The agitation for a restructuring of the country is seriously gaining momentum. Perhaps, the time to consider it is now. Olawale Olaleye writes
Five years ago, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, at an event organised by the Leadership Newspapers, first bounced off the idea of restructuring. At the time, the level of acceptability of this supposed all-time solution to what has become Nigeria’s permanent problem was low.
He contended: “There is indeed too much concentration of power and resources at the centre. And it is stifling our march to true greatness as a nation and threatening our unity, because of all the abuses, inefficiencies, corruption and reactive tensions that it has been generating.
“There is need, therefore, to review the structure of the Nigerian federation, preferably along the basis of the current six geopolitical zones as regions and the states as provinces. The existing states structure may not suffice, as the states are too weak materially and politically to provide what is needed for good governance.”
Consistent with his position, exactly 10 months ago, Atiku, at the launching of a book titled, “We are all Biafran”, said Nigeria risked being a failed state due to its structure and emphasised the imperative of restructuring.
Then, just a few months ago, precisely in March this year, Atiku reiterated his commitment to restructuring when he said “There is no doubt that many of our states are not viable, and were not viable from the start once you take away the federation allocations from Abuja.”
Although acting President Yemi Osinbajo disagreed with him and suggested that the diversification of the economy would end the country’s problems, Osinbajo thought even if the country was restructured, the same problems would still linger if economic solution was not put in place.
Unfortunately, Osinbajo’s position was not as popular as Atiku’s call for restructuring, which began to acquire support even from the least expected quarters.
Soon to be on this list is a former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, who said although the country had survived a lot of crisis in the past, restructuring could no longer be wished away.
“Restructuring has become a national appeal as we speak, whose time has come. I will strongly advocate for devolution of powers to the extent that more responsibilities be given to the states while the federal government is vested with the responsibility to oversee our foreign policy, defense, and economy.
“Even the idea of having federal roads in towns and cities has become outdated and urgently needs revisiting. That means we need to tinker with our constitution to accommodate new thoughts that will strengthen our nationality,” he stated.
Then, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors followed suit. The Progressive Governors’ Forum contended that the recent agitation by some ethnic groups was a reflection of the prevalent weak governance, economy and law enforcement.
In an eight-page document containing the governors’ position on the challenges to Nigeria’s unity and titled: “There has to be a nation first”, they said the demands for political restructuring and true federalism could be met by adjusting the federal system.
“It appears that demands framed by different groups in terms of political restructuring or true federalism can be met through adjustment in Nigeria’s federal system. Although such adjustment will not on its own address the root and branch of Nigeria’s challenges, it is worth pursuing in order to meet the demands of various Nigerian groups. The focus of this restructuring is to restore the principle of non-centralisation of power in the country’s federal arrangement being the defining element of a federal polity.”
Evidently, the idea sounded good enough that the opposition People Democratic Party Governors’ Forum also backed the call for the urgent restructuring of the country as a way to addressing some of the ongoing agitations in some parts of the nation.
Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, who is also the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, in a telephone interview with a news medium, said his colleagues in the national leadership of the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the opposition party were on the same page with the APC governors on the need to restructure the country.
“Democratic governance offers Nigeria the rare opportunity to reconfigure the Nigerian state to become a truly federal democracy that meets the aspirations of our citizens in which fiscal and political autonomies at sub-national level co-exist without tension with a strong national government capable of being a mirror for its constituent elements.
“The APC governors have not just been saying it; Aregbesola said it; Ajimobi and a host of others in the APC have said it; and now, they have said it as a group and we support their call for restructuring. But the problem I have is that the Presidency is deaf to the voice of reason. But even if the Presidency is not going to respect the governors, what about those respected national leaders, who have been calling for restructuring?”, he asked.
As it is, the recent turn of events is a clear indication that the call for restructuring might have come to stay. It’s been long in coming and with the prevailing agitations as well as related concerns from different parts of the country, the need to reconsider the idea has reached a point it can no longer be jettisoned.
The nation is plagued more today than it had ever been and the current circumstances present more opportunities to redressing these issues of national concern once and for all than they had been in time past. The form and format it would take is what may be vague for now, what is not vague or in doubt is that the current structure is no longer effective (it has never been anyways) and therefore, the thought of an alternate option – a more viable one – grabs the attention.