Ogomudia; Reasoning Together on Restructuring or Structural Intervention

By Jerome-Mario Utomi
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Talking about the nation’s restructuring, it will amount to a pragmatic demonstration of naivety proceeding without first underlining the fact that the agitation has a historical foundation. Experienced political observers know that the challenge that fuels the agitation started shortly before the nation’s independence and rooted in the asymmetrical posturing /imbalance of the nation.

To buttress this position, it is factually documented that the late Premier of the Western Region once described Nigeria as a ‘mere geographical expression’ and later threatened “we (Western Region) shall proclaim self- government and proceed to assert it”, a euphemism for secession, in the same vein, the Northern Region under the Premiership of the late Ahmadu Bello never hid the desire for a separate identity. Just before independence, the Region threatened to pull out of Nigeria if it was not allocated more parliamentary seats than the south.

The departing British colonial masters, desirous of one big entity, quickly succumbed to the threat. In fact, the North at that time did pretend it never wanted to have anything to do with Nigeria. For example, the motto of the ruling party in that region at that time was ‘One North, One People, and And One Destiny’. And the name of the party itself ‘Northern People’s Congress, NPC, was suggestive of separatist fervour, distinct identity.

Though thorny, yet, the debate on the need to have the country restructured has occupied the public discourse; and Nigerians have had the opportunity of reading different opinion articles, editorial comments expressing divergent views about the topic.

Essentially, a peep into such conversation will reveal that while many argue that the nation is asymmetrically structured and standing in an inverted pyramid shape with more power concentrated at the top and the base not formidable enough making collapse inevitable if urgent and fundamental steps are not taken, some feel that restructuring is a panacea for enduring nationhood, and need not be a one-off thing. Hence, 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

To the rest, Nigeria has a choice, to restructure by plan or by default.

In their explanation, 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.

Looking objectively at these differing opinions which I will objectively describe as a counter, trans and cross ideas, generated on this burning issue tagged ‘restructuring, one thing seems to stand out; the vast majority of Nigerians are in support of restructuring.

Against this backdrop, it will not be wrong to conclude that a feeling such as this, propelled the Former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Alexander Ogomudia(RTD), while delivering a keynote address at the Good Governance Lecture organised by the Catholic Church of Warri’s Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), chaired by Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, to express fear over some recent developments in the country, which according to him are indications that Nigeria is overdue for restructuring-warning that the continued suppression of the agitations for the restructuring of the country could lead to a violent break up of the nation.

Lamenting the high level of insecurity in the country, he added that a situation where a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, was killed in the streets like an urchin and nothing happened is a sign that the nation is not moving in the right direction”.And therefore urged those opposed to restructuring to borrow a leaf from the break up of Yugoslavia and Sudan,

Indeed, that Ogomudia acknowledged what has been on the mind of Nigerians is not the concern of this piece. What has however caused concern is the swift reaction from the presidency via a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, was flayed Ogomudia’s comments that the continued suppression of the agitations for the restructuring could lead to a violent break up of the nation. And noted that Nigeria operates a constitutional system and changes to the country in structure, systems, policy and politics must abide by the norms of democracy. And concluded that the vituperation coming from a former military chief speaks volumes about the mindset of groups of citizens who are yet to accept democracy as a form of government.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings coming from the government, the need to add a sidelight has become overwhelmingly urgent. No matter how long it will take us as a people to live in denial; Structural intervention/deliberate recognition of or reassignment designed to reduce interpersonal friction or to remove a source of conflict for one or more groups has become urgently imperative.

Instead of denial, what Nigerians expect from the FG is to find out, and deal with the problem fanning the agitation.

Principally, these factors in my understanding revolve around a deliberate demonstration of impunity, as well as superiority by one group or region, led to this burning agitation today. While forgetting the agelong warning that ‘never be so foolish to believe that you are stirring admiration by flaunting the qualities that raised you above others. By making aware of their inferior positions, you are only stirring unhappy admiration or envy that will gnaw at them until they undermine you in ways that you may not foresee'. It is only the fools that dare the god of envy by flaunting his victory'.

Again, the mindless play of politics also contributes to this. As a nation, we have not been able to draw a distinction between politics and leadership as they play politics all the way. In doing so, the politicians use the people to further their own end which is unpleasant, selfish, narrow mindedness and petty. Their politics involves intimidating people, getting things done by lying or other dishonoured means'.

To solve this present challenge, we must remark Frantz Fanon. Remember that every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it. The restructuring debate has graduated from mere rhetorics to issue of national concern, so is our responsibility.

Apart from using our pragmatic intelligence devoid of emotional attachment to ask solution-oriented questions in a solution-oriented manner, the truth must be told to the effect that the whole gamut of restiveness of youths, whether in the Southeast, South-South, North or Southwest, and resurgence demand for the dissolution of Nigeria stems from mindless exclusion, injustice and economic deprivation.

Devolution of power at the centre has become inevitable as most of the items contained in the exclusive list should serve their best purpose when handled by the states and the local government. The padding of the exclusive list of activities has made ‘Abuja’ appear as a general surrounded by many lieutenants instead of the other way around. For true federalism to be practised there is the urgent need for the nation to make the centre less attractive and federating regions or states strengthened with greater autonomy.

A very good incentive for addressing this structural imbalance in the country is: the Report of the 2014 National Conference-the holistic implementation of that report is germane to the survival of the Nigerian which is right now in its most fragile state since the end of the civil war.

While this is ongoing, it would be highly rewarding in political and social-economic terms if Mr President’s aides learn to use their good offices to help the nation; deepen information dissemination, enrich democracy and promote peace and unity among Nigerians of different cultures, ethnicity, culture and religion; inculcate and reinforce positive political, cultural, social attitudes among the citizenries-as well as create a mood in which people become keen to acquire, skills and disciplines of developed nations. And most importantly analyze trends, predict their consequences, and counsel Mr President.

Jerome-Mario Utomi( [email protected] ), writes from Lagos.

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