Examining The Various Proposals For Restructuring, Separation And Non-Negotiable Unity: A Critical Assessment – By Jaye Gaskia
One of the most enduring manifestations of leadership failure, and elite incompetence of Nigeria’s ruling class and all its factions and fractions, is the persistence and seemingly recurrent urgency of the question of unsettled nature of negotiated consensus on access to and control of power – political and economic within the polity called Nigeria.
During colonialism, on the road to flag independence, the question was posed as that of the nature of the emergent Nigeria state, whether it was going to be Federal, confederal or unitarist.
This failure to agree a sharing formula with respect to access to state power and therefore control of national wealth and treasury, given the allocative character of the Nigeria state has continued to dog successive generations of Nigeria’s ruling class.
And the more impoverished Nigerians have become, the more exclusionary the state has become, and the greater the level of decline in the quantum of wealth in the national treasury; the more strident, and rather more urgent do the elite cries of marginalisation and consequent elite calls for inclusion have become.
In recent times, and in particular since the 2015 general elections and the shakeup and supplanting of the hitherto existing elite power alliance, the cries of marginalisation and the pace of elite mobilisation of grievance around this have become even louder and potentially more disruptive than ever before.
Now let us examine the issues as they are presented by their promoters. All the factions and fractions of the elite are unanimous in their claim and counter claims of the marginalisation and exclusion of their own fraction, usually defined in ethnic and or religious terms.
What they are also equally emphatically in disagreement about is the question of who is marginalising whom? They are in agreement it seems that the inequality in our society, the endemic nature of poverty, the marginalisation and exploitation; all of these they seem to agree, is not class based and class driven; but that these are rather ethnic based.
Yet our reality is that there is no ethnicity in Nigeria, no religious group or faith that is not stratified into layers of reach and powerful at one end, and a mass of powerless and disadvantaged on the other hand.
So according to the majority of our elites, the most significant problem facing us as a people, the foundation of all our problems, including the glaring monumental nature of the failure of class leadership, is the structure of our country! Not the economic structure, but the character of the political structure between ethnic groups!
And what is the solution to this divinely revealed problem of our Nation? The answer it is chorused is in something called ‘True Federalism’, also known as [aka] ‘Fiscal Federalism’, and or ‘Restructuring’. Those among the ruling class who disagree with these notions, respond with their own emphatic prophetic revelation according to which Nigeria’s unity is settled and non-negotiable.
Those who are unable to run political parties without permanent crises; those who are incapable of agreeing or sustaining power sharing agreements amongst themselves, have the effrontery to turn around and insist that Nigeria is not negotiable, and that it is somewhat a measure of lack of patriotism to open up a genuine conversation about our country and the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to our unity.
The other pretentious and self-serving factions and collection of fractions of the ruling class on the other hand come out shouting from the roof tops about the urgency of restructuring. Those who have made a mess of inter-state relations among existing states, are actually telling us they can restructure this country?
When confronted with the emptiness of their slogans; when challenged to come up with programs of action to implement their restructuring slogan; when it became obvious to them that slogans can neither be negotiated nor implemented; they retreated in disarray and came back with a litany of proposals, each one more or less outlandish than the other.
So according to the proposals of some Middle Belt leaders, Nigeria should be restructured into a Federation, with the full compliments of a Federal government; along with twelve  Regions; the 36 states; and the current LGAs.
And similarly, according to the Yoruba leaders, they will instead prefer, a Federation with a Federal government; 6 [instead of 12] regions – to be coterminous with existing geo-political zones; retention of the 36 states, as well as the LGAs.
In the vision of these two proposals, each of the Federal, regional and state governments will have Executive, Legislative and Judicial arms of government. While regions will have the power to create new states, and states will also have the powers to create their own LGAs.
So according to the wisdom of these leading lights of Nigeria’s elites, all that we need to do is to create another heavy bureaucratic layer of governance, this time between the states and the federal government.
So rather than bring government and governance closer to people, we should take it further away from them. Rather than reduce the cost of governance and find an appropriate size for government, what we need is to expand government and increase costs.
It is obvious that the elites do not want to make any sacrifices, instead they want a situation that can accommodate many more elites with respect to direct and indirect access to power and control over resources.
And yes, let it be conceded that they did also propose that the regions should collect the revenues and retain at least 50% of what they collect for their own use. But whatever gain is to be made by this is cancelled out almost immediately by the unnecessary and untenable expansion of state bureaucracy to accommodate more elite interests.
And just before we go any further, it is important to point out and highlight a slightly more tenable proposal, from a seasoned administrator and former Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations.
What is this slightly more nuanced, and certainly better thought out proposal? It is that Nigeria should be restructured into eight  regions; each of which shall have powers to collect its own revenues and also create and manage LGAs.
This proposal avoids the bureaucratic logjam and excesses of the two earlier proposals by doing away with the current states as administrative structures. Instead it proposes that the current state boundaries may be retained, but only as economic development zones within the Regions which shall administer them.
For the moment, these list of three proposals are the most current and most seriously canvassed positions as programs of action for the restructuring of Nigeria.
Those who continue to insist that Nigeria as it is currently constituted is not negotiable, have however not yet made any concrete proposals as to how we can make this county, which is evidently not working, work for all of us.
To insist that Nigeria is not negotiable, and fail to propose a mechanism for making it work as it is currently constituted, is actually to say that there is nothing wrong with Nigeria. A clear indication that this group know that Nigeria is not working is the fact that they also insist on zoning of political offices. One cannot eat one’s cake, and still want to have it.
But what is it that all of these proposals have in common? Including even those canvassing for separation? A cursory examination of each of the stance of these proposals reveals clearly the selfish and self-serving interests of the ruling class, and all of its factions.
The debate about the failure of governance, the failure of the country, is not about us. It is not about how Nigeria has failed her peoples; and how Nigeria’s leaders and leadership have successively failed the country and her people; it is instead about how the ruling class can accommodate more of its personnel at the summit of power and in the treasury.
No one of the fractions and factions of the ruling class in their utterances and propositions have made any mention of citizenship. There is no indication that they even understand that there is a problem with citizenship.
Yet this is the same class that has throughout our post-independence history, and certainly even more stridently since the 1999 return to civil rule; very tenaciously through their actions and inactions, collectively promoted and implemented policies that have undermined our humanity and diminished our citizenship of Nigeria.
For under the successive watch of this leadership the dichotomy between indigenship and citizenship continues to be actively promoted, with indigenship given the upper hand.
In this country, under the irresponsible leadership of this ruling class, we do not have equal, shared and common experience of citizenship; Our citizenship of Nigeria is immediately somehow diminished as soon as we step out of the territory of our so-called state of origin. It does not matter whether you were given birth elsewhere, whether you grew up elsewhere, whether you have been resident permanently outside of this state of origin.
You may have lived all your life, schooled, trained, worked, done all your business, paid all your taxes, contributed all your share of revenue to the state where you are resident; you citizenship of Nigeria is somewhat diminished because your state of residence is not your state of origin.
It is why the quota and Federal Character system and principle is not working. Because filling the quota requires you to be from your state of origin and not your state of residence.
But why was the quota system and Federal character principle introduced? To correct historical imbalances, isn’t it? These imbalances are geographical and locational, they have nothing to do with our DNA.
If I live in a state, and the state is considered backward, I am the one that is very thoroughly impacted by the relative backwardness of the state, not the so-called indigene who actually lives in another state, that is considered relatively more advanced.
What kind of injury are we visiting on ourselves? Yet, without a common and shared, even equitable experience of citizenship, no nation can be built, no state can government efficiently.
Without Universal Nigerian Citizenship, there can be no Nigeria Nation, nor can there be a legitimate Nigeria State.
To buttress this point, one of the two key issues in the Brexit negotiations is the question of citizenship. The citizenship rights of EU citizens who live in Britain, as well as the citizenship rights of Britons who will live in the EU post Brexit.
The issue of citizenship was and continues to be at stake in the Scottish and Irish questions, as well as in the Catalan question.
Yet Nigeria’s ruling class and all its factions seem to be oblivious of the centrality of citizenship and citizenship rights to the sustenance of our humanity.
Neither those canvassing for restructuring, nor those canvassing for separation, nor even those insisting that our unity cannot be discussed have given any thoughts to citizenship, and the peculiarity of the citizenship question in our own country.
What will be the status of citizenship and the citizenship rights of Nigerians within Nigeria once they have stepped out of their new ‘regions of origin’? Or the status and citizenship rights of Nigerians that will remain in Biafra, or of Biafrans that will remain in Nigeria after separation?
On this very fundamental and basic requirement of governance, the collective class failure of this ruling elite is once again made very manifest.
There is also a second, equally significant question and issue that these canvassers of restructuring and separation have also failed to address. The question of local governance, of governance at the community level.
Within the context of a restructured Nigeria, how might communities be governed? In the same distant, extractive, disempowering and ineffective manner?
This leadership has failed; our institutions are not working because there is a failure of leadership. And against the background of diminished citizenship, it is little wonder that society is being torn asunder.
What we require is for the emergence of a new leadership, one arising from a different class, and one focused on fostering as a matter of policy and practice Nigerian citizenship as the basis for building a New Nigeria Nation, and under the coordination of a New Nigeria State, trusted, respected, and actively engaged by Nigerian citizens.
This is the type of leadership we shall offer. This is the type of Nigeria we are committed to building. A Nigeria, where no one’s citizenship shall be diminished by their place of residence or location; nor by their gender or sex; nor by their faith and ethnicity; nor by their age, whether young or old.
It is time we do away in practical terms with the phenomenon of indigenship that trumps citizenship. It is time we undertake a comprehensive reform of local governance and establish and enhance democratic self-government in all of our communities.
It is time to Reclaim Our Humanity; Retrieve Our Citizenship; Take Back Nigeria; and Remake Our Society.
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