It is safe to assume that one of the biggest reasons why Nigeria has failed to be pulled out of its current abyss is that many of its citizens have been chasing the wrong priorities. The just concluded Presidential ‘selection’ which many Nigerians opted to partake in despite several warnings not to do so, underscores this assumption. It is regrettably sad that despite the potential the country wields, she has continued to drift consistently while her citizens continue the shadow chase.
For many decades, Nigerians have continued to clamour and complain about the same things without results. Unfortunately, they have continued to deploy the same tactic in attempting to solve these problems and all these efforts have proven to be futile.
It is somewhat ironic that a good majority of Nigerians have managed to come to the realisation that the problems of the country are that of a flawed structure and shambolic institutions. It, however, beggars belief that Nigerians have consistently continued to seek a ‘Messiah’ to come to pull them out of the doldrums when such Messiahs don’t even exist or have the capacity to fix the rot.
Nigerians have continued to troop out every four years to elect or permit and validate the ‘selection’ of people they expect to blow or wish their problems away as soon as they assume the saddle of the leadership. The painful truth is that such men and women or possibilities do not exist.
Ever since the country returned to a full-fledged civilian administration 24 years ago, Nigerians have continued to repeat this cycle to no effect. They have continued to wail and cry out loudly as the days go by because it appears the rot is deepening.
Restructuring has been identified as a key part of this solution and sadly, many Nigerians have failed to fully come to terms with the fact that it will be really impossible to see any elected President of Nigeria knowingly or unknowingly take actions that will create a leeway for the restructuring of the country. This is simply because the biggest casualty of a holistic restructuring of Nigeria will be the federal government itself.
For deep-thinking Nigerians, it is perplexing that the Nigerian system is universally acknowledged as being faulty at its very core. Yet, successive administrations, for whatever motivation or lack thereof, have continued to drag their feet in addressing such an existential issue of restructuring. With every passing year, Nigerians have continued to edge closer to the precipice which in this case is a catastrophic implosion.
It is sad that restructuring, as a concept, has become a political football that politicians play every election cycle to win the support of the Nigerian intellectual and middle classes who, since the 1990s, have been advancing restructuring in various mutating forms. They make these promises to earn the ‘messiahship’ insignias from the Nigerian masses yet, they quite well that they are not coming yet to save anybody.
The pattern has remained the same. Whenever these politicians manage to smuggle themselves into power, they disavow their rhetoric and promises of restructuring because they realise that following through would amount to a measure of political suicide or at least a drastic reduction in their federal privileges, perks, powers, and prerogatives which they have selfishly continued to hold on to.
As far back as one can remember, Nigerians have been discussing this issue of restructuring. Whether we call it restructuring or devolution of power or use other divisive terms, such as resource control or regionalism. It’s an acknowledgement that the Greek gift left for hapless and helpless Nigerians by General Abdulsalami Abubakar in the name of the fraudulent 1999 Constitution is at the front and centre of our current crisis.
The concentration of power and resources at the centre (Abuja), the lack of autonomy for the states, and the feeling of marginalisation by a good segment of the country are topical issues that will continue to pull on the foundation of this union until they are addressed. Rather than addressing these concerns, Nigerians have continued to validate the selection process by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) every four years thereby eliminating any chance of confronting the problems squarely.
It didn’t start today, it began in the days of President Obasanjo, down to every successive government which has all made an attempt at some form of restructuring. We need to remember that at the inception of his administration, Obasanjo set up the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC), which concluded its work in 2005 and submitted both the report and recommendations to him. He sat on those, and nothing came out of them.
When Yar’Adua came on board, he set up another committee to review the recommendations of the NPRC but again, little action was taken. Next was President Jonathan’s 2014 confab that the Justice Idris Kutigi of blessed memory headed. That jamboree cost N10 billion of taxpayers’ money and drew 494 Nigerians from all walks of life.
Nigerians will easily recall that quite early in Buhari’s administration, the current Commander-in-Chief also inaugurated the Governor Nasir El-Rufai-led committee on restructuring. Today, that committee’s report and recommendations are somewhere in Aso Rock gathering dust. The truth is, President Buhari never believed in restructuring but wanted to appear as though he was making good on his party’s promise. The whole process and system seem as though it was a big charade and it is so exasperating.
It is without any iota of doubt that Nigeria is at a critical crossroads where it desperately needs to eradicate corruption and build strong institutions and a robust economy as well as critical infrastructure; while also making sure that corrupt politicians pay for their crimes of looting the treasury, as a deterrent to upcoming thieves seeking public office.
What many Nigerians have failed to understand is that substantive rather than rhetorical restructuring, it simply means the constitutionally-backed devolution of powers, resource management, developmental initiatives, and considerable legislative and regulatory autonomy to the sub-national units. It means the constitutional decentralisation of key governance, governmental responsibility, and statecraft apparatuses. The ultimate goal is to have national defence, customs, immigration, foreign policy, and important national regulatory policy-making remaining in the purview of the federal government, while sub-national units remit agreed-upon mineral royalties to fund these federal functions.
Given the divergent developmental aspirations and cultural orientations of the country’s many subnational units, restructuring of the type that some of us envisage and advance can decentralise some of the bitter rivalries and struggles over power and resources at the federal level, making them easier to manage in their subnational iterations.
Perhaps the common man on the streets of Nigeria does not understand that restructuring can remove the many federalised bottlenecks and bureaucratic, legislative, and regulatory impediments that have stifled subnational socioeconomic innovation and competition, and problem-solving. It would give a more significant share of mineral revenues to mineral-producing areas and curb resource-related conflicts, resentments, and separatist agitations. It would enable each region’s peculiar character, aspirations, and anxieties to be respected, while allowing for localised solutions to problems occurring in different sub-national units.
There are other benefits too, such as reducing the rabid competition for federal elective offices, which is fueled by the unitary flow of revenue to the federal government and its subsequent control and allocation by federal governmental entities. Restructuring can even help with cleaning up the electoral system and with the struggle for accountable leadership.
In conclusion, Nigerians must start investing their energy and resources toward the right things rather than chasing an unrealistic messiah who will never come. They must demand that the country is restructured with their loud voices and be willing to force it to happen.