Restructuring as the panacea to secession agitations
In case the increased tempo of clamouring for restructuring of the country is the main political reason for this recent frantic search for oil in the Northeast despite the fact that the area is yet to be fully secured, we want to categorically say that there is no need to undertake such a suicide mission. As far as we are concerned, those agitating for restructuring are not calling for the balkanisation or break up of the country. Rather they are only asking for a more judicious devolution of powers especially the one that will adequate economic powers to the Federating States to the extent that the component units in the Federal Republic will have some level of control over the resources that are found or located in their receptive areas be it states or regions.
This may be the answer to checkmate secession tendencies among the Federating units and especially to placate the Biafran agitators. If people are calling for a more equitable distribution of resources that are domiciled in their areas, the political authorities should listen to them and not give any room or occasion for the enemies of this country (both within and unfriendly foreign powers) to increase the tension that is already in the land. Right now, our military may be battle weary as a result of several security challenges they are forced to confront on a daily basis across the country. The Senate and indeed the National Assembly should make use of the ongoing Constitution Amendments exercise to proffer the needed political solutions and dose-off the tension so that our military can have some respite and have some breathing space. It is very unfortunate that our military is losing scores of its gallant officers and men through Internal Peace Keeping operations and not from any external aggression by jealous neighbouring countries or foreign powers.
Still on the issue of secession tendencies, there were some stories trending online in the social media that Nnamdi Kalu and his IPOB boys are planning to carry their mission to the South West and shut down Lagos metropolis. Of course, he can instruct his kinsmen trading in Lagos to close their shops but definitely he has no right to shut down Lagos by staging a rally on the streets of Lagos. To do so will amount to trespassing on another people’s territory. Or is Kanu claiming that Lagos is also part of his Biafran Republic dream just because the Lagosians are very accommodating to other Nigerian ethic groups being the former Federal Capital of the country? What has Lagos in common with any Biafran dream? He may as well carry his campaign to Kano and make attempt to shut down the Northern city.
Some of these boys are rabble rousers, but they may attract sympathy to their course if the Federal authorities as constituted mainly by the Presidency and the National Assembly do not take heed and provide some soft landings to these agitations. And one of the veritable ways to do is to consider the 2014 National Confab report with a view to restructure the country into a true Federal Republic. The country may be called a Federal Republic but we are actually practicing a Unitary System of Government.
And so this is the time for our political leaders to proffer political solutions to a myriad of security challenges that our security agents are battling with. Any further attempts to turn deaf ears to peace moves at restructuring the nation in terms of devolution of more economic powers to the Federating states will not augur well to the continued peaceful co existence of this giant Nation. And the time to act is now. There is no doubt that if this restructuring exercise is properly handled, it will be in our national interest. Who is therefore afraid of Restructuring? There is no need to entertain any such fears at all.
As a matter of fact, every one of the Federating units that constitute this great nation is blessed with potentials and is endowed with both human and natural resources in various degrees. There are human talents or natural endowments that are still lying fallow and waiting to be tapped or developed because of the mono product in terms of petroleum resources that the nation has been relying on heavily to run her economy. On the discovering of oil and its exploration, the country has shifted its main stay of economy from Agriculture to Petroleum Resources, thus making Cocoa, Groundnuts, Cotton, Palm oil, Rubber and Timber, Hides and Skins etc to be relegated to the back seats among foreign exchange earners and boosting our trading capacity in the International market .
In those days, the regional governments in the country were able to make use of the Agricultural products that were cultivated in their places to build and developed their respective regions within the levels of their managerial capacities. During the period that preceded the first 1966 military coup led by the late Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, the Regional powers were very effective since they were allowed to make a large percentage of the resources being produced from their respective Regions. In other words they had some measure of control on the use and utilization of their respective products or Agricultural produce while they contribute some quota to the Federal pursue to run the government at the Centre or the Federal level. And so participation in the government activities at the Federal level was less attractive to the politicians at that time except for those who were really service oriented and were determined to serve the people rather than looking for avenues to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses or the electorate.
In the same vain the abandoned potentials of the Federating States can be revisited and developed with the Modern Technology to boost the Regional economies if the issue of restructuring is well understood and properly executed in the best interest of the nation. Some years ago, specifically between 2001 -2003, I was privileged to serve as a Member, Basic Metals Sector Steering Committee (BMSSC). It was a Presidential Committee that was inaugurated by the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) serving at the Secretariat when Mallam Nasir El Rufai was the Director General of the Agency (BPE). It was my membership of the committee that exposed me to the potentials that abound in our Metals and Solid Minerals sector especially in Iron and Steel and Aluminum sub sectors. For an instance, instead of being designed to produce only Iron rods or bars, our Iron and Steel industry located in Ajaokuta, Kogi State should also be designed to produce flat- sheets which should have been useful in our local automobile industry. The same goes for the Aluminum Smelting Industry that is located at Aladja, Delta State whose products could have been useful in the making of aircrafts.
And if we shift our focus in using cement in our road construction technology now, the limestone deposits that are found in some parts of the country other than the South South and the South East will be put into more usage instead of limiting the its use to building industry and construction of bridges alone. With Restructuring in place, other solid mineral deposits can be tapped, developed and utilised by Federating States hosting them while royalties of about 50 per cent can be paid into the National Treasury to maintain the government at the Federal level.
The same attention should be given to our Tourism potentials which can be veritable sources of income to the Local Communities and the Federating States. For an instance, I know of a place in Oyo state, specifically Ado Awaye in Araromi Local Council Development Area (LCDA) which is hosting the only Suspended Lake in the whole of Africa Continent. As far I could recollect, this particular tourism site has been attracting scores of foreign tourists from the Europe and the America for decades without any form of revenue to the hosting community- Ado Awaye or to Oyo State government other than dashing out canned foods to the tourists- guides as a way of appreciation from the foreign tourists who visited the place on holidays. And there are only two of its kind in the world- the one in Ado Awaye and the second one located in United States of America.
Recently, Oyo State Government has advertised the site along, with some selected sites and calling for Expression of Interests (EOI) from the Local and Foreign investors who can rehabilitate and manage the sites in line with the world’s best practices. Therefore, in our own candid opinion from the foregoing, with more proper sensitization and understanding, Restructuring will be in the best interest of our beloved nation and it will immensely contribute to the growth of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Olakunle, JP is general secretary, National Prayer Movement, Abuja.