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Restructuring, secession as mere shadows

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At present, a murky cloud of anxiety hangs over Nigeria. The prevailing atmosphere vibrates with tension and fear of impending civil war is stealing over many security moms. These were feelings started by violence and kidnap, and now accentuated by cries for restructuring and secession of Nigeria.

For those who do not understand the terms ‘restructuring’ and‘ secession’, an oversimplification of the words here becomes necessary. Secession is a fact of a group, state, etc. breaking from a larger group and becoming independent. Restructuring, strictly in the Nigerian context, means to reorganise, rearrange or modify the existing ‘things in Nigeria, the goal of which, in the expectation of the supporters, is to usher in better deals.

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What people consider as ‘structure ’embraces many facts about Nigeria: derivation, education, allocation, power, policing, fiscal federalism, money, open grazing, even cattle, the 1999 Constitution dishonestly written by the military, etc.

Restructuring—call it a decoy or an attractant—is a deceiving equivocator that played a major role in President Buhari’s 2015 electoral campaign and set to play more tricks in the upcoming presidential election. Restructuring is a waste of time and the fact that it has been given different interpretations by different politicians further shows how unrealistic it is.

The ideas run riot in the imagination of the supporters that the following magic will happen: Firstly, the lopsided appointment as seen in the present administration will stop. But will it? Not really! Secondly, there will be less concentration of power at the centre whilst states will wield more powers, develop at their own pace and effectively manage their resources.  How many state governors are sincerely willing to develop their states? Thirdly, supporters of restructuring and secession dream of equitable distribution of wealth.

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Will that be attainable in a Republic where looting, nepotism and favouritism thrive? No! Fourthly, if the South-South becomes a Republic, its oil-producing states will be transformed into Dubai. Can this happen in a Black country like Nigeria? Time will tell! Lastly, if the Yoruba nation emerges, separatists dream of the time when the aggressive Fulanis with their cattle will be denied visas into their nation in order to protect their farmlands and keep violence at bay. Will that dream not bring war? It will!

Agitation for restructuring and secession is almost like that for independence in the colonial era. Before the attainment of independence of 1960, Nigerians protested, amongst other things the way in which head taxes and water rates were collected. They also requested more political representation. Admittedly, colonialism was seen by Nigerians as an erosion of their cultural values and their way of life, hence the need to resist the British occupation of Nigeria.  It is disappointing, however, that sixty years after independence, Nigeria’s political terrain still undulates terribly.

The point needs emphasizing that those yearning for restructuring and a break-up of Nigeria ought to have the foresight that restructuring and secession cannot end Nigeria’s problems; Nigerians should agitate for sincere leaders who will deliver them.

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In his explosive booklet entitled The Trouble with Nigeria published in 1983, the Late Chinua Achebe bluntly stated that ‘The trouble with Nigeria is simply a failure of leadership… Nigerians are what they are only because their leaders are not what they should be’. Although Achebe added that there was nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water or anything else, he would admit that a lot is wrong with the air inhaled in many parts of Rivers State and the farmlands in Nigeria at present if he were living.

If Achebe were alive, I would tell him that the ruled are also corrupt, and not ‘what they should be. Thirty-seven years after Achebe’s publication, the truth of his argument reverberates: the crises Nigerians are facing today are direct results of their leaders’ insincerity, greed and sleaze.

With the rot set in and corruption deeply entrenched in the country as far back as 1960, I maintain that it is a misplaced priority to tackle issues that will lead Nigeria nowhere. What I am quite sure these secessionists and supporters of restructuring are doing is a clamour for a continuation of the old structure by the old leaders, perhaps very few new leaders.

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Assuming Nigeria secedes and it is restructured, one will see the following features of the old structure manifesting in the new structure: The masses that fought for the secession and restructuring will be abandoned; the federation unit will arrogate to itself excessive power; the political appointment will be based strictly on cronyism and party affiliation, not on merit; there will be award of ghost contracts with inflated costs; the commanders-in-chief and the state governors will plant their kinsmen insensitive office; the rulers put out feelers and search for yes-men and loyalists; sometimes the rulers employ Special Assistants some of who, of course, can be funny.

If Nigerian leaders examine themselves and genuinely love their country, the country will become great. The North can get the out-of-school children back to school if the leaders turn over a new leaf. If Nigerian leaders invest in Nigeria and stop stashing Nigeria’s funds in overseas accounts, the maggots that squirm in our health, aviation, oil and education sectors will all die. Does it make sense to America when a Nigerian leader, who should lead by example, owns ninety cars and sixty houses in Lagos State and FCT? No! Sure, behind Lagos State and FCT’s dazzling façade lie misery and squalor. Again, what sense does it make to Norway and France when the COVID-19 palliatives meant for poor Nigerians are abused by the rulers? Instances such as these are what we must consider in order to know ‘where the rain began to beat us’.

I conclude this column by asking, in Horatian parlance: Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat? I will not stop laughing until Nigerian leaders secede from corruption and embrace sincerity: Nigerian leaders have to restructure their DNA and become identified with the suffering masses. I will not stop laughing until Nigerian leaders jettison the idea of acquiring jets and until governors, ministers and lawmakers choose to pay workers’ salaries with their wealth. Restructuring and secession of Nigeria are not solutions to Nigeria’s problems. Since there is more than one way to skin a cat, I advise Nigerians to withdraw from this unrealistic steeplechase and rather, agitate for the dethronement of corruption in their country. I have no problem with restructuring and secession: the move is quite necessary and its supporters deserve huge praise. However. I can only give my support if I believe that restructuring and secession will solve Nigeria’s problems. 

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Sola wrote from Port Harcourt. 


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