Issues and challenges of restructuring Nigeria Part 2
What remained relatively fixed is the Nigeria territory, less ceded Bakassi. Socio-cultural and political dynamics have inflicted permanent changes.
The shoe size of 1963 can no longer fit Nigeria of today and, most likely, Nigeria of the future. Regardless of the nostalgia for the 1963 Constitution in the mind of many of the agitators, the structure, systems and practices of that era cannot realistically be superimposed on the existing structure.
Perhaps, it is in realisation of the impracticality of returning to the 1963 structure and worried by the malfunction of the current state structure, that some of the advocates floated the idea of adoption of the current geopolitical zones as the federating units.
This idea was canvassed and rejected in the course of the constitutional discussions prior to the promulgation of the 1999 Constitution.
Another proposal is for a supra body of federation of some states within the federation. That is to group the states into several federal regional governments and empower the federated states to have representations overseas, just like it was when the regions had consular-generals. The workability of this proposal is suspect and should be rejected.
It may be recalled that Nigerians were jubilant and hailed the creation of their states. It is therefore, inconceivable that the states as presently constituted would willingly give up their hard-earned freedom and again subordinate themselves to the former regional capitals.
The ensuing struggle for a would-be capital of the proposed sub-federating units is another issue that must be anticipated. Can Nigeria afford more rounds of squabbles and expenses to site and build new capitals for the proposed sub-federating units?
Besides, much as there is serious concern about the economic viability and sustainability of the existing states, many interest groups still clamour for further balkanisation and creation of more states, no matter what.
Eighteen new states were shortlisted during the constitutional conference of 2014 and the demand is still relentless. Hence, there is need for the two extreme groups – those calling for further balkanisation vs those demanding for sub-federating entities – to seriously reconcile their views.
Undoubtedly, serious questions have been raised by the demands for restructuring. Unfortunately, the answers are not easy to come by. The way forward, however, is not in a return to the bygone structures of the early 1960s. Such proposals remain mere nostalgia as the bygone structures of that era can’t be re-enacted in their exact format today.
The answer to the re-structuring question lies more in collective self-examination, in fundamental change of attitude, and in a public-spirited approach to public administration by the current operators of our constitution.
Fortunately, there is a silver lining after the initial heated agitations. This is in the realisation that Nigeria as a whole is in better stead than the constituent parts standing alone and that solution to the questions raised should be sought within the context of maintaining Nigeria’s sovereignty.
Nigeria, the largest black nation on earth, a creation of God and blessed with a lot of potentials, can be administered properly by a more ethical, transparent and accountable leadership at all levels. There is urgent need to uplift the living standard of the citizenry and this also calls for a more judicious use of our God-given resources.
While there is need to put in place measures that will ensure our current leaders exhibit the right attitude in the performance of their functions, the more urgent and fundamental need is to work out a way of inculcating and sustaining in the younger and future generations patriotic zeal that puts service and loyalty to country above selfish and parochial inclinations.
Given the required change in attitude, the 1999 Constitution is workable. Contrary to its condemnation by some critics, it is not the product of a single individual. It is a reflection of the totality of all the numerous efforts and experiences Nigeria gained and harnessed at constitution making since the amalgamation of the country in 1914. At least there were seven consecutive constitutions drawn up for the country prior to the 1999 constitution.
Many living Nigerians could testify that they participated in several constituent assemblies, the discussions of which preceded the promulgation of the different constitutions by the military, as a matter of formality.
The centre may well have turned out to be too powerful, hence the current call for devolution of powers and redistribution of resources. However, it cannot be denied that the powerful centre is the outcome of intense agitations by Nigerians of the 1960s that the regions were too powerful and imbalanced and should be balkanised. The agitations were heeded and implemented to grant self-determination to some communities and preserve the unity of Nigeria.
• Usman, former permanent secretary in the presidency, wrote from Abuja.
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