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Restructuring Nigeria; Not When, But How

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By Oseloka H. Obaze
Nigeria is at risk unless it finds the courage to restructure. A nation in

dire straits, Nigeria has a choice, to restructure by plan or by default.

A planned restructuring will be collaborative, systematic, and redesign

Nigeria, yet keep it whole.  A default restructuring, will happen,

certainly not by choice, but definitely like an uncontrolled experiment

with attendant risks and indefinite outcome. The challenge confronting

Nigeria now, is that the long overdue restructuring will happen, when the

cost of not restructuring far outweighs the cost of restructuring.

Nigeria's federalism remains so only in name.  As such, the debate to

restructure Nigeria or not is well beyond political rhetoric and ethnic

polemics. President Buhari in his campaign manifesto, promised to

“Initiate action to amend the Nigerian Constitution with a view to

devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states in order to

entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.” In all fairness, Buhari

never used the word, “restructure”; but it was implied.  As the debate on

restructuring gathers steam, there's a corollary; the gnawing fear that

equates restructuring with the break up Nigeria. Such concern is unfounded

and the notion defeatist. Nigeria has been restructured several times,

without negative consequences. The present demand is to make the Nigerian

entity and its integral parts, more efficient, more acceptable, more

productive, more functional and above all, more equitable.  Nigeria

arrived at the present juncture, first, because of entrenched distrust of

the political leadership and second, because Nigerian leaders

pathologically loath political and academic analysis pointing them to

vexatious national questions. Shamefully, Nigerian leaders only react to

violent agitations; always belatedly and mostly, in very crass if not

heinous manner.
Since the civil war, Nigeria has never been as polarized as it is now.

Restructuring Nigeria, is therefore, naturally compelling for reasons,

which may include the desire to tweak management, ownership and

operational or administrative modalities, with a view to achieving equity

and efficiency.  Restructuring sometimes arise from crisis situations or

the need to preempt political catastrophe. The latter is a core premise

for Nigeria. Regardless of what opponents of restructuring think, Nigeria

must restructure or risk self-destruction.  What matters is whether

Nigeria's leadership can seize the moment and save the nation. But what

matters most, is not when, but how to restructure peaceably. President

Buhari's manifesto also recognized the need to “Bring permanent peace and

solution to the insurgency issues in the North-East; the Niger Delta; and

other conflict prone states and areas such as Plateau, Benue, Bauchi,

Bornu, Abia, Taraba, Yobe, and Kaduna in order to engender national unity

and social harmony.” Along these delineations, a casual line matrix

connecting all the flash points in Nigeria will reveal a nation steeped in

deep crisis.
The crux of the problem is that citizen alienation is rife nationwide; to

the extent that every ethnic jigsaw component of Nigeria feels

sufficiently aggrieved, marginalized and therefore, seeks equity via

restructuring. Paradoxically, before now, the call for restructuring was

one-sided. Now, restructuring calls emanate tellingly from the east, west,

south and north of Nigeria.  Eminent Nigerians canvassing for

restructuring include, Ben Nwabueze, Atiku Abubakar, Balarabe Musa, Wole

Soyinka, Alani Akinrinade, Edwin Clark,  Emeka Anyaoku, Ishola Williams,

Tanko Yakassai, and pan-sectional groups like Ohaneze Ndiigbo, Afenifere,

Movement for National Reformation and The Patriots. An inescapable

addition is a slew of agitating and emergent armed groups, including Boko

Haram, Niger Delta Avengers, Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, MOSSOB and

Northern stakeholders seem averse to restructuring. However, Adamu Ciroma

in saying “I don't agree that the North is afraid of restructuring,”

tampered that disposition.  Gen. Yakubu Gowon supports restructuring,

albeit within established parameters; “We can restructure within one

Nigeria context.” Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State does not favour

restructuring as “panacea to the nation's current socio-economic woes”;

rather he prefers restructuring of “the national mindsets” aimed at

returning Nigeria to “the path of progress.”
The motives behind restructuring vary, yet it's well understood that

restructuring can't be orchestrated on a sectional, basis, except by force

of violence.   It's that singular realization and the need to avoid

violence that propels the clamour for a formalized restructuring of

Nigeria. The clamour is underpinned by Machiavelli's mantra of “the

powerful influence of necessity”. Ironically, entrenched suspicion is

still rampant that any call for restructuring is insidious and masked with

ulterior motives; primarily to Balkanize Nigeria.  In truth, the

thirty-six state structure does that support that theory. Moreover,

investments by a huge cluster of wealthy Igbo elite outside their

southeast home base have made most Igbo elite embarrassingly taciturn on

restructuring issues – read fear of economic reprisals. Yet such reticence

is misconstrued, as the Igbo desire restructuring badly, so their

enterprises can continue to flourish in a united Nigeria.

If there is a common denominator for restructuring, it's that broad

segments of the nation feel justifiably marginalized. The south-south

claim continued deprivation and blight from oil pollution, despite being

the hub for the nation's oil wealth. The south-east legitimately gripes

that nothing will change the history of the Igbo being divested of some of

their properties and wealth after the war and being handed only twenty

pounds each; and that fifty-six years after independence, the Nigerian

presidency continue to elude the Igbo.  The North has valid gripes too.

Most of Nigeria's insolvent states are in the North; the broadest swathes

of underdeveloped Nigeria are in the North and the largest numbers of

uneducated and unskilled youths are from the north. Because northern

states are not oil producing, they also lose out on preferential

derivation from oil. These differing claims tally with Atiku Abubakar's

recent summation: “Our current structure and the practices it has

encouraged have been a major impediment to the economic and political

development of our country. In short, it has not served Nigeria well, and

at the risk of reproach it has not served my part of the country, the

North well.”  However, the natural argument that follows is that the

North's problems are self-inflicted; if Nigeria's misrule has negatively

impacted the north,  the blame lies with Northerners who have

predominantly ruled Nigeria.
Certain realities must be borne in mind. Post-independent Nigeria had four

regions, which without the benefit of oil created wealth, were

self-sufficient in food and production of various cash crops and other

exportable commodities.  The regions contributed effectively to

bankrolling the central government. Today, the reverse is the case. While

across board, segments of Nigeria's population continue to express

“feelings of marginalization, of being short-changed, dominated,

oppressed, threatened, or even targeted for elimination,” what is most

bothersome to them is being subjected to involuntary “dependency” arising

from overwhelmingly centralized powers. So long as Nigerians feel a sense

of dissatisfaction with the state of the commonweal; so long as Nigerians

feel dependent, vulnerable, somewhat disenfranchised, and are tugged by

emotions- betrayal, disappointment, frustrations; the clamour for

restructuring will persist.
Because Nigeria is so politically polarized, rallying the nation to a

consensus on restructuring is fraught with  difficulties.  Yet two points

must be made emphatically. Nigerians must accept that the phobia against

restructuring is misplaced, more so when linked with a breakup.  Secondly,

restructuring need not be a one-off or a this-day event. Hence

restructuring must be handled the same way one seeks equity; everyone is

obligated to come to the table with clean hands; meaning tolerance,

openness and accommodation. Nigeria's restructuring jives with Buhari's

'change” agenda and campaign promises. The process calls for frank

dialogue; the dialogue proper, though unshapen, commenced with the 2014

National Confab, imperfect as it was. Meaningful strides are possible

starting with the implementation of select recommendations of the 2014

Confab Report and setting modalities for tackling the longer-term agenda.

This approach offers several dividends; it will buy the nation time,

assuage frayed nerves and convey a sense of inclusivity to Nigerians.

Finally, President Buhari having boxed himself into a corner, by

consigning the 2014 Confab report to the archives, without the benefit of

reading it, must correct that policy and governance flub. He needs to

rescind that decision and embrace the Confab report in principle, thus

tacitly supporting the restructuring agenda, while fulfilling his campaign

promise. Thereafter, he can offer his template for restructuring Nigeria.

Obaze, is MD/CEO of Selonnes Consult Ltd.
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