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Federal Government cannot tarry on restructuring

By Afam Nkemdiche
06 July 2017   |   3:38 am
The Federal Government’s latest expressed disposition on the vexed issue of restructuring Nigeria is worrisome. Early in the life of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government, President Muhammadu Buhari

The Federal Government’s latest expressed disposition on the vexed issue of restructuring Nigeria is worrisome. Early in the life of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government, President Muhammadu Buhari and other ranking officials of the administration had deployed the argument that “restructuring means different things to different people” to create the impression that the Federal Government didn’t know the universal meaning of the term; apparently in hopes that the calls for restructuring will fizzle out. But rather than diminish, the calls for restructuring have increased in both intensity and frequency with the passage of time.

Compelled to review its earlier position on the matter, the Federal Government belatedly recalled, rather conveniently, that “restructuring” is a cardinal point in its Manifesto. However, according to APC’s leading spokespersons, the Federal Government proposes to restructure the country after solving the twin challenge of economic downturn and insecurity (?) If this is the Federal Government’s considered position on the great matter of the moment, it would mean that the government of the day is misreading Nigeria’s political barometer. This is a cause for consternation.

This is not a time to mealy-mouth about the state of the nation. Nigeria’s political structure has simply failed; it has failed even to the point where barely organised youths now threaten to disintegrate the union. Disintegration usually follows on the heels of extensive structural failure; this is a natural law. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to politicise the present spate of youth centripetal agitations by refusing to consign those centripetal agitations and the calls for restructuring Nigeria in the same compartment. There are two sides of one coin.

Let us beg the question for clarification purposes. The various calls for restructuring taken together aggregate to true federalism, whereby the federating units, be they 3, 4, 6, or even 36 in number, would revert to the autonomous status of the regions in the First Republic. Autonomy had allowed the regions to develop at a pace compatible with indigenous human and material capacities. The latter were thus optimally developed, enabling the regions to contribute to the national coffers. Nigeria had been the better for it; and her Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had enjoyed steady growth, placing Nigeria well ahead of today’s Asian Tiger nations. That trajectory reversed when the federal government ill-advisedly withdrew regional autonomy at the collapse of the First Republic. Revenues were thenceforth to be collectivized and distributed to the federating units according to population size; wealth then seized to be a function of creative productivity – indeed a horrible turn in Nigeria’s evolution.

Today (2017) most of the federating units (States) have become so financially enervated that they go practically cap-in-hand to the Federal Government for funds to pay salaries. It then doesn’t require much imagination to know that Nigeria cannot survive much longer under such a queer regime where financial appropriations are based on population size. Nigeria is the poorer for it; this was what inspired the call for restructuring in the first instance. The Nigerian youth, being the worst victims of our dysfunctional fiscal structure, could only behold a bleak future ahead, irrespective of their educational attainments. This is one of the valid reasons they want out of the Nigerian Union. (I believe the Nigerian youth’s outrage is justified; it’s a necessary protest against the elders for grossly mismanaging the commonwealth). Therefore, rather than self-righteously refer to the protesting youth as “misguided,” the elders should apologize to the betrayed Nigerian youth; and, more importantly, take earnest steps to restore hope in the citizenry in general.

Reading about the desperate plight of our youths in faraway lands, one cannot help sympathising with them; but emotions alone, individual or collective, do not solve human problems. These times call for pragmatism; l would therefore advise our agitating youth to be much less emotional about their plight while looking rationally to the next round of elections, because the answers to Nigeria’s problems lay more in electing roundly qualified candidates than in breaking up the country. I had in a two-part article published in this newspaper few weeks prior to the 2015 presidential election, (viz: Choosing between APC and PDP), advised the electorate to eschew tribal and religious considerations in voting for a particular candidate. I had also suggested in the same article that the then-APC leading opposition party didn’t come across as having the right answers to the ailing Nigerian economy.

If the APC Federal Government could today publically say it is waiting to solve Nigeria’s economic and security problems before restructuring the country, then my 2015 assessment of the APC candidacy could well be said have been vindicated. It is inconceivable to solve Nigeria’s economic problems in her extant political structure, much in the manner one cannot put the cart before the horse and expect to get traction.

For a country of multiple ethnic-nationalities like Nigeria, administrative restructuring is not amenable to multiple interpretations; it simply means a review of how the commonwealth is administered. If the federating units, which contribute to the commonwealth are not satisfied with the existing distributive formula (read political structure), it’s foolhardy to expect them to gladly continue to contribute to the commonwealth. Look to the Niger Delta region for a good evidence of this: notwithstanding the Federal Government’s elaborate programmes to placate and consequently secure the full cooperation of that troubled region, the strident calls thereof for “Resource Control” have intensified with time, while the terms of engagement get needlessly more complicated at every turn.

That challenge and its concomitants will remain with us so long as the federal government continues to meddle with the economic affairs of the federating units. And, as our political barometer is beginning to enjoin, terminating that meddlesomeness cannot be stayed for much longer. The APC Federal Government cannot afford to tarry on the increasingly sensitive matter of restructuring Nigeria.

Nkemdiche is an engineering consultant in Abuja.