Federalism is the answer after all – Part 36
The restructuring debate is obviously assuming new intensity with standpatters fighting back to undermine the vision for a new Nigeria. Equally, the reform campaigners are not resting on their oars. They are persuaded that the restoration of restructuring as a crucial component of development agenda is an idea whose time has indeed come. And no force of political shenanigan, irredentism, bigotry or sophistry can stop it.
The Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, is in the foreground. The Minister the other day resorted to some curious sophistry – to satisfy those in the gallery instead of public interest. To him, those calling for restructuring of the polity should rather restructure their mindset. He used the platform of a conference organised by the Nigerian Youth Congress themed, ‘‘Nigerian Democratic System and Good Governance: The Journey So Far’’ for his viewpoint. For the minister, there is nothing wrong with the existing order. In his words, “when we have a well structured national constitution that takes cognisance of the diversity of Nigeria… restructuring Nigeria is not necessary because our constitution has made adequate provisions to address all concerns. The constitution is such that everyone is considered; it is only a mindset and therefore it is our minds that need to be restructured to understand better.” He went further to trivialise the issue of self-determination and noted that the extant structure did not prevent anybody from the expression of their rights. As the minister put it, “Self determination and restructuring are only excuses because there is no law in Nigeria that prevents anyone from exercising their rights in any part of the country. Therefore, it is important that Nigerians examine themselves because fighting over tribal differences only trivialises our collective efforts.”
National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, who also spoke at the event by proxy urged unity and peace. He said that “Patriotism, peace and national development are the things that will ensure a continuous unity of Nigeria because our journey as a nation is that of continuous struggle but never shall we fail…We are one Nigeria and will continue to remain Nigerians as we work to transform and improve ourselves.”
Other views are crowding the debate. One of such views is the assertion that the 1999 was not imposed by the military but compacted by civilians. It is argued that the present grundnorm was processed-led beginning from the 1979 Constitution to the 1999 Constitution as amended. They went through constituent assemblies made of elected and selected members, many of whom are the ones calling for restructuring.
Truly, we can infer from the above view that there are those who see our clamour for restructuring of the constituent units of the Nigerian polity as a waste of time. Only a few can defer to this warped position. The point must be made that the cognitive process begins from the material world. It doesn’t begin from the mind which is sheer idealism. The material wealth of Nigeria has largely shaped the behaviour of political actors some of whom see the Nigerian project as their ethnic patrimony and therefore their lineage strewn across the continent must inherit it. It should be emphasised that the federal principles in the constitution, such as federal character and the secularism of the Nigerian state have been observed in the breach.
It is unbecoming in a multinational state for the security architecture of the country to be taken over by one ethnic group or a section of the country in ways that render the rest nationalities as slaves. Whenever and wherever national oppression exists, self-determination becomes a categorical imperative. Such is the Nigerian condition today. It is an exercise in self-delusion to hold on to a viewpoint that nothing is wrong with the polity and so there is nothing to restructure. This is indeed unconscionable!
For those who think that the several constitutions of the country were crafted by civilians and so no need for hue and cry and no reason to want to perfect the system, that is tantamount to playing the devil’s advocate. Nigerians know, so the people off our shores too are well aware that the country is on the brink and the consequences of its precarity could only be imagined.
This newspaper will continue to hail the passion, commitment and sincerity of those who want our leaders to reform this convoluted federation that our leaders pretend is running well. From our vantage position, we urge our leaders at all levels to make hay while the sun shines. Arranging the country on the basis of federal principles is noble and perhaps preferable to other doomsday alternatives. It is time to double our steps. This is yet another clarion call on the governing party leaders who promised us restructuring since 2015 and have been strangely keeping a good report of the presidential committee on the modality for implementation of the report since 2018. May God indeed direct our noble cause – to restructure the country’s rickety governance structure before it is too late!
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