The debate about whether to restructure Nigeria or allow it remain in its present constitution has raged for longer than most Nigerians have lived. This debate had even led to a bloody civil war, which took with it more than three million lives. There have been Constitutional conferences, national conferences and too many jamborees christened different names just to bring promoters or pretentious promoters of that argument to Abuja for a share of that for which they want Nigeria restructured. Many of those who were vocal proponents of one form of structural restructuring of Nigeria or the other almost go completely mute after participating in any of those jamborees in which our national resources are squandered. This gets the rational patriot to wonder if this restructuring is really about getting the best for this union called Nigeria, or how the same individuals whose actions, inactions and utterances have given vent to this cry for restructuring and for some others complete dissolution of the Union could restructure their stomachs, wardrobes and even in some cases, their sexual fantasies.
There is hardly any Nigerian whose voice matters that has not contributed either for or against this argument for and against the restructuring of Nigeria. While most of those advocating that the country be restructured into a confederal setup, whereby each geopolitical zone of the country will govern itself and make some contributions to a weakened center are from the Southern part of the country, most of those who disagree with this proposal are from the North. Not long ago, a leading Northern politician and opinion molder, Tanko Yakasai had even come out openly to accuse a section of the country of promoting the idea of a restructured Nigeria as a result of their envy for the political advantage which the present Nigerian Constitution accords the Northern part of the country.
Apart from few Northern politicians like former vice President, Atiku Abubakar who have openly lent their voices to the demand for restructuring the country (possibly because of the political correctness of the stance), majority of the people from that part of the country view the call for the restructuring or renegotiation of the country as unnecessary and even as a topic that should not be broached. While majority of those from the Southern part of the country insist that restructuring is the way to go. The reason for the stark ideological dichotomy is not far-fetched. Those from the Southern part of the country see it that their region produces more than 90% of the resources with which the union is sustained, while those from the North, even though, they are as well blessed with some natural resources, have enjoyed the oil resources from the South so much that they feel it will be impossible for them to survive without the oil. It is only the dearth of visionary and responsible leadership that will make one group talk of restructuring because it wants to take full control of its resources (resources they do not know when it came and when it is going to dry up) and the other group to be jittery about its survival chances without these resources.
There is however near consensus among intellectuals and those who can be said to still retain some level of patriotism in them that the country should practice federalism in its truest form. I also agree with this line of argument. It is an embarrassing national insincerity for us to identify as a Federal Republic while some of the most basic features of a federal state are lacking in our way of running government business. This agreement with the debate for a truly federal system does not mean that I will join the crowd cry for a physical restructuring of the entity called Nigeria.
When restructuring is mentioned, the first thing that comes to the minds of a lot of people is the physical restructuring of the entire federation, such that the different regions in the country will enjoy a kind of quasi-independence from the entity called Nigeria. This idea will ensure that the Nigerian union will only be held together by a very loose and tiny rope called the central government whose decisions and operations will be mostly ceremonial and not binding on the independent units that make up the Nigerian Union. This idea is no doubt very popular with a resounding majority of ordinary Nigerians. What this majority have not asked is; how will this restructuring make life better for me and my children? An answer to the above question will be to pursue the kind of restructuring that will ensure that every Nigerian citizen, no matter his or her ethnic or religious background gets a sense of belonging in this country and the right infrastructure are made available for their enjoyment and survival.
If the leadership we have had in this country for the past 56 years of our independence has been near responsible, the words; restructuring, secession, resource control, derivation, zoning, charter of equity and all those deceitful coinages with which politicians deceive the ordinary Nigerian and turn them against themselves would not have been known to us. It is bait thrown to us to keep us busy while the undertakers continue to bury this nation deeper in ignominy.
Nigeria has 36 State governors, 774 Local Government chairmen(elected and appointed) and thousands of ward councillors. We have 109 Senators of the Federal Republic and 360 members of the House of Representatives, more than a thousand House of Assembly members and more thousands of political appointees. We have town union presidents and other executive members of our various town unions, traditional rulers are in their thousands, while we also have thousands of women groups, market associations, professional associations, trade unions, etc. We have Pastors, Imams and other leaders in our various religious and social organizations. How well have any of these people performed in their given responsibilities? How have these people affected the lives of those they lead, positively?
Democracy has ensured that people who either hail from particular areas or have lived so long in these areas that they are now part of those areas are now the ones who take up sensitive leadership positions in such areas. This is unlike in the military era when the leader of the military junta can decide to send any military officer to be governor in any part of the country. For the past 17 years, Nigerians have been electing their own people into positions of authority. How well have those people performed?
Promoters of the restructuring argument argue that restructuring will ensure that every section of the country develops at their own pace without interference from the Federal government. What you need to ask anyone who comes with such argument is; in what ways has the Federal government stopped the governors, the local government chairmen, the councilors and other representatives of the people at various levels from developing their own areas? The Federal government shares allocation to the three tiers of government every month, while allowing the States and Local governments to also look inwards to generate some revenues with which they augment whatever they get from the center. These governors and the the LGA chairmen would have been able to substantially develop their areas if they were selfless, visionary and sincere. The problem with most of them is that they see government money as nobody’s money, hence, they squander it like no man’s business.
No matter how much they want to deceive us, the truth is that no matter how this country is broken down, those who will take up leadership positions in the new structures that will be created will not be very different from those who are presently ruling us and ruining this country. Those who are promoting the restructuring idea have not told us that they will be importing new set of leaders to handle affairs in the new political structures that will be created, and I am sure that there will be no such thing. We are going to have to contend with the same class of leaders.
Certainly, some regions are better endowed than the others when it comes to natural resources and other revenue sources. Coastal States like Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom, Imo, Abia, Rivers, Ondo, Delta, Cross Rivers and Edo have not experienced unprecedented development even though they receive the Constitutionally approved 13% derivation fund and other benefits that accrue to oil producing areas. Some of these States are neck deep in debt without any visible project known to have been done with the monies borrowed. The truth that the proponents of this restructuring will not tell you is that; it is either they want more political spaces for themselves and their protégés or they want more money to dip their hands into, not really for the service of the people, but for their own personal and narrow benefits.
Restructuring is necessary, but not before we have restructured our leadership. The first most important thing to actually restructure about Nigeria, is not the physical structure of the country, but the leadership mindset of the people and also the followership mindset too. Till we begin to see leadership as an opportunity to serve our fellow citizens rather than an opportunity to defraud the system and enrich ourselves, then, we cannot truly say that we have made any move forward.
Most importantly, we need to inculcate the spirit of patriotism in both the led and the leaders. Till we begin to see not necessarily Nigeria, but our primary environment as an inheritance to be nurtured and protected, we cannot claim to be ready to better that same environment when its name or geographical designation has changed. The way we handle different assignments given to us in Church, in school, in the offices where we work, at school or anywhere we find ourselves presently, is the same way we will handle affairs in that same place, when we have being given an opportunity to govern ourselves in regions or provinces. What will change with physical restructuring of the country is just designations and maybe ofices, but as long as the mindset remains the same, then, we will still be contending with the same myriad of problems that we are facing today as a federal State.