TO all intents and purposes, the clamour for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation is driven by a patriotic zeal to re-engineer the ship of state and steer the nation away from fragmentation and ruin. It is therefore high time the Federal Government shelved its grandstanding and empty posturing and heeded the calls by eminent Nigerians for the implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference convoked to address the fundamental problems bedevilling Nigeria’s march towards viability and functionality. Failure to do so will limit Nigeria to the realm of mere geographical rhetoric without ideological substance. A fraudulent union of unwilling peoples can certainly not last. It is in the best interest of the Nigerian people that the nation becomes a federation of vibrant, happy and visionary citizens rather than an ethnically unbalanced, economically unstable and ideologically warped superstructure erected on crude oil, a perishable resource.
Happily, while, for many decades, the clamour for Nigeria’s restructuring has been largely a Southern affair, powerful voices from the Northern part of the country have recently joined the restructuring train, harping on the need to address Nigeria’s unitary and unprofitable structure. Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, taking stock of the multifarious agitations and divisive tendencies in the country in recent months, recently undertook arguably one of the most incisive analyses of the structure of the Nigerian state. According to the former president, who launched an appeal to Nigerians to desist from further campaigns of hate, the like of which he said led to the Civil War, the campaign to have the country restructured means strengthening its structures to make the union more functional based on the comparative advantages of the component units.
Babangida said: “Restructuring has become a national appeal as we speak, whose time has come. I will strongly advocate devolution of powers to the extent that more responsibilities be given to the states while the Federal Government is vested with the responsibility to oversee our foreign policy, defence and economy. Even the idea of having federal roads in towns and cities has become outdated and urgently needs revisiting. That means we need to tinker with our constitution to accommodate new thoughts that will strengthen our nationality. Restructuring and devolution of powers will certainly not provide all the answers to our developmental challenges; it will help to reposition our mindset as we generate new ideas and initiatives that would make our union worthwhile.”
Various eminent persons and groups from across the country have also spoken in the same vein, pointing out that Nigeria’s unity must be based on mutually agreed terms. Indeed, it is unfortunate that many of those who oppose the call for restructuring fail to realise that it is a road once taken. Nigeria’s founding fathers, being the visionaries that they were, bequeathed to the country a constitution that recognised the need for the nation’s component units to harness their God-given resources and develop at their own pace, unencumbered by interference from the centre. None of the founding fathers envisaged a system whereby Nigeria’s component states would become completely dependent on the centre, unable to articulate and take advantage of their respective human and material endowments to make life meaningful and more abundant for their people.
Unfortunately, the military, trained for war rather than politics, put a knife on the fundamental principles that held the Nigerian nation together and it has fallen apart ever since. To date, the spirit of the Unification Decree promulgated by the Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi-led military regime in 1966 remains active, undermining the intelligence and creativity of the Nigerian people and fuelling a climate of mistrust and permanent strife. The tragedy of the current system was aptly captured by a federal lawmaker, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who described the system as “feeding bottle federalism,” an arrangement whereby the states are mere vassals of the Federal Government, groping in darkness and unable to take charge of their destinies.
We believe firmly that given the national consensus which has emerged on the idea, it is time for restructuring. It is time to return Nigeria to the principles that defined its emergence as an independent state. In other words, the government must fully embrace the principles enshrined in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions which, modified in the light of the 2014 Confab report, will no doubt rescue Nigeria’s sinking ship. We urge the Federal Government to act fast on this issue instead of dissipating energy on Nigeria’s supposed inviolability.