Still on restructuring
As we speak, there still are some who claim not to understand what the clamour for restructuring is all about. Some even take it to a ridiculous level, by demanding that those who canvas restructuring have not done enough to explain what they mean. Even after the campaign was given fillip by former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, at a book launch sometime in 2016, where he made bold effort to explain what restructuring will achieve for all parts of the country and what it will not do, particularly for the north, some still continue to feign ignorance of what a reordering of the polity will bring to the table. As far as some have been conditioned to believe, the term if followed through would cut them off from the Federation Account, which is like denying them supply of oxygen. That’s how much an otherwise simple word has been misunderstood.
Simply, restructuring means to reorganize something, for instance, a company in order to make it achieve greater efficiency. In the case of our big and limping country, Nigeria, the idea of restructuring is to make her achieve more and gain efficiency to aspire to the height of countries in Europe, America and Asia.
There are those who deliberately do not want anything that will tamper with the status quo; they simply fail to see the other side of the debate. As far as they are concerned, to restructure will reduce from their spheres of influence and what they currently benefit, which they do not earn legitimately and by dint of hard work. They simply collect rent for doing nothing.
Now, there are some with fears that seem tenable if you follow the history of the country through the ages. There are sections in the country, especially across the Middle Belt, where the gospel of restructuring reminds the people of the losses they suffered in the past. To them, restructuring will return them to the old regional system that yoked them under the Sokoto Caliphate. They do not want to return to regions where their fate would be determined in Sokoto, the spiritual headquarters of the North, even though the administrative headquarters was somewhere in Kaduna. They would rather remain where they are, enjoying relative autonomy, than return to one huge northern region where they would be vassals, more or less.
Similar fears have been expressed in other parts of the country, where the idea of states creation by military administrations had engendered some kind of independence for units that were far from old administrative headquarters. States tend to bring governance closer, whereas the old regions seemed distant. Yes, in the era of oil boom, when there was free money from the centre, such arguments made temporary sense, but as all have now seen, it only enthroned a new set of parasites that do not produce anything. Now that there is little to share, many are beginning to see the sense in collaboration at regional levels to maximize production and take positive advantage of the numbers.
The debate appeared to have gone on well, wining more converts across the country. Apart from the fixation of a few interests on revenue solely from oil, many are beginning to see the futility tying down other areas of growth, particularly agriculture, and its vast capacity to generate employment. At a time the developed world has branched off into other sources of energy that are environmentally friendly, there is little hope here of what the next generation will survive on. So, why must we tie ourselves down and refuse to do things differently?
It was the interjection of former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon that jolted the debate to a screech. He does not think it is restructuring Nigeria needs.
According to him, the country has more than 500 ethnic groups and each group has its own idea about restructuring. Listening to each of them would result in some decibel and rancour.
He said: “Nigeria is made up of over 500 ethnic groups, languages and dialects and so many various groups called nationalities and they want restructuring. This restructuring everybody is asking for, we will have about 500 different ideas of restructuring. There is call for restructuring to reduce the number of states to only a few either back to the old region or to the zones. Those are some of the ideas that I do not know whether it will be possible for any state today to wish to be merged with another state.”
To begin with, I do not think restructuring is only about creation of more states because the ones we have are already too many. And they are not earning revenue to run affairs, they are still dependent nearly 100 per cent on the Federal Government. Should there be no more oil revenue, what will states share and take home to pay their backlog of salaries? In fact, what advocates ask for is less emphasis on states, but more on regions, with more capacities to galvanise states into productive activities.
On that, I think Gowon did not get the argument right. It is true that peoples who have been liberated from regional hegemonies would not like to return to feudal lords of yore. Yes, that is why a new set of geo-political zones is already operational, providing a sense of political unity and economic aspiration to persons who share a commonality of ideas, as well as ethnic affinity. We cannot deny the fact that the country is made up of very diverse peoples, cultures and lifestyles, that are united under one God. They should be allowed to aspire in their different capacities and endowment, while federal authorities provide the all- embracing umbrella to unite their diversities.
This is what is in operation in most federal governments across the world; and where there are still inequalities, deliberate efforts are made to protect the weak and marginalized. But that is not what obtains in Nigeria. Here, the strong become stronger and the weak weaker. Between the time Gen. Gowon left government in 1975 and now, more inequalities have been instituted by the State. Some states have more local government than others, and since councils are a source of wealth redistribution, the process has weakened some interests and empowered others. And what was the basis of states creation under the military? If it was to encourage unity and prevent dissent under Gowon, it was simply to enrich some at the expense of others under successive military governments.
This is why there are growing agitations for restructuring, and why tendencies such as IPOB and Avengers are springing up everyday.
The human aspect of the calls is even more damning and no region is spared the failures of the system of governance the military has imposed on Nigeria. There is more poverty in the north, despite the desperation by the political class there to hang on to power. They do not exercise this power on behalf of the poor masses. There is still a class of feudal lords who are pampered from states’ resources, whereas, there is an army of out-of-school almajiris, who are not captured in the budgets. The political class sends their children to the best schools in the world, while almajiris trounce dusty streets, begging for food to eat. If restructuring will make regional governments (now geo-political units) return to old winning ways, provide education for millions of children and secure their futures, then what’s wrong with that? It is the same story in the South, but to a lesser degree.
Today, the Federal Government is borrowing to fund budgets. Even Lagos is borrowing. Most states are now poor, because the system discourages creativity. I can’t point to many successes under this fraudulent system and recovery is impossible.
Those who resist restructuring simply don’t get it!
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