Restructuring: Beyond mere sloganeering
Take it or leave it, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo would forever remain one of the greatest political leaders in the history of Nigeria. He was one politician eulogised and rightly adjudged capable of being a successful Prime Minister of Great Britain by no one other than a former Prime Minister of that historic colonial power. One enviable political attribute of Awolowo was his distaste for rhetoric, preferring to convince his audience about the viability of his proposal. He would go about his proposal like a diligent scholar would go about his or her doctoral thesis-define it, explain it, and defend it. For instance, when Awolowo proposed his idea of free education for the Nigerian federation, he not only explained its benefits, but also went as far as explaining how what was a gargantuan project to others could be funded.
The type of discipline and belief Awolowo injected into his ideas is conspicuously lacking today. There has been much talk about restructuring the Nigerian federation to the extent that restructuring has become some kind of slogan that the proponents have failed to translate into a most desirable idea. For instance, one would have expected that by now a book is on the shelves about what is to be restructured, how it would benefit Nigerians, and how it would be achieved. Apart from sketchy and emotion-laden pronouncements, many Nigerians have yet to benefit from the wisdom of the restructuring agents.
Lest one is misunderstood, it is not a bad idea to want to restructure a nation. To want to restructure is to want to organise society or an organisation in order to make it more effective. The truth of the matter is that the Nigerian federation is not working as effectively as it should. There is a need for tinkering here and there. But there must be forceful presentation of position in the critical areas of the federation in a dire need of restructuring. We have had people talk of a return to the regional set up, but the proponents of this lofty idea must be prepared to convince the people of Ekiti or Anambra that their state would cease to exist once they or their political party have won the 2019 presidential election. They should be able to convince us that regionalism is not about re-inventing a problem once resolved in the history of our nation. I say this because there was once in our history when agitation for state creation was a most disturbing issue, creating tensions in relationship between groups.
Of course, one has heard an opinion leader urging a secessionist group to support the restructuring agenda because, according to him, it is only when the nation is restructured into regions that their objective of breaking away from the federation can be achieved. With such a sentiment expressed, those calling for a return to regions have the added task of convincing Nigerian patriots that regionalism is not about breaking up Nigeria. Honestly, and in very many regards, the motives behind the agitation for restructuring have been diverse, confusing and conflicting, and this is where a major advocate such as Atiku Abubakar must provide a harmonious and more enlightening position.
I believe I read it somewhere where Atiku said he would restructure Nigeria within six months if elected President. With due respect, this optimism of his seems unfounded. He is not going to be elected to be a dictator, he is going to be elected to work with others whose views on restructuring may be at variance with his. The political constituencies in Nigeria and their representatives hold diverse views about restructuring and its wherewithal. I honestly think the much-admired Atiku Abubakar should be Awolowo-like in telling the nation what is to be restructured and how he intends to go about it. If, for instance, he intends to abolish or merge a few states, he should, without fear or favour, confront Nigerians with this proposal. A true advocate cannot be too presumptuous of the nobility of his or her proposal.
Otherwise, our Nigerian politicians are shamelessly dishonest, preferring their personal ambitions to the overall good of the nation. I continue to wonder within myself why virtually all the key politicians that defected from one main party to another are now presidential aspirants. They probably would have remained in their original political parties if they were not eyeing positions they did not consider as non-feasible in erstwhile circumstances. True democrats would remain in political parties they claim they support and believe in and fight for ideas to be accommodated therein and implemented. While it is undoubtedly important to restructure the Nigerian federation, just as most of the political parties are talking about it, it must not be just a ploy to achieving personal ambition or mere sloganeering to hoodwink the gullible.