‘We need to amend the law to create six zones that will produce vice presidents’
On different occasions, well-meaning Nigerians have called for the restructuring of the country. Many people believe a restructured nation with regional autonomy will perform better and free the nation from the present economic realities crippling development and growth. Chima Nnaji, in this interview with GERALDINE AKUTU, spoke on the issue, system of government and zoning arrangement.
What do you make of the call for the restructuring of Nigeria?
There has been a long standing call because the present structure is unsustainable. Everyday through the life and history of this country, it is thrown to the face of every citizen in this country that the structure is not working. So, there is no way this present structure can continue, not even in the current experience of globalization. You cannot have a system that promotes indolence, sectionalism and incompetence. The whole world is going towards productive excellence but we are retrogressing into ethnic and religious cleavages and that is why our country is not making progress. It has to be a situation where you have a structure that encourages and motivates people to achieve. We are pretenders in this country in the sense that we pretend to love capitalism but we do not labour for it. Capitalism encourages primitive accumulation but it is through your own ingenuity and effort that you must put something down for which you expect people to patronize you. In this country we have relied so much on oil and people in those areas are held down so that they are not querulous enough to fight for their right. You will observe that today, that which has failed through normal civilized process of engagement has now resulted into violence.
Where do you think Nigeria has failed as a state?
I think Nigeria has failed on all fronts because when the structure is wrong, both the function and output will also be faulty. We have 36 states today that must be fended for either by provisions of the governors, federal allocations and so on. By the time the whole sharing is done, and you have to take care of the bureaucracy, you will find out that there is nothing left for any other person. So, you have to belong to the clique that runs that bureaucracy to be able to get certain things for your own good. Politics has become an internecine warfare for that small space in which only one person or one group must win. In the political firmament, there is violence as they want to outdo one another. What you will see, is the over-heating of the polity. Politics is a game of who gets what and how. If what is to be gotten is not enough to go round, that is a recipe for struggle. There is so much oppression in the country. As long as we will practice this convoluted structure, things will not work and violence will continue to unleash mayhem on our political firmament.
Do you prefer parliamentary system of government to presidential?
I am not fixated on any of them. I am interested in democracy. Choosing an American presidential system or British parliamentary system is immaterial but getting the best of each that will soothe the Nigerian system. It is an organic thing. If you grow in a particular system then you run with it. If it is not working, you will have to jettison it or modify it. This is not a command economy. Let us look at what will work for us not. Equality is equity. Not all hands are equal but as small or big as they are when it comes to functions, each of them have what they do. It should be equality based on sovereignty of nations.
Do you subscribe to the idea that we amend the constitution to accommodate the six geo-political zones?
I think we should at least manage to get our six geo-political zones into centres of political activity. The presidency of this country should no longer be a one man affair. There should be a collegiate arrangement whereby all the six geo-political zones should produce vice president and they will go in rotation in one term arrangement. This zoning arrangement should also take place in each zone but the focus will be based on excellence or merit to ensure that anybody who is angling for any political leadership position must be a graduate, has experience and must have proved his or her mettle. My position is that it must not be watered down to choosing a certain kind of people or feeling that some group of people must be accommodated. It is not everybody that is good in the kitchen. I think we should thinker with this zonal arrangement for now. When we consolidate our democracy and mature as a people politically, then we will be able to contrive a system that is native to us instead of copying and pasting, because the situation is not the same. America is not the same as Nigeria because the way things work there is different. When you copy American presidential system, have you thought of the culture? The same goes for Britain. The six zones should come based on equality of zonal arrangement. There should be fairness.
How can we resolve our economic and structural challenges?
If the structure is right, things will work well. It is not a rocket science. The politics has to be in good shape for the economy to succeed. The only reason somebody calls a person a father is not because he is the biological father but because that person took care of him too. A country that is not useful to its citizens should not demand for patriotism. It comes naturally. Just hit any American in any part of the world and they will come for you. Different countries in the world knows that America does not toy with its citizens. Imagine, a country like Cotonou treating Nigerians with so much levity and disregard.
If you call your country a waste basket, people will come and dump refuse inside it. We are not treating our citizens right but demanding from our citizens what other countries treating their people right are giving them. It does not work that way. The politics must be right for the economy to follow. When this is done, there will be happiness, peace and development. Nigerians leaving outside have things to offer. Many of our good doctors and others in different disciplines are outside doing excellently well and we are here rushing to India for treatment of headache. You can see the embarrassment we are facing as a country, having our own president literally kidnapped by a certain group of doctors because it is said that he cannot come back to Nigeria until his doctors says so. That to me, looks like a kidnap because you stay their at their pleasure. If we do things right, every other thing will follow.
If you go for the best, then the rest will follow but if you don’t go for the best, you will loose the rest. The way we are recruiting our leaders is appalling. We have good young, creative PhD holders who have gone outside of the countries to use their lives positively or better their lives and we are here groping with elderly people with less endowments. That is why we are hovering. We can not move forward with this patch system. The way forward is getting our politics right. I remember a conference that was held towards the end of Johnathan’s tenure where there was a consensus that the system we have is not working. A number of people came together and agreed that we must restructure the system. I think we need a positive change not in the political sense but in the whole Nigeria system. Nigerians have to learn their lessons the hard way and choose leaders that can perform or deliver and ensure continuity of development instead of choosing leaders based on foolish sentiments, ethnicity and religion.