Restructuring will feature in the 2019 general election. If the APC like, it can continue its break-dancing over restructuring.
Let it continue to prevaricate on this important issue and thinking it is buying time till the election day when Nigerians will decide where to go with their ballots. It is tragic that a government that rose to power on the mantra of change is resisting restructuring of the country. It did not occur to them that in Buhari’s New Year address already quoted, he underscored the need for change when he said that “our government’s watch word and policy thrust is CHANGE. We must change our ways of doing things or we stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and prosperity.”
Saying no to restructuring or hesitating on it as the APC is doing now is antithetical to Buhari’s position just quoted. Therefore, we should restructure Nigeria to make it better and workable. Restructuring is therefore a panacea to our structural problem waiting to be embraced.