What restructuring means
What is restructuring? What does it mean in the new lexicon of the All Progressives Congress, APC? Last week the party set up a committee whose thoughts at the end of the day will teach us what restructuring means, the encapsulation of which is expected to land us in their dream or rather our dream magic kingdom which they unrelentingly brandished before us while seeking our votes. And to cap it all and teach us a lesson, guess who has been made the head of the committee, one who has been publicly hostile to the very idea of restructuring. Never mind that he was all for it back in 2010, some seven years back, precisely 10 August, 2010. I am swearing by ThisDay’s Politics Today and Imam Imam is my witness. It is poor political judgment on the part of the Party leadership.
El-Rufai himself does not have the excellent sense of propriety to go into partnership of honour with Attorney-General Jeff Sessions who has decided to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election. Here is a man just appointed into office as America’s chief law officer and who has been known to be maverick Donald Trump’s earliest and ardent supporter. Mr. Trump, the editor-in-chief of the new media, Twitter, is left in the cold to bite his lips and gnash his teeth. We may wish to recall that His Excellency, Malam El-Rufai, impudently dismissed those clamouring for the restructuring of the country as irresponsible and opportunists. Among them were former President Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
Numbered among the advocates are Ken Nnamani, former Senate President, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. John Nwodo, president-general of Ohanaeze and Professor Jerry Gana, leading his own team in North-Central. There is no need to mention the South-West leaders whose struggle for a restructured Nigeria pre-dated the Fourth Republic as many like to describe the present democratic dispensation. I am referring to Chief Ayo Adebanjo, (Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Chief Michael Ajasin, Senator Abraham Adesanya who succeeded Ajasin as leader, and, of course, the irrepressible Bola Ige, all of blessed memory) leaving Adebanjo, Olu Falae, Admiral Kanu, Aare Afe Babalola, General Alani Akinrinade and Bola Tinubu to continue with the pressure. Here was a group Head of State General Abdusalami Abubakar had to persuade to cooperate with his team to see the exit of the military as a priority. After seeing the soldiers’ back Adesanya and co. could resume pressing for the restructuring of the country.
What does restructure mean? Where to start is what does structure mean? Chambers 21st Century Dictionary (Revised Edition) which prides itself as the Authority on English Today says of structure as the way in which the parts of a thing are arranged or organised. It also says of the verb form of it: to put into an organised form or arrangement. The dictionary reminds us that the word has its origin in Latin, ‘structura’ from ‘struece.’ Many who made Clarendon their indispensable companion before Tai Solarin won the campaign in the days of nationalism to throw it out of the window, would bear linguists witness that a great many English words and idioms are derived from Latin.
Restructure will logically then mean to rearrange. In the context of a nation, I will like to leave the reader in the hands of Atiku Abubakar, legal luminary Aare Afe Babalola, Bisi Akande only on Tuesday, and my colleague, Gbogun Gboro of The Nation who incidentally spoke on the day El-Rufai and my friend John Oyegun feigned not knowing what restructuring means. Atiku, the constant Northern star on this subject put it lucidly at Nsukka only last Friday, “Restructuring means making changes to our current federal structure so it comes closer to what our founding fathers established in response to the very issues and challenges that led them to opt for a less centralised system. It means devolving more powers to the federating units with the accompanying resources. It means greater control by the federating units of the resources in their areas. It would mean by implication the reduction of the powers and roles of the federal government so that it would concentrate only on those matters best handled by the centre such as defence, foreign policy, monetary and fiscal policies, immigration, customs and excise, aviation as well as setting and enforcing national standards on such matters as education, health and safety… Using the zones would ensure financial viability of the states and also address the concerns of minorities about domination by our three major ethnic groups.”
At a different occasion, he had this to say: “No section of the country can claim correctly that its people are better by the current structure of our federation. We must acknowledge that what got us into our centre-dominated federal system is political expediency and fear.” Elsewhere still, he said: “The whole purpose of restructuring is to eliminate those policies that feed the mindset that drives the sharing behaviour. Only by restructuring can we guarantee unity, equity, and security for our nation.”
What is the harm the present unitary federalism has done to Nigeria, it may be asked?
At independence, Nigeria was the largest African producer and world’s largest exporter of groundnuts. At the time we spoke proudly of the groundnut pyramid in Kano. Output was running between one and two million. But with the coming of the military and practically all resources came under its boots decline set in with production harvests dropping far below half a million metric tonnes in 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1978. By 1982 production was only 48 per cent of what obtained in the 1960s. By 1975, indeed, there was a dramatic fall in production, and there was no surplus for export. Most local factories closed or were gasping for breath. Struggle for oil cut blocked possible healing oxygen bags being rushed to revive both production and facilities.
According to an extensive study by Oladiran Oladipo, between 1960 and 1966, average production of more than 400,000 metric tonnes put Nigeria far ahead as the leading world producer of palm kernels, in fact accounting for 50 per cent of total world consumption. The Eastern Region supplied 65 per cent of oil palm products. After the war production came down by 50 per cent. It was not until 1982 that production picked, going up to 81 per cent of 1960 output, but only 15.71 per cent could be supplied to the world’ market as against 96.52 per cent of total production between 1960 and 1966. According to the study, between 1960 and 1966, Nigeria was the largest world producer of the product. After the war, understandably, 18 per cent compared with the 1966 level could be produced. By 1976, Nigeria became a net importer of palm oil. By 1982, the imports were 153,000 metric tonnes at a cost of $92million in foreign exchange. The drastic fall was blamed on domestic consumption arising from increase in our population which went up from 43 million to 82,390,000 in 1982. Cotton production fell to about 27 per cent in 1982 and we began to import cotton totaling 58,000 metric tonnes at a cost $85 million.
Because of the decline arising from over-centralisation of power and resources, the giant textile firms at Isolo in Lagos, the Aswani Textiles firm which used to swarm with workers and those at Oba Akran and Ilupeju in Lagos were sorely hit and had had to close down. They became imported car depots. Kaduna textiles over which Adams Oshiomhole and Isa Aremu used to beat their chests became a shadow of its old self. The same is the case with the famous Kano textile mills, as everybody went to sleep.
At independence, Nigeria was second only to Ghana as the world’s biggest producer of cocoa. At the time, Cote D’voire output was half that of Nigeria. By 1971, after the war in Nigeria, Cote D’voire had more than doubled its 1960 production and completely overtaken Nigeria by 1974. By 1977-78, it replaced Ghana as the leading world producer and exporter. Today, Nigeria trails behind Cote D’voire in the fourth position. Cote D’voire produces 25 per cent of the world’s output, Brazil, 22 per cent, Ghana 10 per cent, Nigeria 8 per cent and Cameroon 6.75 per cent. After the war in 1970 Nigeria could only muster 64 per cent of 1960 level and with all gaze turned in the direction of oil, a decline set in such that by 1982, about 80 per cent of the 1960 level could be produced up from 64 per cent of 1970.
Because cocoa served as Awolowo’s miracle tool to transform the West and the income derived therefrom during the war, the Federal Authorities made spirited efforts to see that cocoa would not go down the slope like other primary products. Dr. Akinwumi Adesina set out clear goals, what he called Cocoa Transformation Agenda. Because local processing increased in 2010 and 2012 the government established what it called Export Expansion Grant, an export incentive programme. The grant was suspended mid-2012 after complaints of sharp practices by way of over-valuation in export reporting by some exporters. Local processing went down in consequence. The U.S. import of cocoa beans and processed cocoa dropped to about $26m in 2013 compared to $62million garnered in 2011 and $56million in 2012. There are 17 cocoa processing facilities in the country with combined installed capacity. Only seven of these with installed capacity of 150,000 tonnes could crush cocoa beans. As of 2014, they could process only 60,000 tonnes yearly, just about 30 per cent of the national installed capacity.
In the argument of Atiku, investments are easier within a decentralised system where decisions can be taken by local authorities closer to the relevant organisations. In the 60s the leaders worked very closely with the farmers. The Federal authorities abolished marketing boards in 1986 on the advice of the World Bank during the liberalisation wave that swept through the country at the time. Good as liberalisation was local Authorities that were conversant with local needs and operation would probably have elected a different option. The major producers were Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti, Delta, Edo, Osun, Akwa Ibom and Oyo. But the situation with cocoa has never been the same again. Rubber is the only product that has witnessed a semblance of stability with production dangling between yearly 43,000 and 72,000 metric tonnes from the west and old Bendel state— which until 1971 were entirely exported. They not only met local needs but had yields surplus for export, accounting for 60 per cent of total production by 1982.
Colleague, Gbogun Gboro, was saying the other day, if I may refer to him to reinforce my argument: “About adjustment of power and resource control between the Federal and government and the states, the National Conference took very important decisions all of which would take a lot of duties and responsibilities away from the Federal centre and transfer them to the governments of the states. The total effect is that the Federal Government will be smaller, leaner, control less money, and become much more efficient. The States will become what the states are supposed to be in a federation—namely, the dynamic centre of development. Hopefully our states will resume the competition which used to exist among our regions in the 50s up to 1966. …No federal government can do all these things from one centre. By 1965, Nigeria exported 675,000 metric tons of groundnuts. By 1984, after transfer of all resource control to the Federal Government (gradually from 1966), Nigeria exported only 25,000 metric tons of groundnuts.”
Case closed as they say in common parlance!
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