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The restructuring debate

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The restructuring debate

Since the return of democratic governance in Nigeria, restructuring of the country has been one issue that has refused to go away. Despite all efforts by successive governments to wish it away, the issue has refused to die.

 

Restructuring, as simple as the word looks, means different things to different parts of the country. While to people of the South-South it may mean control of natural resources by the federating units and payment of royalties to the centre, it also means the decongestion of the centre and assigning more powers to the federating units to the South-West and South-East.

 

The latter definition also makes some sense to the people of the Middle Belt region.

 

But the greatest opposition to the idea has always come from the core northern zones of North- East and North-West, where opponents of the idea see it as a ploy by some zones, particularly the South-East, to fragment Nigeria.

To those who are opposed to restructuring, the unity of Nigeria was much more important than any other motive attached to such reconfiguration of the entity. Since the preindependence days, Nigeria has toyed with different constitutional changes. From the parliamentary system of government in the First Republic to the presidential system adopted since the Second Republic, the country has laboured to bring forth a state where every citizen would feel belong and equal.

 

But the facts on the ground show that the country has moved from one that was fast developing after independence to one that has retrogressed, especially since after the overthrow of the Shehu Shagari government in 1983. Since then, various governments, both military and civilian, have made efforts at amending the constitution to be more suitable for the country.

 

But, obviously, sore thumbs have continued to crop up all over the country, indicating that all is not well with the administration of the country and its present set up. Soon after the return of democracy in 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo faced his first major challenge – the quest to introduce Sharia in some states of the North. Although, Nigeria constitutionally is a secular state where there is no state religion, some governors in the North then found it expedient to implement full Sharia in their states.

 

That drew anger from the Southern states, even though the governors in the affected northern states then argued that the laws were meant for Muslims only. Similar, but different modes of agitations rose in the South-South, with demand to control proceeds of oil from the zone – the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. That, of course, led to what is today known as the Niger Delta agitation that ended up with the granting of amnesty to youths of the region by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.

 

The South-East had its own agitation in the mould of separatist groups, such as the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, (MASSOB) and its ‘younger brother,’ the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The South-West has made restructuring one of the bases for their support for any government.

 

This is why Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, during the week, attacked Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, over his opposition to restructuring. South-West believes more in fiscal federalism and loose federating units, with a less powerful centre.

 

One thing that is not in doubt from all agitations is that majority of Nigerians are not satisfied with the state of affairs of the country. Be it resource control, policing, defence, revenue sharing, state creation or mode of government, there is almost a consensus that something has to give in on the way the country is currently running.

 

The name or manner of agitation might be different, but the language is the same – the country is presently unwieldy, with so much power concentrated at the centre.

 

We also know that one of the major planks of the support given to APC in 2015 by the South-West was the promise of the party to embark on restructuring if it won power. When the question of restructuring became hot, the party went ahead to set up a committee headed by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, which made recommendations on the restructuring issue.

 

That report is also on the shelves now. There have been several of such in the past, made by different committees set up by different governments. We are of the view that the issue of restructuring should be a major issue going into 2019.

 

We do not subscribe to the breakup of Nigeria by any means. But we believe that the current model being operated by the country is not sustainable. There are several instances that support that assertion.

 

The recent impasse at the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) that almost crippled several states is a case in point. We believe that every state in the country or, at worst, every zone, can manage itself, if power is devolved. Corruption and tension will also reduce when there is less power at the centre. By that, Nigeria would join other advanced democracies, who we copied their models, in having a workable system.

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