From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja The decision to retain health maintenance organisations (HMOs) as part of the country’s health insurance programme caused a major disagreement between the House of Representatives Committee on Health Services and the executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Yusuf Usman. Usman, at the just concluded two-day investigative hearing…
Senator Dalhatu Tafida, former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, was on national television the other day. His interviewer was probing into his thoughts on some national issues. Tafida was frank enough in his delivery. He presented issues the way they appealed to him.
However, he drew the flak when he delved into the terrain of restructuring. Where does Tafida stand on this matter? For the former High Commissioner, restructuring, in whatever way it is packaged, is objectionable. According to him, a restructured Nigeria could lead to the disintegration of the country. He was not really interested in the content of restructuring. He just feels that it will not work, regardless of the way it is delivered.
Tafida’s position amounts to fanaticism of some sort. Fanatics are straitjacketed in their point of view. They do not admit of an admixture of white and black. For them, there is only one way of looking at reality. And for Tafida, the reality of this situation is that the call for restructuring is a subtle way of seeking for the country’s breakup.
Tafida did not stop there. He queried the ongoing clamour for restructuring at a time Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, is on the throne as the president of Nigeria. He admitted that the South-west had long been calling for for a change in Nigeria’s governance architecture, but he is worried that the entire South and a fragment of the North are now unanimous in their call for the restructuring of Nigeria. Tafida does not like this state of affairs. Why now? Why was there no such clamour during the reign of presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan? Those were some of the questions that hung menacingly on his lips. He smells rat in the call for the restructuring of the country.
Even when he was reminded that advocates of restructuring actually had a field day during the Jonathan era through the report of the National Conference that the Jonathan administration instituted, Tafida was still not impressed. He dismissed the delegates to the national conference as a group that represented no one but themselves. He said they just went to the conference and came up with whatever appealed to them.
Tafida’s dismissiveness here is a product of prejudice. He has a mindset that is not receptive of the Jonathan conference. That was why its outcome was nothing but a distraction to him. He does not recognise or acknowledge the fact that had Jonathan stayed long enough to implement the report of the conference, Nigeria would have been restructured. In other words, restructuring is not a sectional agenda. Its promoters have a pan-Nigerian outlook.
But then, what does this restructuring mean in real terms? Tafida said he does not know. What matters to him is that Nigeria’s present structure should remain inviolable. He does not care a hoot about the fact that Nigeria operates only two tiers of government while claiming to operate three. He does not recognise the fact that local governments in Nigeria, the way they are structured, are not autonomous. They are appendages of the states. The constitution does not even grant them autonomy. That is why we have the anomaly called State/Local Government Joint Account. There is, strictly speaking, nothing joint about this account. State governments operate them the way they deem fit and dispense to the local governments whatever that appeals to them.
In a restructured Nigeria, local governments will not have a place in the constitution. They will be delisted. When that happens, state governments will be at liberty to create and control their local governments. Number of local governments will then no longer be a consideration or a criterion in the allocation of resources to the states. This is a snippet of restructuring.
But the Tafidas of Nigeria will hear none of this. Nigeria must remain stuck to the old ways. That was why he sneered when his interviewer told him that one of the contents of restructuring was resource control. States or regions are seeking to control the natural resources in their domains and pay taxes to the Federal Government, as is the case in other federations. Under the present order, states that have natural resources, such as crude oil feel that they are not getting their due. That is why there are violent eruptions in some parts of the Niger Delta region. Their grouse is that the goose that lays the golden egg is being ill-treated.
Suggestions such as this sound scary to those who are stuck to the old ways. They do not want the states to engage in healthy competition. They do not want the states to adopt creative ways in generating resources for self-sustenance. What they want is the present order where states do nothing other than wait for monthly allocations from the federation account. No country can develop under this state of dependence. That is the kind of argument advocates of restructuring are putting up.
So, what is the nexus between these and disintegration? I do not see any. The problem with us is that some powerful interests are accustomed to the old ways. Any suggestion that detracts from what they know is suspicious. They see disintegration in every move. When they see disintegration, they also see war. That was why Adamu Ciroma, a former minister and an elder statesman, said not long ago that the agitation for Biafra could lead to another war in Nigeria. This is an outdated way of looking at the situation. The problem here is that the Ciromas of Nigeria still do not recognise that there is something called self determination. They see Nigeria’s present order as a settled case. Any suggestion to the contrary is unacceptable.
In today’s world, separatist agitations are rife. They are legitimate. And no country worth its name frowns on such agitations. What matters to countries where separatist agitations are taking place is the method. They do not lose sleep in so far as such quests are peaceful. Civilised countries of the world recognise that no system or order is inviolable. They recognise that new realities can creep into an old order and this could lead to the creation of a new one. That is why societies and systems evolve. Any one that insists on inviolability is risking an explosion.
Part of the problem is that Nigeria is afraid of its own shadow. The spectre of war and disintegration appears to be haunting the country and its people. Where the civilised world sees dialogue, Nigeria sees force of arms. That is why Tafida and others like him will settle for the extreme position when reference is made to restructuring. Not even Tafida’s exposure to other cultures could moderate his position on national issues. He still looks at Nigeria from a sectional prism. He has no pan-Nigerian outlook. It is for this reason that he does not see restructuring for what it is. Rather, he believes that it is an issue in Nigeria today simply because a northerner is the president of the country. Nothing can be more parochial than this.