To Restructure or Not to Restructure

By Dr. Udeme Nana

Group of People Waving Flag of Nigeria in Back Lit


The idea of restructuring has become a trending song by politicians who have pushed it to become an anthem in Nigeria now. However, the chorus in the song is discordant because the Igbos, the Yorubas, the Hausa/Fulanis, the Ijaws and other ethnic minorities in the South-South, the Middle Belt and other ethnic minorities in the North render the chorus with different lyrics. There is no unanimity. No consensus about the shape of the much sung Restructuring.

There are some who advocate for restructuring simply because they are not comfortable with the fact that the name, Nigeria, was coined by Miss Flora Shaw, then serving as Lord Lugard’s mistress. To those in this group,a name change from Nigeria may just do the magic. There are some who clamour about the form of government; should the country break-up along the lines of the ancient empires/city States which existed pre European adventure into these parts? They readily point to the former USSR as an example. Should the country sustain the present Federal system with a strong central government? Should restructuring focus on having a Federation with more powers devolved to the federating States/Zones. This was what obtained in the era of Regions in the First Republic. Should Nigeria become a Confederation which seems to be the case made by those singing for Biafra? The advocates for Confederation lose sight of the fact that Confederations comprise countries which ab-initio were once independent States but voluntarily agreed to enter into a union with others to pursue and safeguard common interests and aspirations. In this type of union, divorce is taken for granted whenever a party feels the union is no longer serving agreed objectives. There are Nigerians who acknowledge this circumstance and to them, restructuring is about getting all ethnic nationalities together in a room to make them affirm to become Nigerians and pronto, Nigeria would shake off the hang over of a union forced by the British.

A peep into history indicates that Nigeria fared better in the era of Regional governments. In the Western Region,Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as Premier, harnessed the potentials of the Region and provided such leadership which scored many firsts on several fronts. And the Western Regional economy was driven by agriculture. The University of Ife,The legendary Cocoa House at Ibadan,free education and the first Television Station in Africa were spectacular feats among others recorded in the West. Awolowo, as Premier, laid the solid foundation for the ascendency of the Yorubas in an emergent Nigeria.

In the Northern Region where Ahmadu Bello held sway,the Region trailed slowly but steadily. The North is not a monolithic enclave as it is host to myriads of minority ethnic groups including an overbearing Kanuri nation. However, Ahmadu Bello welded the Region into One North, One People with Hausa as the official language from Makurdi through Kwara, Kogi to Maiduguri and Gwosa. A Sunday Awoniyi from Kogi served as the Sardauna’s private Secretary and an Olusola Saraki from Kwara set up himself successfully as a Northerner. The Northern Region built its own University, ABU, to train manpower for the North.

Back in the Eastern Region, the legendary Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who was mentored by an Akwa Ibom Chief, the late Chief Nyong Essien: Azikiwe was bred in Calabar in the 1920’s, schooled at Hope Waddel Training Institute but in the 50’s staged a coup in the Eastern Region Parliament by mobilizing the Igbos to supplant an Ibeno son, the late Professor Eyo Ita from continuing in office as Leader of Government Business and defacto Head of the Eastern Nigeria Regional government. In the East too, agriculture was the mainstay of the Regional economy. The Eastern Region accomplished many things and topped it all with the setting up of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka!
Enter the “revolutionaries” with the first coup which lopsided execution threw up an Igbo General, Aguiyi Ironsi. Nigerian politicians seem to forget that it was General Ironsi who imposed a unitary structure of government on the country. It could be argued rightly that unitarianism agrees with the military command structure. His successor, General Gowon sustained that structure and in 1967, nailed the coffin of Regional autonomy with its attendant devolution of powers through the creation of more states.

Subsequent Constitutional Conferences in 1977, Babangida’s POLITBUREAU, Abacha’s National Conference, Chief Obasanjo’s National Political Reform Conference in 2005 and President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Conference in 2014 all agreed to sustain Nigeria as an indivisible country.
What do politicians really want now?This new debate cannot be about the size nor the population, neither can it be in the diversity as countries like China, India, The United States of America trump Nigeria on all the scores.

Are the politicians agitating for a Civilian made Constitution since some advocates see the 1999 Constitution (as Amended)as a hang-over of military politics?

In all these,what happens to the existing democratic structures at all levels?
How would restructuring impact on the psychology of Nigerians? Is there any chance that with restructuring, Nigerians or whatever identity the people will assume, would become more decent, less corrupt, more conscientious, less selfish, more obedient to laws of the land, less lawless, more tolerant of alternative views and less violent? Would restructuring reduce blackmail, promotion of mediocrity, clannishness? Would restructuring arrest the prevalence of negative values in the society?

This writer is of the view that answers to these posers are blowing in the wind.


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