In a dysfunctional, pseudo- democratic polity with successive administrations either battling against, or allegedly fuelling the twin hydra-headed monsters of insecurity and corruption in high places the continued call for the holistic restructuring of the country from the bloated federal centre to the states and local councils is not only expected but in the national interest. It is as timely as it has become imperative, to drive the processes of government, skewed in favour of the people, as it should be. Not surprising therefore, the recent calls made by the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega; the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, and the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) for the restructuring of Nigeria, attest to the urgency it deserves.
Indeed, they have all come to reinforce similar positions made by the leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo over the years, and the former presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu. The latter presented his thoughts on restructuring during a lecture delivered at the 6th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Political Science Association, on October 29, 2018. As Moghalu rightly reiterated and reminded the public, Nigeria is the last official federation bequeathed by the United Kingdom, UK, as an imperial power, which still stands as one country. Others such as India have split into India and Pakistan, Bangladesh came out of Pakistan while Sudan that has since bifurcated into the North and the South. These are telling testimonies to the clarion call for a restructured Nigeria.
Doing so, as well enshrined in both the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, would definitely lead to good governance. That was what transpired with empirical evidences on ground, courtesy of the purpose- driven agricultural practices in the then Sir Ahmadu Bello-led Northern Region (with cotton, groundnut, sorghum, hides and skin), the Chief Obafemi Awolowo- led Western Region (cocoa revenue that boosted the praise-worthy Free Education policy, agricultural centres, good access roads, as well as the first television station in Sub-Saharan Africa). It was a similar scenario in the then Eastern Region under Dr. Mike Okpara that led to a robust economic growth as one of the fastest growing amongst the Commonwealth countries, courtesy of revenues as generated from red palm oil and rubber exports.
But that was then back in the ‘60s. Unfortunately, decades later, precisely in December 2023, Prof. Jega warned that Nigeria’s current socio-economic situation is dovetailing towards that of a failed state. And that will be so if it does not provide for the security, welfare and the basic needs of the citizens. He made this known while delivering a lecture titled: “Safeguarding Nigeria’s Future: Prioritizing Citizen’s Welfare and Security Amidst Challenges” at the maiden Convocation of the Bauchi State University, Gadau. Furthermore, he stressed the need for evidence-based constitutional reforms, by deliberately deploying the best practices as could be learnt from model federations, such as India, Canada, and the USA in the areas of revenue generation and sharing and adapted to our local context and circumstances.
He believes that decentralizing resources will reduce the cost of governance. We share a similar position on this all-important matter. Jega has recommended: “The amendment of the Electoral Act 2022, so as to remarkably improve upon the legal framework for future elections with integrity. In particular, pay attention to reforming the role of political parties in the leadership recruitment and candidate selection processes.” Similarly, the reforms should be pursued to improve and protect the integrity of both the judiciary and INEC, to insulate both from the corrupt, crooked politicians with their partisan pressures and influences. We certainly need value orientation. And talking about value orientation, a restructured Nigeria would guarantee decentralising resources, leading of course to a drastic reduction in the cost of governance.
That would be unlike the current scenario that has members of the political elite living large, on the lean resources of the country, displaying insensitivity, smiling home with huge pay packages in the country that the World Bank report claims that poverty rate has risen up to 46% in 2023. Indeed, we are of the firm position that restructuring calls for an end to the self-deceit of over dependence on oil from the Niger-Delta region, even as state governors go cap-in- hand every month for their part of the federation account, which is hardly accounted for On tackling insecurity headlong, perhaps, we could learn lessons from countries such as Germany, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States where the tripartite synergy of security is a combination of the local, state and federal police operatives to deliver efficiency. Such surely protects precious lives and property.
Refusal to do the needful has led to waves of mutual inter- ethnic acrimony, nepotistic appointments fuelling distrust and allegations of marginalisation. This has of course worsened the insecurity incubus escalating to terrorism, banditry and kidnapping for ransom that has literally brought the Abuja Federal Capital to its knees.