Restructuring has become a mantra peddled by political pundits, sociopolitical groups and members of the opposition since the 4th Republic. For many in the corridors of power, they are familiar with these words because it is the same discourse that the President Muhammed Buhari led government used to campaign against the ruling party and assumed office in 2015.
This is a fact that Femi Adesina did not shy away from when he hinted that the People’s Democratic party was trying to heat up the polity over perceived hurts, including the Save Nigeria Group Protest that contributed immensely to the victory of President Buhari at the polls that year.
However, does it mean that restructuring is peddled by the several stakeholders in Nigeria in quest for power or does it mean that Nigeria urgently needs to discuss the operations of governance, their sense of ownership and loyalty to the state and the realities of the various ethnic national who feel the high-handedness of their hegemonic ethnic neighbours and the distance or utter abandonment of the Federal Government in their localities?
Recently, Garba Shehu, Special Adviser to the President had retorted against many personalities who have been bold to inform the government of the urgent need for restructuring. The likes of Oby Ezekwesili, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Pastor E.A Adeboye, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Mr Donald Duke have been labelled as ‘unpatriotic’ because they do not share in the agenda of government to create an illusion of a level playing field for negotiation and development through the National Assembly.
These men have not expressed a new concern in governance. Their position is not far-fetched from the ideals of the 2014 National Conference which the then opposition, the APC championed during the rule of President Goodluck Jonathan. They have since abandoned it after much dallying from Governor Nasir El-Rufai who ‘fiddled’ with the possibility of its implementation for a while. Perhaps, Power in its near-unitary form is enticing and enjoyable to be devolved to the federating states.
The National Conference which had representations from all the stakeholders in Nigeria–By this, it means, as a corporate and civil entity with a shared history. The recommendations of the CONFAB should be made available to all Nigerians. Its recommendations ranges from power rotation, resource control, land tenure, ranching, The Anti-corruption war, State Police, Independent Candidacy, Immunity Clause, Local Government, State Autonomy, forms of Government, Boko Haram Insurgency, among others.
The recommendations of the CONFAB on Forms of Government was perhaps deliberately rehashed by Pastor E.A Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The CONFAB recommended that a modified Presidential System which would accomodate the features and workings of both the Presidential and Parliamentary system of government. The CONFAB recommended that the Vice President double as a member of parliament. It will be great to see the Buhari Presidency implement some of the issues raised in the 2014 Sovereign National Conference.
Restructuring means many things to many people. What restructuring means to Professor Emeritus Banji Akintoye (Baba Ekiti), Leader of the Yoruba World Congress, a Yoruba self-determination group, is not the same with that of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB. However, both of them are fuelled by deep-seated grieviances of underdevelopment, oppression, marginalisation amongst others. What restructuring means to Omoyele Sowore, leader of the Revolution Now Movement is not the same with Pastor Tunde Bakare, Pastor and former leader of the Save Nigeria Group, what is quite unifying for both of them is the empowerment of the citizenry to electoral, developmental and social freedoms which the state curtails through the presence or lack of transparency in the process of governance.
For some, restructuring means Regionalism, a reversion to the nostalgic years of Nigeria’s nascent and competitive developmental strides. A recent interview with Prof Mrs Uche Azikiwe, wife of one of the founding fathers, reflected that Nigeria was at its best during the years of regional politics because each region strived to outclass the other in development, and in the general social well-being of its residents. Unfortunately, with the military incursion and the Biafrian War, many still assert that regionalism will give too much powers to the region and would encourage secession. The 2014 National Confab however asserts that more states be created especially a state should be created in the South East of Nigeria.
It seems that in the South East of Nigeria, there are two typologies of political activism. There are those who are willing to negotiate a better lease of existence, and are demanding equity and equality of oppourtunities within the states through reform, legislative means and media furore and there are others who no longer believe in Nigeria and have therefore asserted that secession is the only route to progress and prosperity for the Igbos–The difference between Ohanneze and the Indigenious People of Biafra.
What is nevertheless germaine for this discourse of restructuring is the fact that many ethnic nationalities derive their identities of sociopolitical comradeship and postcolonial identities from the struggles of the Nigerian State.It will therefore be difficult to extricate themselves from Nigeria without having pockets of internal conflicts, civil war and renegotiations.
The Igbos that made up the 2014 National CONFAB did not ask for secession, they asked for an additional state, they asked for a sense of developmental equity and they asked for devolution of powers to the states. As far as we are aware, none of these tangential recommendations, which would have silenced the tensions within the South-East Zone, and would have made the agenda of IPOB, and MASSOB irrelevant have not been implemented.
On the flipside, does restructuring solve the myriad of problems that Nigeria is troubled with at the moment? Does Nigeria need another National conference to validate the aspirations of the stakeholders in Nigeria? The Buhari government does not have to stretch the patience of angry Nigerians by enriching selected members of Nigeria with sitting allowances from the commonwealth for a document that will decay on the shelves or archives of Nigeria’s postcolonial memory, for lack of implementation. At a time when the Buhari government have vicariously increased the prices of goods and services, Nigerians will criticize the country for squandering funds over misplaced priorities. What it needs to do is to prove to Nigerians that it is forthright, non-bias government in its implementation of policies, appointment of officers and appointees, administration of justice, distribution of wealth and development, while it explores certain fair and equitable changes in the governance of the state through the Nigerian Senate. The Nigerian people do not need another CONFAB but they need a firm government that is fair to all. They need a government that does not harass its critics because it realizes that some critics are interested in the prosperity of the Nigerian citizen as well, even if they are also interested in power. To emphasize or assume that all critics are enemies of the state each time a critic or a citizen calls the government out is an affirmation that the presence of the ghost of Sanni Abacha still reigns in Aso Rock. The Nigerian people have entrusted the responsibility of governance to the Buhari-led government to help solve the myriad of problems it currently faces, this culture of passing the bulk or blaming the previous government at every turn, that the Buhari government has embraced as a working formular, is inimical to the very essence of the ‘Next Level’ that the Buhari government has promised the people.
However, Nigerians should be weary of the various voices of restructuring and should begin to ask them, ‘what kind of restructuring?’, ‘how?’, ‘what are the implications of their kind of restructuring?’, ‘what are the short term and long-term goals of restructuring Nigeria in their own subjective recommendation?’, ‘what happens to the old structures and workings of both government and people given the new restructuring strategies?’ amongst others. Some of these deeper questions will help Nigerians shift the weath of those who really want a new and prosperous Nigeria, from the chaff of those who want to establish political power blocks with State Police at their beck and call (to oppress their own political enemies).
Nigerians must take learnings from the United Kingdom, a country that has restructured herself out of the European Union. The submission to the rhetoric of a political class whose agenda was to win and remain in power have now created layered socioeconomic problems for the State. The new problems that UK’s extrication from the EU has created have led to countless bric-a-brac at the UK Senate, that has often left the Prime Minister and leader of BREXIT dumbfounded. Nigerians should have answers and a full grasp of what the future holds for them, before plunging into the depths of restructuring.
To dismiss the Buhari led-Government in one full swoop will be detrimental to the ethics of journalism. The Buhari government has been most flexible in issuing mining licences to states like Kebbi, Osun and Ekiti who have an agreement with the Federal Government, and in public-private partnerships with both national and international partners. The government has also involved the states and private hands in the management of electricity, and has devolved its control over the Nigerian Oil Sector through the recent passage of the Petroleum Industry bill. The government, through the ministry of works and housing has also earmarked road developments with a sense of benefitting the ethnic nationalities in mind. The Proposed Nigeria-Rail line spareheaded by Hon.Rotimi Ameachi has also taken into consideration the importance of inclusiveness in the nation’s logistic and transportation agenda. While the government deserves praise for some of its efforts, it will inimical to praise the government to high heavens when it cannot be said to have completed these projects, neither has it truly embarked on reconciling Nigerians through the articulation of acts of fairness. President Buhari and his team have all it takes to reconcile Nigerians and inculcate the values of untrammeled patriotism, it also has all it takes to divide Nigeria and lead Nigeria to a state where it implodes into smithereens.