Restructuring Nigeria: Start By Remembering What Is At Stake
Nigeria is an interesting political theatre and there is no pretence about that. The political divide before now was between the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as each struggles to win the hearts of the gullible Nigerians by undoing the other through propaganda, misinformation and sometimes outright blackmails all geared towards grabbing/maintaining power at the centre and as much from the states. But farewell to that! Now there is a new political divide.
Recent calls for the need to restructure Nigeria have highlighted a new faultline, this time not between APC and PDP but between open and closed -minded Nigerians both political and apolitical. Despite that on daily basis comes the news that strengthen the appeal to restructure the way we are presently governed, there are some people who would not want to hear it for whatever reasons. But whether they do or not, it has to be discussed and taken seriously for the collective health of the project called Nigeria.
Start by remembering what is at stake: Nigeria had struggled to build a nation where the component units would feel a true sense of belonging. Is it in doubt that as a country we have struggled to live up to this ideal? We have obviously not done enough to realise national integration, and even the survival of our democracy “is still a work in progress.
”Is there any doubt that our current structure and the practices it has encouraged have been a major impediment to economic and political development of our country? Overall, it is glaring that Nigeria under the current configuration is either not working at all or working very sub optimally. And it is outright mischief to argue or rather conclude that anyone who complains against the current structure is against Nigerian unity.
Advocates of restructuring from the southern part of the country are often suspected of planning to use it to weaken the North or even dismember the country. The Northern oppositionists are often suspected of opposing restructuring because they want to protect their privileges under the current configuration. But there has to be a common ground where every section will accept that whatever is proposed, will serve our collective best interest.
Those who argue that restructuring of the polity won't be necessary once we diversify the economy are mistaken. As long as the federal government remains overly dominant relative to the federating states, it will continue to matter which section of the country 'captures' federal power with its attendant instability. And as long as the federal government keeps the bulk of revenues for itself, its desire and will to provide the leadership needed to diversify the economy will continue to be limited.
The present federal structure and the revenue sharing formula, where states go cap in hand to Abuja for monthly allocations has kept states perpetually dependent on federally collected revenues to fund as much as 90 per cent of their annual budget, resulting in states losing hundreds of billions of Naira annually in revenue, as the states are yet to develop the needed capacity to harness the huge internal revenue potentials available.
What we have today as states are mere helpless babies, living on perpetual handouts and bailouts. We keep shouting corruption, but have we ever paused to examine why there is so much corruption in Nigeria? The most corrupt countries in the world have all the indices of poverty and failed governance. Every Nigerian is a government unto himself. They send their children to private schools; provide their own portable water, electricity, health, housing, etc and even security. Everything is private so is that how a country works?
Former Vice President and Turaki Adamawa, Atiku Abubakar, who has been at the forefront of the renewed call for restructuring had serially explained that the call for restructuring is not a call to dismember Nigeria rather to salvage it and palce it on a better footing to make progress in its life as a nation.
Hear him: “National integration, to me, simply means the process by which different components of a country, with economic, political and cultural links, develop a sense of nationhood, of unity, of oneness, of interdependence, irrespective of their different histories, experiences, ideologies, and cultural values and practices.
“Such a sense of nationhood and oneness encourages a commitment by the people to the survival of the nation and its values and principles, cultures and territorial integrity. One of those values may be democracy, that system of government which allows citizens the freedom to choose their leaders in periodic elections, speak their minds, associate with their fellows, and puts limits on the powers of leaders.
“As a country we have mightily struggled to live up to this ideal. We have obviously not done enough to realize national integration, and the survival of our democracy is still a work in progress. The cost to us has been enormous. We even fought a civil war to forcibly keep the country together.
”Is it not true that aside regional, ethnic and religious groupings, other segments of the population such as labour and professional groups have expressed similar frustrations arising from a sense of exclusion and helplessness? This is often because they feel that their voices are not being heard or that they are unable to hold those in power to account. There is also a sense of disengagement of large portions of the population, especially due to high rate of youth unemployment and lack of obvious economic opportunities.
As pointed out by Atiku, “We have over the years responded to these agitations in a variety of ways and with a variety of measures. Unfortunately these measures have not worked adequately to enhance national integration and the sustenance of our democracy. If anything, our unity has been fragile, our democracy unstable, and our people more aggrieved by their state in the federation. We have always responded with a suspicion of the “other” in trying to deal with these challenges to our integration and democratic survival. And, quite naturally, our responses/solutions have also been, at least partly, shaped by sectional interests and sentiments.
”We have all been victims of bad leadership, all tribes and all sections. The only winners here are the politicians and the corrupt elites. They pitch our heads together to get us distracted from the real problems instead of getting our concerns focused to see that we are all in this mess together and that there is no need for one side to blame the other.
This is the time for Nigerians to put aside their differences and come together to salvage our country from the present go-slow. As seriall suggested, there are basically two options open to us: the first is to do nothing, naively thinking that the country is on the path to recovery and will shortly experience economic turnaround or accept that the country is at the precipice and must be salvaged, because Nigerians have no other country they can call home. As serially warned, if pragmatic solutions to address the current challenges confronting us are not sought, the country will continue to drift in directions that only God know where and when it will arrive there.
(SENIOR FYNEFACE: 11d Elelewon Street, GRA II, Port Harcourt; [email protected])
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