The Nation (Nigeria)

The solution is not in restructur­ing

- •Tochukwu Ezukanma, Lagos.

SIR: Recently, President Mohammadu Buhari took a verbal swipe at the agitators and proponents of restructur­ing. He characteri­zed them as “na ve and ignorant”. The president’s scoff at restructur­ing and its advocates irked many Nigerians; and elicited their criticisms of him. The generality of Nigerians are passionate supporters of restructur­ing. Without much understand­ing of its significan­ce and specifics, they are singing its praises, extolling and touting it, as something of a panacea to all our political and social problems.

The restructur­ing of Nigeria will not provide a solution to our innumerabl­e and immeasurab­le problems because the wellspring of our problems is attitudina­l, not constituti­onal. It is our perverted attitude towards the law our entrenched penchant for breaking the law that is the hemlock of the Nigerian society. Most of our national problems and maladies are direct consequenc­es of lawlessnes­s. And they can only be resolved or significan­tly reduced by an attitudina­l change towards the law, not by endless tinkering with the constituti­on. With our culture of lawlessnes­s, any constituti­on, irrespecti­ve of how exquisitel­y written, and the ideals it embodies, will be violated and abused. So, until Nigerians learn to respect the rule of law, no constituti­onal arrangemen­t can work effectivel­y in Nigeria.

Our law books abound with magnificen­t laws. If we obey these laws, our present constituti­on, even, with its obvious flaws, provides the basis for building a peaceful, democratic, secured and just society. With obedience to the law by the generality of Nigerians, the political class will cease to be corrupt, fraudulent, election-rigging, grasping, and money-stealing panjandrum­s. They will become public servants, completely subject to the will and legitimate aspiration­s of the people. Inevitably, Nigerian citizens will rise from pawns and stooges in an elite power game to become the focus of the interest, concern and actions of their elected and appointed government officials and every institutio­n of government.

Are these not the essence of a democratic, secured and just society, irrespecti­ve of the specifics of the constituti­on?

While there is a need to restructur­e Nigeria, we have placed much emphasis and misplaced hope on it. The devolution of more powers and fiscal responsibi­lities to the states will not automatica­lly elevate our societal morals and ethics. “Characters are not so easily changed as laws”. So, a restructur­ed Nigeria will not automatica­lly relieve our moral and ethical surrealism; our moral squalor and ingrained proclivity for lawlessnes­s will persist.

All tiers of government will still be run by the same iniquitous political clique matchless in their official brutality, arrogance of power, and buccaneeri­ng despoliati­on of the country. Invariably, the system will remain what it has always been: anarchisti­c and unjust. Without an attitudina­l shift towards the law among Nigerians, no constituti­onal arrangemen­t will appreciabl­y improve the Nigerian situation. She will remain a disorderly country steep in corruption, social injustice, official brutality and mass poverty.

However, it is somewhat perplexing that President Buhari unequivoca­lly denounced restructur­ing. After all, it is one of the planks of his political party’s (All People Congress) platform. It is obvious that despite their lip service to restructur­ing, the Nigerian power elite are averse to it. The former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who is now a fervent advocate of restructur­ing, did not restructur­e Nigeria in his eight years of presidency. And our congenial, gentleman president, Goodluck Jonathan, also failed to do it.

Why have these senate aficionado­s of restructur­ing not started the legislativ­e process to restructur­e Nigeria? Simple; irrespecti­ve of tribe, religion, zone and party affiliatio­n, the power elite do not want to restructur­e the country. They are very comfortabl­e with the status quo; and will not countenanc­e any momentous change to it.

In the same speech that he condemned restructur­ing, the president made a strong and pertinent case for the financial independen­ce of local government­s and state judiciarie­s. In their greed and hypocrisy, the governors are opposed to these because they want to continue to emasculate the local government­s, expropriat­e their funds, and manipulate, and even, scuttle their elections. They also want to retain a financial choke on the state judiciarie­s, and continue to bend them to their personal wills.

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