Restructuring, the best way to go
“One thing I’ve learned is that when you are sitting in this office, you have to make the very best decisions you can and set aside, for a moment, what it means for you politically.”-U.S. President Barrack Obama (TIME Magazine, 2012)
The swelling agitation for the holistic restructuring of the country, Nigeria away from the bloated federal centre could not have come at a more auspicious time. What with the renewed clamour for the actualisation of Biafra, the unceasing attacks on oil pipelines by the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA; the self-decimating but preventable insurgency up in the North-East geo-political axis and the insistence of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere that restructuring has indeed, become a sine qua non to our corporate existence?
As if to lend his voice to the strident call for a more meaningful democratic dividends for Nigerians, Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President had this to say:”Again, we come back to the same economic challenges that are facing the country. But we also have a leadership that is not prepared to learn from the past and not prepared to lead.” Did he display a sense of candour out of sheer patriotic fervor not minding whose ox was gored? Was it out of sheer patriotism, or as an ambit to angle for the plum political post, come 2019? Time will tell. But for now the signal given is that surely, something must be wrong somewhere with the polity skewed in favour of the leaders, as against that of the masses.
That triggered the troubling questions: Who really is afraid of political restructuring? What are their arguments, and do such run in tandem with the wishes align with that of majority of long-suffering Nigerians? Are those in opposition aware of the immense benefits of restructuring, especially at this time and age of economic recession? Are they equating restructuring with the balkanisation of the country? Is this how government is run in the United States where we copied the presidential system of government from? Do their state governors go cap-in-hand every month-end to ask for crumbs from the master’s table, and if not well spent or inadequate, still go back to ask for some bail-out funds? Even the suggestion by the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal that states should be given more allocation instead of restructuring runs away from the main issue.
Nigerians do not need any rocket science to realise that the current dysfunctional political structure that vests unduly enormous economic powers on the federal centre can no longer be sustained. The handwriting is clearly on the wall. The way to go, is to devolve such powers to the federating units. Whether such a geo-political re-arrangement would go back to the former 12 states as it was under the military dictatorship, or the current much-touted six geo-political configuration is for our political eggheads at the National Assembly to evolve.
Anyone still fixated on the 13 per cent derivation to the mineral producing states must be living in a fool’s paradise. There are no states in Nigeria without any of the so far identified 44 solid minerals deposits. Japan has had no crude oil to fast track its phenomenal, fast-paced economy. How did it do it? Its crop of determined leaders decided to rise, like the famed phoenix bird from the hot ashes of the Second World War, by sheer creative ingenuity and the passion to excel against all odds. We can achieve a similar feat, or even much more.
For instance, when the former three Regions of the North, East and West held sway during the First Republic, Nigeria and indeed Nigerians lived a far higher quality of life than we currently do. In the absence of the greed-driven and corruption- infested oil industry the poverty rate was 16 per cent. Now it is 75 per cent. Agriculture accounted for 68 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, GDP and some 80 per cent of our export earnings. Each region developed at its own pace with a healthy competition to make its desired impact on the people. Back then the North was proud of the pyramids of groundnut, cotton and hides and skin. It controlled 50 per cent of its resources without resorting to external borrowings.
Similarly, the then Western Region under the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (of blessed memory) used its cocoa resources to fund free education, in tandem with the 26 per cent as recommended by UNESCO. It was able to build the first television station even ahead of France, construct durable roads as well as the first ultra-modern Liberty Stadium at Ibadan. Its economy outstripped that of Spain. Also, the South-East with Michael Okpara at the helm of affairs achieved the feat of the fastest growing economy of all the Commonwealth nations with the judicious use of resources from palm oil, rubber and other agricultural products, all in the absence of processing before export.
It is curious, if not laughable therefore, that the likes of Junaid Muhammed and Tilley Gyado are still vehemently opposed to the more forward-looking and faster development- oriented Resource Control. While Muhammed highlights poor leadership and the attendant mass youth unemployment as the bane of political leadership in Nigeria, Gyado said that the Southern part of the country was “pushing for too much.” He indeed, rubbed salt on festering injury by saying that the “northerners would not give them the approval.” What an insult!
If indeed, there is no equity and fairness in the country over 100 years after the Amalgamation, then how do we forge a nation state? But good enough, Chief Ayo Adebanjo gave a conscience-pricking response. He reminded those opposed to resource control that during the era of the groundnut pyramid, the North was getting 50 per cent as derivation and remitting a paltry per cent and the South did not raise any eyebrow.
For instance, at that time Nigeria was the leading producer and exporter of palm oil to the tune of 160,000 tons per annum . While as at 2013 the same Indonesia produced a staggering 27 million metric tons and earned a whopping revenue of $12 billion, Nigeria was still grappling with an annual production of a meager 900,000 tons! Imagine what would have happened if the South East was allowed to develop at its own pace.
If we sincerely desire a developed economy and a brighter future for generations yet unborn, our leaders must adopt Resource Control for the federating units. Let these words of admonition by Prof. Kolawole Ogundowole be food for thought for our political leaders: ‘‘Empires are built, but nations evolve through natural socio-historical processes, causes. Whenever and wherever a country is put together by fiat through wars, negotiated settlement, international agreements and deals, such are not nations. They are amalgam countries.’’