Can there be change with­out re­struc­tur­ing?

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - Eu­gene Ena­horo dr_e­na­horo@ya­, 0807 493 2395 (SMS Only)

Re­tired Army Gen­eral and civil war hero Alani Ak­in­ri­nade, Former Vice-Pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar, No­bel Lau­re­ate Wole Soyinka, former Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral of the Com­mon­wealth Emeka Anyaoku and Bishop Matthew Kukah are amongst those clam­our­ing for Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari (PMB) to ei­ther fa­cil­i­tate fun­da­men­tal re­struc­tur­ing of the na­tion or im­me­di­ately im­ple­ment the 2014 Na­tional Con­fer­ence re­port. Re­struc­tur­ing was an in­te­gral part of the All Pro­gres­sives Con­gress (APC) man­i­festo, but both PMB and Vice Pres­i­dent Os­in­banjo ap­pear to be re­trac­ing their steps and dis­avow­ing the need for any­thing other than good gov­er­nance. Their de­ci­sion not to re­visit the re­port of the 2014 Na­tional Con­fer­ence is a tragic ac­cep­tance of the havoc wreaked by mil­i­tary gov­ern­ments whose ill-con­sid­ered purges, fi­nan­cially dis­as­trous state cre­ation ex­er­cises, and de­fec­tive 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion placed us in this mess. Fail­ure to grasp the need for fun­da­men­tal re­struc­tur­ing is a fail­ure of states­man­ship.

It’s a fail­ure to un­der­stand that a to­tal dis­con­nect has de­vel­oped be­tween govern­ment the gov­erned due to the quite un­nec­es­sary over-cen­tral­iza­tion of power. Na­tions are sup­posed to evolve by cre­atively re­think­ing their pro­cesses based on their ex­pe­ri­ences. Ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that Nige­ria as presently struc­tured and man­aged isn’t work­ing and can’t work. Since in­de­pen­dence our na­tion has been re­struc­tured from 4 re­gions to 12, then 19, and now 36 states while the fed­eral cap­i­tal was re­lo­cated from Lagos to Abuja. This su­per­fi­cial re­struc­tur­ing failed to end po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity, mass poverty, per­va­sive cor­rup­tion and gross in­se­cu­rity. This is be­cause our con­sis­tently poor stan­dards of gov­er­nance are the re­sult of de­fec­tive in­sti­tu­tions com­bined with po­lit­i­cal struc­tures that en­cour­age scoundrels. PMB is cor­rect in con­clud­ing that all the petro-dol­lars over which there is so much bit­ter ac­ri­mony have failed to up­lift the ma­jor­ity be­cause un­re­strained greed, un­demo­cratic prac­tices, lack of ide­ol­ogy and lust for power dom­i­nated the thoughts of our po­lit­i­cal class. Be that as it may, a suc­cess­ful anti-cor­rup­tion war can­not in it­self solve the na­tion’s prob­lems. It’s the height of wish­ful think­ing to be­lieve that any cen­tral­ized lead­er­ship, even one of unim­peach­able in­tegrity, has the ca­pac­ity to solve prob­lems of di­verse peo­ple with vary­ing lan­guages, cul­ture, re­li­gions and world out­looks.

Quite frankly it’s dis­hon­est to re­fer to “one” Nige­ria. Our dif­fer­ences do ex­ist and they do mat­ter. The one­ness of the coun­try as presently struc­tured is an il­lu­sion which is be­ing shat­tered by the Fu­lani cat­tle prob­lem, the ac­tions of eth­nic ac­tivists, and the ut­ter­ances of po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious lead­ers. Some­thing is def­i­nitely wrong when af­ter over 100 years of amal­ga­ma­tion and fifty years of in­de­pen­dence we are still dis­put­ing the terms of our co­ex­is­tence. It’s per­ti­nent to re­mem­ber that there was no coun­try called Nige­ria be­fore the Bri­tish col­o­nized var­i­ous self­gov­ern­ing mostly ho­mo­ge­neous ethic na­tions and merged them by fiat in 1914.

In prepa­ra­tion for self-gov­er­nance in 1960 it was agreed that fed­er­al­ism was most suited to fa­cil­i­tat­ing the peace­ful co­hab­i­ta­tion of the na­tion’s var­i­ous peo­ples. In 1966 the il­le­gal mil­i­tary cen­tral govern­ment force­fully high-jacked the na­tion, con­fis­cated the sovereignty and re­sources of the fed­er­at­ing units and im­posed a uni­tary sys­tem. Ac­knowl­edg­ing that the sit­u­a­tion needs rec­ti­fy­ing, var­i­ous gov­ern­ments set up one form of Na­tional Con­fer­ence or another but trag­i­cally failed to act on any of the re­ports. As a re­sult, the ba­sis of our na­tion­hood is still hotly dis­puted, and an ever in­creas­ing num­ber of eth­nic mi­nori­ties are iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves and be­com­ing ac­tivists.

The stark re­al­ity is that it will be in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to keep Nige­ria peace­ful the way it is presently struc­tured and man­aged. It’s clear that the way out of our mess is by re­duc­ing the ben­e­fits of po­lit­i­cal of­fice to em­pha­size sac­ri­fice rather than re­ward and dis­cour­age char­la­tans from seek­ing of­fice. In ad­di­tion the rev­enue al­lo­ca­tion for­mula must be re­vised to favour lo­cal govern­ment over state and fed­eral. In­ter­nal mi­gra­tion and its at­ten­dant prob­lems will only end when all Nige­ri­ans are able to make a good liv­ing in their lo­cal­ity. It’s pre­pos­ter­ous that elected lo­cal govern­ment of­fi­cials who are in the best po­si­tion to ad­dress is­sues di­rectly af­fect­ing peo­ple’s lives are hand­i­capped by paucity of funds. Lo­cal Coun­cils are re­duced to beg­ging State Gov­ern­ments who in turn beg Fed­eral Govern­ment while scan­dalous amounts are em­bez­zled in the fed­eral cap­i­tal un­der the guise of na­tional unity. De­spite Soyinka’s as­ser­tions, break­ing up the na­tion isn’t an op­tion.

Our sit­u­a­tion boils down to a choice be­tween fed­er­al­ism and the uni­tary sys­tem which got us into this mess and can’t pro­vide solutions. Un­for­tu­nately the Na­tional As­sem­bly is eager to pre­serve the sta­tus quo be­cause of the stu­pen­dous self-granted ben­e­fits which ac­crue to them from op­er­at­ing a cen­tral­ized govern­ment. Their small mind­ed­ness nei­ther ap­pre­ci­ates the tran­sience of power, nor the fact that na­tions are not built by ma­te­ri­al­ism. As Atiku pointed out our cur­rent struc­ture and the prac­tices it en­cour­ages have been a ma­jor im­ped­i­ment to our eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. If PMB truly wishes to ef­fect last­ing change be­fore he leaves of­fice, fi­nan­cial re­struc­tur­ing and a re­turn to true fed­er­al­ism is the way for­ward.

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