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What sort of restructuring can we expect?


President Muhammadu Buhari

As everyone knows, our most benevolent and omniscient ruling class has discovered a new silver bullet – the one thing that will fix all of Nigeria’s problems. All our elder statesmen and veteran public commentators have settled on restructuring as the key to turning Nigeria around. It is not a new argument by any means, but of course, like the 6 blind men of Indostan who went to see the elephant, what restructuring is will no doubt depend on who is being asked the question.

For some it will mean full resource control, repeal of the Land Use Act and devolution of many of the Federal Government’s current powers to the States. For others, it will mean ripping up our 36-state structure and reverting to a form of regionalism akin to the situation at Independence. For others yet, it will mean the creation of State Police and scrapping various quota enforcement mechanisms in the national architecture. Whatever form it takes, restructuring will require a wholesale constitutional overhaul, meaning that the final deal will have to be approved by the National Assembly and the state houses of assembly in at least 24 states.

What this means though, is that if 13 states are opposed to the version of restructuring that emerges after the smoke has cleared, there shall be none. Indeed, it is hard to see how states caught up in ‘enfrightened’ self-interest would vote for an end to the monthly bazaar from Abuja, or Abuja favour a curtailing of its own powers. This is a land after all, where might is largely still right and the big man has to be able to put the small man in his place. And if they did agree, would we have a transitional period or would the band-aid be ripped off in one quick, sharp motion?

Would restructuring mean more autonomy for the local government system or a modification of what currently exists? Would bus routes and car parks still be left to thugs masquerading as a drivers’ union to operate and, if not, what would the plan be to keep the inevitable unrest in check for good?

And how about the matters over which the States have always had control? Primary and Secondary education, primary healthcare, sewage treatment and waste disposal, control over the devolution and administration of landed property? Literacy and maternal mortality rates remain dire in many states, in what may well be the strongest argument against this restructuring movement. If the states have done poorly with the matters over which they have authority, how will the restructuring revamp their performance? The administration of justice is also fully devolved, looking at the judiciary, yet justice is frequently delayed (and therefore denied) for many. What will the restructuring that fixes this look like?

Will the restructuring talks (one assumes there will be discussions for a consensus to be reached) have no-go areas or will the discussion be a full and frank one? Who will preside over the talks and who will represent what regions? Are the same people who balkanised the country and now touting restructuring going to be the ones to drive the process? What if the conclusion of the discussions is similar to the constitutional conferences of the past, whose reports are all gathering dust in a bunker somewhere? Will those who rejected earlier positions be ready to do the about-faces?

Very importantly however, is this debate one that the president has any interest? Will he give his nod to setting up the structures required to give whatever version of restructuring that emerges its legitimacy?

In this article:
Rotimi Fawole
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