The restructuring debate
Restructuring is the in-word now in Nigeria. It is an anthropological associate of political, economic, social, cultural and religious diversity of the society. Its meaning subsists at the level of intersubjective objectivity as a result of which it is a nebulous concept in dire need of deconstruction. For one thing, it is not a private language so long as it has found itself into the public domain as public issue.
Secondly, it coheres with a set of body of language with the insignia of true value in a society of true and rational persons venting their feelings about what otherwise ought to be the case. From an inter-subjective agreement it is all about the political and economic direction in which Nigeria should go but the pundits and media have not crystalised the structure of how it will go hence it remains largely subjective even through it is objectively an anthropoid of socio-economic injustice and inequalities of opportunities in Nigeria. The opposition to “restructuring Nigeria” has latched onto the vacuity and nebulousness of this trending concept to discountenance it. To save it requires a deconstruction.
Restructuring from where to where? Backward or forward? As far as Nigeria remains,` it will not be easy to decipher the way out of these questions as long as the old dent or issues like “nationhood” and “”nation-state” continue to raise their ugly head. It is not enough to do without these conceptual foundations, otherwise, Nigeria collapses. Before restructuring, there must be an agreement among the nationalities to co-exist without hatred and rancour and with a sense of commonality and shared destiny. Nation-state, to be precise, is the trust and comparatives advantage of all the component units held in common. This will be the foundation or superstructure of any restructuring process in Nigeria.
The decree No 34 of 1966 of the then military regime of J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi neutralised regional governments. It forcefully brought back the faltering regional governments and tattering federation into one united entity. In all the desperate and disparate episodes for the unification of Nigeria by force, the truth ought to have been told that a nation-state cannot be built or contracted by force. The same military regimes created 36 states in the quasi-federation and all the campaigns for democracy that heralded the second and the third republic swallowed hook and sinker the paramilitary content of civilian constitutions.
If by restructuring, the proponents mean going back to the old 1954-1966 regional government with their inherent economic and political self-determination, then restructuring is more problematic and obfuscating than simply advocating for restoration of regional governments. It is more meaningful as a futuristic concept. Restructuring as a futuristic plan of action is to address inadequacies and inequities. In the highest wisdom of the military regimes, they restructured the country when states and local governments were created. But that restructured federalism has whittled down federalism thereby falsifying itself and in place of this “proper federalism” is being sought as “true federalism” which itself is a redundancy. What is to be restructured is the misconceived federalism created by the military and their civilian accomplices. If there is something to restructure, it is federalism that is in need of deconstruction so that the mistakes of the past would not be repeated.
Deconstruction of Nigeria’s federalism is going to be in recognition of the mistakes in balkanising the regional autonomies, dislocation of ethnic balances, bad leadership, election fraud, corruption and insecurity. It must recognise that Nigeria as a country is a nation-state that must respect ethnic identities and religious pluralism inherent in the state.
The nation-state must be based on equal opportunities and freedom for all religions where none would be regarded either as official religion or with state backing in its proselytizing missions. Above all, there must be a tacit and explicit acknowledgment of Nigeria as a state still in the process of nation building. This is a theoretical and epidemiological basis for restructuring Nigeria into greatness.
Nigeria is already structured along zonal lines. It is a zonal structure based on nationalities with relatively geographical and cultural contiguities.
This has been given credence and legitimacy by the agitations and self determination consciousness that have followed that pattern whereby each and every one of the units now wants resource control and devolution of powers.
Until the Goodluck Jonathan-convened national conference is given a legal framework, the emerging consensus on how Nigeria will be restructured, the 36 states in the federation could have their fate hanging with the zonal structures namely, South West, South South, South East, North West, North East and North central. The states unwilling to go with their present zones could have their stand permuted by a referendum or plebiscite. A federation based on these zones from where economic and political powers and processes flow is an assurance of a strong, united and prosperous Nigeria.
Restructuring Nigeria may not be feasible on the basis of the current 36-state structure because nationalities and ethnic identities transcend their geographical boundaries.
Dukor is a professor of Philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.