By All Means, Let’s Restructure
Babayola M. Toungo
We are yet again at the season of unreasoning – the season when hair-brained ideas are put forth in order to advance personal ambitions instead of moving the country forward. These are times when after running out of ideas, our politicians resort to emotive issues to whip up sentiments and draw the undiscerning to their cause. Nigeria has seen so many of such fly-by-night politicians in the past and I am sure will see the back of the current crop. These politicians are not averse to pushing the country to the brink as long as their scheme gives them political mileage. The vogue today is the call for the restructuring or renegotiating the structure and unity of Nigeria as it exist today. These were the same currencies used by pseudo-democrats in the early and mid-90s to fight both Babangida and Abacha and also scuttle Abiola’s ambition of becoming the president of the country. It achieved its purpose when two candidates were presented from one part of the country and Obasanjo emrged victorious
Most of the chorus men couldn’t talk thereafter because their mouths were stuffed with gravy. Throughout Obasanjo’s eight year tenure, we were spared this particular demand. When we called for restructuring of the country, we were shouted down by this same gang. They chose to be mute and in many instances they were found to be complicit throughout the PDP locusts’ years because they were direct beneficiaries of the skewed federal structure. Now with APC and Buhari in control of the country, and with no hope of getting back on the saddle strapped on the backs of the poor in the foreseeable future, they are not averse to bringing down the roof on all of us.
I am for restructuring or renegotiating the federal setup or even the unity of the country, if you may. South Sudan was excised from Sudan and we can all testify to the progress the southerners are making after being weaned from the oppressive yoke of the retrogressive northerners. So I am for whatever will bring an end to this oft-repeated cliché by failed politicians looking to reinvent their fledgling political careers. We have been subjected to intimidation, blackmail and outright insults in the past by advocates of restructuring. Unfortunately none of these advocates came out with a very clear agenda or framework of how this should be done. Some believe Nigeria should be restructured along ethnic lines while others call for a nebulous fiscal federalism. To most, it is just a cliché.
By all means let’s restructure but in doing so we must take into account how we got “structured” in the first place. According to my records the northern and southern protectorates were what was cobbled together by the British to give birth to Nigeria so if we have to re-negotiate our continued existence as Nigeria we have to start from there. The federating units as we know them today – states and local government councils – were creations of the military, therefore ‘unelected’ governments that were not representatives of the people. These federating units were created either at the whim of elites to satisfy their lust for power which most will not acquire in bigger political units, therefore the need to fractionalise the country. These same elites are the ones calling for restructuring of the country. They prey on the gullible and the undiscerning. They made their names and ill-gotten wealth under this same imperfect Nigeria, wealth which they now deploy in calling for the renegotiation of Nigeria.
We are also for the restructuring of the country but we will like to call for the implementation of certain conditions before we do that. First among these conditions is that we should go to the negotiating table on the basis of our amalgamation and not on the basis of any other factor particularly as may be defined by those who brought the country to where we are. Also anyone found to have been in public service and conducted private business while in the employ of the government must first return the proceeds of such business to public coffers. It will not be fair on ordinary Nigerians to be saddled with those who want to have the best of both worlds – steal them blind while in government then turn around to pull down the same system they employed to the fullest to gain advantage over less fortunate Nigerians.
Fiscal federalism or ‘true’ federalism is good. Let’s go back to whichever is acceptable to majority of Nigerians. If my history serves me right it was Ironsi who moved Nigeria away from ‘true’ federalism to unitary system. Most of those now crying for a return to regionalism were at the forefront of applauding Ironsi for bringing some arrogant regions under heel. The conventional wisdom is that some regions may not survive once they are weaned from oil tits. I remember clearly during the - Jonathan convoked, skewed national conference in 2014, it was the Lamido of Adamawa, a delegate to the conference, who advocated for 100% resource control. I concurred with the royal father then and now. This will have been a sure path to attaining the cure-all “fiscal federalism” that some people have turned into a bogey slogan to be trotted out anytime they don’t get their ways. The Lamido’s proposal wasn’t allowed to see the light of the day despite the disproportionate presence of those from the region that believe the area where the Lamido come from will not survive without petro-dollars. I just pray this government will have the courage to reintroduce this as a bill to the National Assembly who are perpetually amending the constitution without amending their ways.
For those who may not remember, the “zonal” structure upon which the country operates today was a baby of those same people who are scared of a ‘monolithic’ north. The north is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious political unit very much unlike the rest of the other regions with, by and large monolithic religious and ethnic configuration. This notwithstanding, the post-independence leaders of the region were able to bring the diverse people of the region together to live in peace and harmony despite the efforts of some people from outside the region to endanger hatred among the various peoples living in the area. Realising that breaking the north into three zones hasn’t worked out well for them, and with dwindling national political fortunes by many among them, the call for restructuring and renegotiation has taken front seat once more.
Like I said earlier, let’s restructure by all means. Or better more – let’s have the courage of our conviction by dissolving the union instead of pretending to live together while hating each other. We shouldn’t allow those elites who gained tremendously from the system they now disparage set the agenda for us. We are not responsible for anybody’s political failure and therefore will not be expected to carry their failed political cross. Let the southern and northern protectorates go their separate ways and develop at their separate pace. This way, the hating, the denigration, the insults and the uncouth language may abet.