Restructuring as a panacea to Nigeria’s developmental challenges

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Guest Lecturer during the 2017 Annual week celebrations of the students of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Caleb University Imota, Lagos State

I want to congratulate you for coming up with this topical issue. The topic is very apt. Because restructuring is one of the major problems bedeviling our nation. It is also reassuring to know that you have shown interest in an important issue at the heart of the national question. Only three days ago, the Acting President reminded those in the bureaucracy and government that they have a responsibility for the next generation of Nigerians. In the next one year, many of you will be joining these very important builders of society we often refer to as ‘the salt of life’ because without them, society will decay. It will then become your historic role to design the roads the next generation will pass, the water they will drink and the education of their children. As social scientists, you are going to play a pivotal role within this group of builders of tomorrow because while the engineers, architects design, the doctors tend the sick and the lawyers strive to guarantee a more just society, you are to provide the enabling environment in which they will operate. With your endeavor this afternoon, it is reassuring to know that you understand and are ready to accept your historical role.

Fifty years ago, Nigeria fought a civil war over the issue of restructuring Last week, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu at the World Igbo Congress (WIC) held in Enugu, insisted that “the minimum Ndigbo demand of Nigeria is a restructure of the federation so that every component part of it can substantially harness its resources, cut its coat according to its cloth, and develop at its own speed.” He wants the Igbo “peaceful struggle for a better deal within the Nigerian commonwealth sustained.” His demand is not different from that of Niger Delta militants that want a restructured Nigeria where they will control their resources or even Boko Haram that believes the solution to the poverty and neglect of the north eastern part of the Country is theocracy. But perhaps more significant was the last week successful shutting down of the whole of south east and some parts of Rivers and Delta states on the order of those most Nigerians have often dismissed as ill-informed spare parts sellers in spite of the counter order by the elected governors of the affected states. I think this is a call on Nigerian leaders to stop playing the ostrich. It is better to discuss the process of restructuring the country through dialogue instead of through another war.

The battle for an acceptable structure for Nigeria is as old as the Nigeria state. The colonial master in view of our cultural differences had advised states be created along the lines of cultural development of each federating unit in order to ensure each group develop at its own pace without interference from others. But for many of our political elite, with the prospect of independence, their concern was how to succeed the outgoing colonial masters as the new inheritors of power with all the privileges associated with it. They therefore urged the colonial masters to ignore our cultural differences, which they claimed had been amplified by accident of colonial rule.

Hugh Clifford, Governor General of Nigeria in Dec 1920, for instance reminded our educated elite who were in fact thinking of a united West African nation that the over 350 ethnic groups in Nigeria were at different levels of cultural development. He insisted an idea of a united West Africa would be like talking of a European nation will be an absurdity. Reminding them that ‘the Hausa of Zaria are different from the Bantus tribes men of Benue valley’, He said he wished “ the impossible were feasible that a collection of self-contained and mutually independent native state separated by difference of history and tradition and by ethnological, racial, tribal political social and religious barriers, were indeed capable of being welded together into a single homogenous nation.” He therefore advocated a “national self-government that secure to each separate people the right to maintain its identity, its individuality and its nationality, its own chosen form of government, which had been involved for it by the wisdom and accumulated experiences of generation of its forbearers.”

Oliver Stanley, the colonial secretary of state also warned that it was the presence of the colonial masters that was keeping Nigeria and most African colonized states together and predicted a descent into turmoil by warring sects and groups if they left. For us in Nigeria, it happened only five years after independence and leading to a civil war and the death of about two millions Nigerians. Congo, descended in to chaos within a year of independence and the hostility has continued almost sixty years after

For efficient administration, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, one of Nigeria founding fathers, who had rejected cultural differences claiming it had been amplified by accident of colonial rule, advocated a restructured Nigeria based on eight provinces

1. Northern Province, consisting of Katsina, Kano and Zaria
2. North western Province, Sokoto Niger and Ilorin
3 North eastern province, Borno Bauchi and Adamawa
4 Central Province: Kabba, Benue and Plateau
5. Southern Province, Warri, Benin, Onitsha and Owerri
6. South western- province, Ondo Ijesha, Abeokuta, Oyo and Lagos
7., South eastern Province Calabar and Ogoja
8. The Cameroons.

Awo who had in 1947 warned that “Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression; there is no Nigeria in the same sense as there , English, Welsh, or French.; the word Nigeria is a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not” saw restructured Nigeria as a philosophy of opportunity to enable each ethnic group progress at its own pace. He therefore went on to suggest the ten main ethnic groups as the basis of a restructured Nigeria. i.e.: Hausa, Fulani, Ibo, Yoruba, Kanuri Ibibio, and Munshi. Edo, Nupe and Ijaw

Tafawa Balewa in 1949 also admitted that. “The amalgamation of southern and northern Nigeria in province in 1914 has existed as one country only on paper; it is still being far from being united. Nigeria unity is only a British intension for the country.”

However, the consensus was Bode Thomas’s recommendation of the division of the country into three permanent regions, each with its own political party. The three regions according to him can thereafter send their best to the centre to preside over the affairs of Nigeria. Thus at independence we had three regions The Midwest region was carved out of the west in 1963.

This structure was destroyed by the military whose only method is hierarchical control. To ensure total control from the top, the military opted for creating states to satisfy many of the restive groups in the country. We have ended up with 36 states and 774 LGAs all of them looking up to the centre for hand out

Enemies of restructuring
The first enemy of a restructured Nigeria is the military that has tried to build Nigeria in its own image since its misadventure into politics in 1966. As custodian of Nigerian constitution, all the military ought to have done in 1966 was to revert to our independence constitution. Instead of that, they have introduced all forms of social engineering programmes such as NYSC, Federal Unity secondary schools, Federal Universities, quota admission into universities, civil service and the army.

They have also divided the country into a dysfunctional 36 states and 774 local Government, al in an attempt to continue to maintain their relevance. There are also the political elite especially the military created new breed politicians who represent only themselves General Obasanjo for instance became president even after he had been roundly rejected by his local government and ward.

We also have the economic elite who acquired their wealth as contractors to government. Many of them served as front for the military. They are the major beneficiaries of ill implemented privatization programme through which a total investment of about $100b the nation made between 1970 and 1999 was cornered by the elite who confiscated Nigeria airways, NICON, federal Palace, Hamdala hotels, AP, NEPA, Nigerian vegetable oil Limited among many others for a paltry $1.5b. Of course Nigerians who have become wealthy multi billionaires in their forties without owing industries or inheriting wealth will do everything to sustain the current system. And since they control the wealth, they also control the media which they have continued to use to dismiss informed Nigerians who canvass for a change, as ethnic irredentists.

But what is the way forward?
We cannot achieve much without a theory. Because of peculiar nature of man, model builders from Aristotle to Keneth Wheare have tried to come up with models to provide solution to man’s unique problem. Our leaders are therefore not being called upon to invent the wheel. We can learn from the experiences of other multi ethnic societies.

Let us first look at Europe, where state formation ran its course, through tribal war lords to divine right of, it was discovered the nation state was inhibiting the freedom of individual and group identity. Knowing that ‘modern democracy favours individual as bearer of rights and privileges and not groups’, they opted for federalism that convers status on communities. The federal arrangement ‘formally recognizes groups’ identities as legitimate and autonomous participants in the political process by asserting that formal relationships are a part of individual liberty and identity.’

Following the assertions of some model builders such as Daniel Elazer, who after devastating two world wars said “federalist revolution is the only safeguard for peace and stability in a rapidly changing world” and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a French model builder who predicted “the 20thc will open the age of federations or else humanity will undergo another purgatory of a thousand years”, most western nations including former unitary states like Spain, Belgium went on to embrace a federal arrangement

Unfortunately our self- serving elite in Africa have continued to play the ostrich while the former colonial masters who have been vindicated are increasingly becoming more apprehensive about their post-colonial states degenerating to failed states characterised by weak ineffective and corrupt central government as a result of misrule by their new rulers. Thousands of hungry and jobless immigrants from ex-colonies are flooding the metropolitan nations in droves. In 2011, France experienced first-hand, the anger of the hungry when frustrated homeless immigrants descended on the properties of their wealthy hosts. In 2012, it was the turn of Britain as angry youths freely moved around London, looting and setting fire on malls. Anarchy is slowly creeping into Italy, Greece and Spain.

But the west is prepared to forestall the looming anarchy as a result of migration of frustrated, desperate jobless youths to Europe where the percentage of the unemployed is in some places is as high as 30%. The starting point is checking the greed of their own citizens and their collaborators in the poor African countries manned by incompetent thieving political class. In 2013, US President Barack Obama had during his second inauguration warned “The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob”. The French, after the massive destruction of property by disgruntled immigrants have become very active in Ivory Coast, Guinea, Tunisia and Mali. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking in Davos ahead of the G8 meeting held between June 17 and 18 2013, in Lough Erne, Northern Island, UK, had complained openly about squandered “Nigeria oil exports worth almost a hundred billion dollars”, an amount he said was “more than the total net aid to the whole of Sub Saharan Africa”.

Our structure, our former colonisers have confirmed is the bane of our society. All our country woes – crisis of revenue allocation, corruption, infrastructural decay, collapse of educational sector as well as religious intolerance, stem from the unworkable federal arrangement selfishly imposed by the military and sustained by those benefiting from the anarchy especially the parasitic federal government whose major preoccupation is sharing what does not belong to it, cornering in the process over 50% of what others produced

Restructuring is a win win situation for Nigeria especially the dominant ethnic groups. It will for instance allow the acquisitive Igbos who after fighting a war and is today at the forefront of agitation for restructuring to look beyond taking pride in thriving in other people land to plough back some of their wealth in their communities to end the revolt of the poor who have been forced into criminal activities instead of just building ‘a place of the people’ among the squalor of the poor and the deprived as the great Ozumba Mbadiwe once did, or their Abuja representatives who kept their peace while $34 billion of the $44 billion allocation for the dredging of River Niger was shared with no work done while the current deputy senate president occupied the same position under David Mark.

And for the South-west, restructuring will put an end to the mischief of Yoruba leaders who dabble into other ethnic groups’ affairs in the guise of exporting Yoruba values which have often led to the devastation of Yoruba land by vengeful ethnic war lords and their collaborators. Restructuring will allow the new Yoruba leaders to devote their time and talents to the unfinished Awo and his compatriots’ crusade to create an egalitarian society that support free education, free health services, full employment and life abundance for their people.

Restructuring rather than an elusive search for national character or common vision is a win-win situation for all. For instance it will be sweet justice for some northern states’ ex-governors like Sani Yerima of Zamfara State who according to retired ambassador Olu Aina ‘underwent indoctrination and exposure in all the training camps of Osama Bin Laden,’ before coming to launch his political sharia with fanfare supported by some northern leaders, the Lamido of Adamawa who said during the 2014 Constitutional Conference that if Nigeria became ungovernable, he has about two million Fulani who live across in northern Cameroon and Chad to fall back on will have an option to do exactly that in a restructured Nigeria.

Dr Alex Ekwueme, a former Nigerian vice President as well as NADECO have endorsed a six geo political zones structure for the nation. The 2014 Constitutional Conference midwifed By President Jonathan recommended fiscal federalism and decentralization of the police force among other recommendations. The new geo-political zones according to them will be forced to look inwards to finance their developmental programmes.

Oluwajuyitan was a former Executive Director (Editorial and Advertising) The Guardian Newspaper Limited, a former Executive Director Vantage Press, Publishers of the Nations Newspapers and a former lecturer at the department of Political Science, University of Lagos.

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