The restructuring debate

The need to restructure Nigeria has continued to dominate the political space of late. The calls, no doubt, are predicated on the dangers of ethnicity, religious bigotry and economic deprivation, which are rapid destroyers of any society

Advocates of restructuring are of the view that Nigeria is likely to disintegrate if urgent steps are not taken to address pertinent questions of autonomy for the states; fiscal federalism to pave the way for resource control by the states; equality of states and local governments among the six geo-political zones; state police and indigeneship question, among others given the growing discontentment in the polity.

It is argued that the present federal system in operation is a disaster as it has only succeeded in creating a powerful Federal Government.

Others have queried whether Nigeria should continue to operate the presidential system of government, a fulltime legislature, among others, in the face of dwindling resources.

The manner at which the executive and legislative arms of government take a large chunk of the nation’s budget is ridiculous.

High cost of governance at the various levels – federal, states and local councils – it was noted, is partly responsible for the country’s stunted development despite abundant human and natural resources.

The argument is that after deduction of running cost by the various levels of government, little or nothing is left for capital projects even as there are so many ministries and agencies of government with functions, most times duplicates.

There is another political school that is advocating a return to regionalism as the present 36-state structure is no longer sustainable.

Advocates of regionalism are of the view that the proliferation of states had continued to impede the country’s progress.

this, some individuals and groups are still demanding new states just to carve empires for themselves. Some, however, seem genuine given that they are inspired by the same concerns that preceded state creations in the past – minority fears, inequality and skewed development.

There are also calls for a re-tooling of the Nigerian federalism by tinkering with items on the Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative lists as contained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The argument over this, is that the powers of the Federal Government should be whittled down as it seems that it is the only government in place with the 65 items it has powers on in the Exclusive Legislative List.

Though Nigeria’s fragmentation predates independence given her over 300 ethnic groups, there have been efforts by successive administrations to cement the crack.

But, such efforts failed to yield desired results and the country is still seen by most of its citizens as a collection of nations within a nation.

It was against this backdrop that the 2014 National Conference came up with several recommendations to restructure the country and put it on the path to greatness.

Areas addressed included power sharing formula between the federal and state governments as the latter have turned to mere appendages of the centre instead of component units.

Others were issues of local governments’ status; electoral reform; economic stagnation due to over dependence on oil revenue; resource control and state creation among others. Sadly, the confab report has gone the way of reports of previous conferences.

While the Goodluck Jonathan government that initiated it failed to expedite action on its implementation the succeeding Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration is not disposed to looking into its recommendations.

Similarly, the body language of the present administration shows that it is unlikely to heed to the restructuring call, but there is a political school, which believes that it is time Nigerians took their destiny in their hands by insisting that the nation should not continue to run the way it is.

We believe that federalism is the best option for a heterogeneous society like Nigeria, but the missing link is a strong constitution that will take into consideration of the diverse interests of the various component units of the federation.

Consequently, we urge Nigerians to sustain their demand on the country’s restructuring despite government’s stand as such is the only solution to the conflagration at hand, the end-product of which may be disintegration.

On the part of the government, we call for urgent steps to be taken to address the old variables that have continued to impede the nation’s progress.

This should start with devolution of powers from the centre to the states and local governments being the closest administrations to the people.

A holistic approach should equally be adopted in addressing the various contentious issues to national cohesion as against the piece-meal method, while caution should be watchword to avoid creating more problems in trying to solve the ones at hand.

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