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Restructuring: History 101


[FILE PHOTO] Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s rather perplexing insistence that administrative restructuring is not the solution to Nigeria’s politico-economic problems, does suggest that the academic-turned-politician is a poor student of history. (I state this with a high sense of responsibility). Otherwise, the ex-officio chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC) ought to have known that Nigeria’s politico-economic problems effectively started in mid-1966 when her autonomous regional structure was tampered with. By sheer military fiat, Nigeria’s hitherto four regions were converted to a 12-state command structure, wherein national wealth was collectivised and shared on an arithmetic that placed landmass and population over productive capacity.

Nigeria thus unwittingly went from being a wealth-creating to wealth-consuming nation. In rather rapid successions the erstwhile agrarian giant went from exporting agric-products to being a net importer of all manner of food items with very debilitating effects on her balance of payments account. Countries which Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) were a mere fraction of Nigeria’s consequently overtook Nigeria. These facts are not lost on the overwhelming majority who want the country restructured as a matter of urgency.

Despite the foregoing, Osinbajo insinuates that it is regressive to return the country to the regional structure; selfsame structure under which Nigeria posted her best per capita growths and built her most enduring infrastructure(?) This is what most people find perplexing in the NEC’s chairman’s position on restructuring. It may also interest Osinbajo to know that the less-than-satisfactory three-regional structure, which the British bequeathed to Nigeria, was significant in the premature collapse of the First Republic in early 1966. Country-wide agitations for structural review of the regions had followed on the heels of national independence in 1960.

Those agitations eventually led to the creation of Mid-Western region from the Western region in 1963, even as other ethnic nationalities called for more regions to be created from the Northern and Eastern regions respectively. That sovereignty-threatening trajectory of dwindling wealth-productive capacity in a regime of intense agitations for regional autonomy has persisted to this day. This is a part of Nigeria’s history that all patriots must commit to know by heart much like the National Pledge; more the pity to observe that some elected officials have chosen to play politics with this ultrasensitive issue. Administrative restructuring is a make-or-break for Nigeria. My December 28, 2016 article on Nigeria’s flawed administrative structure, “Building on flawed foundation,” an appropriate material for History 101, bears quoting here in extenso:

“For example, how could anyone deny that the three-region political structure (Eastern, Northern, and Western) which the British bequeathed to Nigeria at independence was fundamentally flawed? A compass essentially comprises of four parts; therefore, it is apt to question the rationale for converting the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria into three regions, instead of four. Or, more to the point, what happened to the Southern region in the primordial scheme of things? It is yet a puzzle to me that Nigeria’s founding fathers didn’t interrogate that significant omission closely. This short piece is therefore an attempt to stimulate a vision of what would have been an ideal political map for Nigeria at independence in 1960. It requires no imagination to figure out that the so-called South-south region in Nigeria’s present-day six geo-political configurations would have constituted the Southern region in a balanced four-regional political map.

Incidentally, the South-south region also approximates the present-day Niger Delta(?) Recall that the map of the Niger Delta region is a broad “U” whose two legs penetrate deep into the arbitrarily created Eastern and Western regions in the First Republic. Had a Southern region been rightfully created prior to independence, both the old Eastern and Western regions would respectively have been comparatively too small in landmass to constitute a region each; both regions each would have had to be expanded northwards. Consequently, a large chunk of present-day Kwara State would have been part of the old Western region; while huge chunks of present-day Benue and Taraba states would have comprised the old Eastern region. What flight of fancy! Some persons may be tempted to exclaim.

But I would plead for indulgence, if only for a brief moment. Recall that the indigenes of both the old Western and Eastern regions had (from the First Republic) agitated for reunification with their kith and kin that have been forcefully separated from them as a consequence of arbitrary, if artificial boundary adjustments. Those agitations persist to this day. Now, let us imagine for a moment that instead of three, four regions (Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western) were created as projected in this piece; in such a scenario, a newly independent Nigeria wouldn’t have been seemingly landmass ‘top-heavy’. Thus, the temptation to fancy that one region is more populous than the other regions put together wouldn’t have crossed the minds of overly ambitious politicians, as proved to be the case in the First Republic.

Such a prospectus would have saved Nigeria from the unending elections and census-related controversies, and the concomitants thereof. Secondly, the four regions would have thus been better poised to develop their economies unhindered: the Eastern region, its palm oil-based economy; the Northern region, its groundnuts and livestock-based economy; the Southern region, its oil and gas based economy; and the Western region, its cocoa based economy. Simply put, Nigeria’s developmental trajectory wouldn’t have been anywhere near as turbulent as it has been…”

The evident lesson to draw from this history is: all of Nigeria’s politico-economic challenges are rooted in her flawed administrative foundation. Therefore, restructuring that foundation cannot, repeat, cannot be separated from the resolution of Nigeria’s lingering politico-economic problems. Indeed there is a nigh national consensus on this. Anyone espousing a contrary view ought to be deemed wholly undeserving of holding a position of public trust within the bounds of Nigeria. Such persons, their mentors and sympathizers alike, are best consigned to that emerging tribe of Democracy Terminators who harbour a hidden agenda for Nigeria.
Nkemdiche, an engineering consultant, wrote from Abuja.

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GDPYemi Osinbajo
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