The Con­fu­sion Called Re­struc­tur­ing

A scru­tiny of the re­struc­tur­ing nar­ra­tive re­veals a lack of con­sen­sus among pro­po­nents of what the term ac­tu­ally en­tails, writes Tobi Soniyi


What has be­come clear and upon which we can all agree is: re­struc­tur­ing means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple

Two weeks ago, a group of el­der states­men led by Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus, Ben Nwan­bueze, SAN, de­cided to wade into the is­sue of re­struc­tur­ing which recently has be­come the is­sue in the coun­try. They came to­gether as the Em­i­nent Lead­ers of Thought, (ELT). The sec­re­tary of the ELT, Mr. Olawale Okun­niyi, said the lead­ers of thought had formed a group - Project Nige­ria Move­ment - to serve as the en­gine room tfor re­struc­tur­ing de­bate.

How­ever, they were un­able to come up with a con­sen­sus and have there­fore de­cided to em­bark on fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion.

Okun­niyi said they were un­able to reach a con­sen­sus be­cause they could not con­clude on the pro­ce­dure on how to go about the re­struc­tur­ing is­sue.

Al­though the group had re­solved to em­bark on fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion, the dilemma it faces, il­lus­trates the chal­lenge pro­po­nents of re­struc­tur­ing are bat­tling with it; ar­riv­ing at a con­sen­sus on re­struc­tur­ing.

No doubt, change is a per­ma­nent fea­ture in hu­man ex­is­tence. How­ever, as de­sir­able as change is, it is should not be a change for change sake. In the life of a na­tion, it is de­sir­able that change should be for the bet­ter.

Such is the call for re­struc­tur­ing. Hardly a day goes by with­out some­one or a group call­ing for the coun­try to be re­struc­tured. But that is where the con­sen­sus ends.

When each group or in­di­vid­ual pro­vides the de­tails of the re­struc­tur­ing pro­posed by him or her, it usu­ally be­comes ob­vi­ous that his ver­sion is dif­fer­ent from the others. Worst still, ar­riv­ing at a con­sen­sus has been very dif­fi­cult. This is not due to lack of ef­forts on the part of the pro­po­nents but be­cause the is­sues af­fect­ing each re­gion dif­fers and ev­ery re­gion wants its own ver­sion to be the model.

As the call for the coun­try to be re­struc­tured con­tin­ues to re­ver­ber­ate across the coun­try, pin­ning down what the pro­po­nents of the term ac­tu­ally have in mind is dif­fi­cult. Be­cause of this difficulty, those who be­lieve that the coun­try does not need to be re­struc­tured tend to see the ag­i­ta­tion as self serv­ing.

Yet, the more peo­ple you lis­ten to on why the coun­try must be re­struc­tured, the more con­fused you are likely to be­come. What has be­come clear and upon which we can all agree is: re­struc­tur­ing means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

While the Cam­bridge Dictionary de­fines re­struc­ture as to or­gan­ise a com­pany, busi­ness, or sys­tem in a new way to make it op­er­ate more ef­fec­tively. Mer­riam-Web­ster de­fines it as to change the makeup, or­ga­ni­za­tion, or pat­tern of..

Com­ing home, its mean­ing de­pends on who you talk to; whether he is Igbo, Yourba, Hausa or from the Niger Delta, the Mid­dle Belt or other nu­mer­ous tribes that made up the coun­try. Or whether, like for­mer vice pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar, he wants to seek elec­tive of­fice or not.

Whether he is a pro­fes­sor or some­one who did not have much ed­u­ca­tion. The def­i­ni­tion may also de­pend on whether he is a mem­ber of the rul­ing All Pro­gres­sives Congress or the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party, or a mem­ber of those po­lit­i­cal par­ties seek­ing to gain at­ten­tion. There are few ex­cep­tions though.

This, pre­cisely is why it is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult to re­struc­ture: whose per­cep­tion or def­i­ni­tion of re­struc­tur­ing are we go­ing to im­ple­ment? Since no two per­sons or groups seem to agree on what it means. Even when they seem to agree on a gen­eral mean­ing of what re­struc­tur­ing should en­tail, the devil is al­ways in the de­tails. When you probe fur­ther those who ap­pear to share the same con­cept of re­struc­tur­ing be­gin to dif­fer.

For some, it means re­turn­ing to re­gion­al­ism as was the case in the early 60s. To others, re­struc­tur­ing means al­low­ing each state to own re­sources in their ge­o­graph­i­cal ar­eas. Others call it devo­lu­tion of pow­ers with­out spec­i­fy­ing which pow­ers.

A le­gal prac­ti­tioner, Wa­hab Shittu, said: “In dis­cussing re­struc­tur­ing, two ques­tions must be an­swered- one, do we want to live to­gether and sec­ond if yes, on what terms?”

He said that ag­i­ta­tion across the coun­try sent a pow­er­ful mes­sage to those in au­thor­i­ties. He sug­gested true fis­cal fed­er­al­ism and devo­lu­tion of pow­ers. The devil, as stated ear­lier, re­mains in the de­tails.

For Mr Akin Osun­tokun, re­struc­tur­ing should not be a tribal is­sue rather it should aim at elim­i­nat­ing wastes and re po­si­tion states for a greater ef­fi­ciency. Ac­cord­ing to him, in­stead of hav­ing states that can not sur­vive with­out re­course to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, such states should be merged. The idea of run­ning to Abuja cap in hand to beg for bail out will be­come a thing of the past. In a nut­shell re­struc­tur­ing to him means hav­ing states that can gen­er­ate enough rev­enue on their own to run their af­fairs.

There are others whose def­i­ni­tion of re­struc­tur­ing is to cre­ate more states as sug­gested in the re­port of the 2014 na­tional con­fer­ence re­port. The con­fer­ence came up with over 600 rec­om­men­da­tions including the cre­ation of 18 new states; Apa, Edu, Kainji, Katagum, Sa­van­nah, Amana, Gu­rara, Ghari, Etiti (South East zone), Aba, Adada, Njaba-Anim, Anioma, Orashi, Ogoja, Ijebu and New Oyo. The con­fer­ence also rec­om­mended one new states for the south-east to make the zone have equal num­ber of states with the other zones ex­cept the north-west which has seven. At a time when many states de­pend on bail out from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to sur­vive, many still hold the view that re­struc­tur­ing means cre­at­ing ad­di­tional states!

There are those whose def­i­ni­tion of re­struc­tur­ing is se­ces­sion. Those who hold this view would like to have a ref­er­en­dum to de­ter­mine if the coun­try should re­main as one.

En­vi­ron­men­tal and hu­man rights ac­tivist, Annkio Briggs , be­lieved it was too late for Nige­ria to be re­struc­tured. For her, what the coun­try needed is a com­plete break-up so that ev­ery emerged coun­try can de­velop at its own pace.

One of the lead­ing voices in the clam­our for re­struc­tur­ing is for­mer vice pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar. He has pro­vided one of the well-ar­tic­u­lated po­si­tions on the is­sue. He also does not miss a chance to lec­ture Nige­ri­ans on re­struc­tur­ing. Recently, he said the coun­try could be re­struc­tured within six months. Many how­ever, doubt his sin­cer­ity. Kaduna State gov­er­nor, Nasir el-Ru­fai de­scribed him and others cham­pi­oning the re­struc­tur­ing cause as op­por­tunists. Nev­er­the­less, he re­mains fo­cussed on his mes­sage.

The for­mer vice pres­i­dent said: “What I find odd and some­what un­help­ful is the ar­gu­ment of those who say that we can­not rene­go­ti­ate our union and who pro­ceed from there to equate ev­ery de­mand for re­struc­tur­ing with at­tempts to break up the coun­try. I be­lieve that ev­ery form of hu­man re­la­tion­ship is ne­go­tiable. Ev­ery po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ship is open for ne­go­ti­a­tions, with­out pre-set out­comes.

“As a demo­crat and busi­ness­man, I do not fear ne­go­ti­a­tions. That is what rea­son­able hu­man be­ings do. This is even more im­por­tant as a stub­born re­sis­tance against ne­go­ti­a­tions can lead to un­savoury out­comes. I have spo­ken a num­ber of times in the past sev­eral years on the need to re­struc­ture our fed­er­a­tion in or­der to de­volve more power and re­sources to the fed­er­at­ing units. Recently I went to Kaduna and told an au­di­ence of mostly my com­pa­tri­ots from the North, where most of the re­sis­tance against re­struc­tur­ing seems to come from, that re­struc­tur­ing is in the in­ter­est of the North and Nige­ria. I have even called on states in each geo-po­lit­i­cal zone to, in the in­terim, pool their re­sources to­gether to pro­vide some ser­vices for their peo­ples for greater ef­fi­ciency and cost ef­fec­tive­ness.”

He has even gone fur­ther to sim­plify It. While de­liv­er­ing a lec­ture on ‘Re­struc­tur­ing Nige­ria’ at the Univer­sity of Nige­ria, Nsukka, Enugu state, Atiku said the fastest way to achieve re­struc­tur­ing was to re­duce the power and roles of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and to “re­turn some items on the con­cur­rent list to the states”.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the coun­try can be re­struc­tured in six months.

“All you have to do is re­turn the items on the con­cur­rent list to the states,’ he added.

Con­tin­u­ing, he said, “Some of what my ideas of re­struc­tur­ing in­volve re­quire con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment; some do not. Take ed­u­ca­tion and roads for in­stance. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment can im­me­di­ately start the process of trans­fer­ring fed­eral roads to the state gov­ern­ments along with the re­sources it ex­pends on them.

“In the fu­ture if the fed­eral gov­ern­ment iden­ti­fies the need for a new road that would serve the na­tional in­ter­est, it can sup­port the af­fected states to con­struct such roads, and there­after leave the main­te­nance to the states, which can col­lect tolls from road users for the pur­pose.

“The fed­eral gov­ern­ment does not need a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to start that process. The same goes for ed­u­ca­tion and health care. We do not need a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to trans­fer fed­eral univer­si­ties and col­leges as well as hos­pi­tals to the states where they are lo­cated.”

Some­one has to tell the for­mer vice pres­i­dent that it isn’t go­ing to be sim­ple as he thinks.

Atiku...has one of the most elab­o­rate pro­pos­als on re­struc­tur­ing

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