Discussion on restructuring has retained a pervasive and feverish dominance on the polity, writes Davidson Iriekpen
Having taken his crusade for the restructuring of Nigeria to every political platform in the country, Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, recently reiterated at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, that it was the only to panacea to ensure peace and development.
Dickson faulted the assertion by President Muhammadu Buhari that those clamouring for it are nursing a parochial agenda.
He wondered why Buhari could make such utterance, while maintaining that advocates of restructuring were genuine patriots who are passionately committed to the healthy growth of the country and peaceful co-existence among all Nigerians. According to him, Nigeria cannot be productive with the current structure.
The governor has been in the forefront of the crusade for restructuring, true federalism, power devolution as the foundation for a stronger, egalitarian Nigerian nation.
Recently, while receiving a high-powered delegation led by former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who paid him a courtesy call at Government House in Yenagoa, Dickson disclosed that the 2019 general election would be a referendum on restructuring, adding that only aspirants who believe in restructuring would get the support of the Ijaw nation. The governor said there was no going back on his call for restructuring, and pledged to take his consultations to all parts of the country until Nigeria achieves a true federal structure.
He said the people of the Ijaw from Ondo, Edo, Delta, Rivers to Akwa Ibom States had been fully mobilised and conscientious on the importance of the 2019 general election and what it portends for restructuring.
Everywhere in Nigeria, restructuring has become the catchword with key political leaders and socio-political groups pushing forward certain ideas and views suggesting that it may determine how certain parts of the country view presidential candidates in the 2019 election. They believe it is the way out of the cries of marginalisation by various segments of the country and impedes optimal development and the realisation of the peoples’ aspirations.
One major plank of their argument is the contention that the unification of the South and North in 1914 was misconceved. They state that the South and North were not put together for the benefit of the development of Nigeria but for the promotion and development of the industrial revolution in Britain-production of materials for the use of companies in Britain.
However, the constitution of 1952-1960-1963 which the military suspended in 1966, was for the development of the regions created by 1914 unification of South and North, when tremendous progress which are still visible in South-west are the only development, in this area of the country. The army, however, took over the governance of the whole country and destroyed this structure and replaced it with a structure in which the federal government is the controller of virtually all power and all resources as well as the power to develop all resources, and in which the states have no control over their resources and must depend on federal allocations of funds to exist.
Proponents of restructuring are of the opinion that the federal government is over-burdened, controls too much money, has become egregiously inefficient and destroying the country. The states, which are component entities of the federation are impotent, cannot develop their resources, cannot fight poverty in their domains, and cannot make their contribution to the progress and prosperity of Nigeria. The cumulative effect of all these is that Nigeria and Nigerians have become so poor that most public facilities such as roads, electricity, water installations, public administration, are not working or have perished.
Crime has made life very unsafe all over Nigeria. In various regions of the country, youths are demanding the breaking up of Nigeria or an alternative administrative platform, arguing that in spite of being together for over 50 years, there is still evidence of injustice, inequity and prejudice in the governance of the country.
This has manifested in varied forms of protest and agitation; some subtle and peaceful sublime like Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), while others have taken a violent form resulting most times in the destruction of lives and property as exhibited by Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and other Niger Delta militant groups.
This is why Dickson who is a victim of this maginalisation and imbalance has taken up the gauntlet to demand for remedies. He is not alone in the campaign. Many other prominent Nigerians and stakeholders have argued in favour of restructuring including former vice president, Abubakar Atiku and former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Chief Ayo Opadokun among others, have thrown their weight behind it.
While they have advanced restructuring as a better option to enhance the unity of the Nigerian nation and thereby promote growth and development of the country, the government and some conservative elements in the North see it as a threat or rather a call to divide the country.
The newly installed leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the socio-cultural umbrella body of Igbos worldwide, has been critical of the Nigerian political configuration, which it blamed for the alleged marginalisation and unjust treatment of Igbos in the country.
The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo has decried the purported deliberate exclusion of Igbos in strategic positions in the country as well as the killing of youths from the South-east region agitating for their rights. According to him, only restructuring would assuage the situation, stressing that even an Igbo presidency in 2019 is not an issue compared to the challenges before the country.
The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, which has been agitating for the restructuring of Nigeria, recently had to vent its anger over the issue following the Ife clash between Hausas and Yoruba, particularly because that the government of the federation controlled by the Hausa/Fulani exhibited bias and discriminatory attitude towards the Yoruba in the handling of the crisis. Former Federal Commissioner for Information cum leader and advocate of rights of Niger Delta people, Chief Edwin Clark, has been unrelenting in the quest for restructuring and resource control by the people. According to him, the existing predicament of the country is far from the desires of the founding fathers of Nigeria.
In contrast, northern leaders have rejected the calls for restructuring of the country, rather asking that the federal government should vote more funds for the exploration of oil in the north. This betrays the fear of the North that should the regions or states be allowed to control their resources and develop at their own capacity, they might end up financially stranded; hence, the charge on the government to intensify the search for oil in the region.
Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II attested to this when he stated in Kaduna recently that if Nigeria is split into components, Northern Nigeria would be the poorest, having been bogged down by religious and cultural constraints.
But congregating under the platform of Northern Delegates Forum (NDF) drawn from members of the 2014 National Conference, the northern elders asserted that the North was not given fair representation in the conference with 189 delegates despite its landmass of 70 per cent and 55 per cent of the country’s population.
Their grouse according to their spokesman and former Minister of Power and Steel, Bashiru Dalhatu, is that “The 2014 national conference had 492 members and the North which constitutes about 70 per cent of the country’s landmass and 55 per cent of its population was allocated 189 delegates while the South with only 30 per cent of the landmass and 45 per cent of its population was given an incredible 305 delegates.”
This they claimed was designed to put the North at a disadvantage, insisting that the clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria along some undefined contours have been contrary to the existing constitutional order. He disclosed when they met in Abuja that the forum disassociates from any attempt by any group to seek to implement or force the federal government or any of its institutions to use the report of the conference, under any guise for the purpose of restructuring Nigeria.
For now, there is no end to the agitation and it is not certain that the geopolitical zones would sit down to agree on the way forward.
Everywhere in Nigeria, restructuring has become the catchword with key political leaders and socio-political groups pushing forward certain ideas and views suggesting that it may determine how some parts of the country view presidential candidates in the 2019 election.