According to Cambridge Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, the word, ‘restructure’ means to organize a company, business or system in a new way to make it operate more effectively.”
The call for restructuring of Nigeria has continued to gather momentum in recent times, with multiplicity of perspectives by advocates on the meaning of restructuring in the context of Nigeria’s situation.
In the wake of recent agitations for succession by Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), restructuring has been interpreted by some Nigerians as a tribe’s succession from the entity called Nigeria.
To others, restructuring means going back to regionalism as was the case under the parliamentary system of government in the early 60s. Many have also defined restructuring in the light of practice of true federalism, devolving powers to federating units, as against the current system that overlaods powers in the central government.
All in all, the objective or motive of restructuring, even going by dictionary definition, is to make Nigeria “operate more effectively.” The restructuring of Nigeria is no longer a question of “if there is a need for it.” It has become a question of “how Nigeria should be restructured.”
Numerous options of a possible approach to restructuring have been projected. The devolution of powers from the federal government to the localities, with Mayors heading the 774 Local Government Areas across Nigeria is an option. This is the case with some European countries.
With the right leadership and selfless, responsible governor, every state in Nigeria has the material resources, economic and human capacity to develop at its own pace, and even exceed the current economic status of many of its counterparts.
Rather than the current practice of states, going cap-in-hand to the central government for monthly allocation therefore, the advocated restructuring can allow each state to look inwards and use its resources to develop, and send a specific percentage of remittances to the federal purse.
Instead of the expensive structure of having over 300 representatives at the nation’s parliament, one elected representative per state would be enough at the parliament with one chamber, rather than the existing two chambers.
All efforts should be made to render the federal government less attractive to the politicians, to the extent that the central government would have to struggle to convince political appointees to accept employment as Ministers and public officials. This is another way of suppressing corruption, which currently plagues the country.
For those suggesting that Nigeria has to revert back to regional system of government on the basis of allegations of marginalization of certain tribes and nationalities over the years, the spectrum of discuss has to be broadened. First, when people argue about marginalization of various segments of Nigeria most times, there are references to the north, south, east and west.
Many hardly consider the middle. Frankly speaking, if the ‘major’ ethic groups in Nigeria are complaining that they have been marginalized over the years and therefore, should be allowed to control power at the centre, what hope exists for the middle belt and the minority groups such as Ibibio, Idoma, Urhobo and so on?
There is also a need to consider the prevailing spate of nepotism within the various states in Nigeria, especially in states that have multiple tribal groupings. The dilemma is that inter-tribal conflicts and scramble for power within various states in Nigeria cannot be wished away, as the advocacy for power devolution to federating units continue.
Besides, it is true that performance of the economy was better when Nigeria practiced regionalism. Today however, there is a decay in the quality of values, responsibility and morality, compared to what was offered by the former operators of the nation’s economy and polity.
There has been an unimaginable drop in the level of integrity, which motivates a public officer to loot and empty the treasury of a state or agency given to him or her to run. Corruption and oppression of the poor masses by the political class is now a norm.
Many things have changed. Regionalism advocates must therefore, not assume that same scenarios of efficient management of resources that played out in the previous years will play out if the regional structure of the early 60s is adopted again.
What exists in Nigeria today is a political system whereby a few political godfathers impose wrong public office holders on the people under the political party system. These anointed office holders now assume office through rigged elections and focus on looting public treasury to settle the godfathers that chose them, while furthering oppression of the electorates and sustaining the masses’ level of poverty and hopelessness. On this basis, individual candidacy is likely to throw up better leaders than political party system.
As Nigerians advocate for restructuring in the direction of devolving political powers to politicians under regional or state structure, the citizenry must begin to focus on the individual characters that eventually emerge as regional leaders or state governors.
Otherwise, there may emerge, a political class that will wield fuller powers to control their immediate territories, loot available resources for themselves, and further boost level of hopelessness and poverty for the less privileged in such territories.
Then, the authorities at the federal capital may no longer possess capacity to question or tame excesses of tyrants and political oppressors that would emerge at the regions or states.
We must avoid a situation whereby rather than restructuring for better life and good governance, we reshuffle the system to evolve into a system of democratized oppression and a more hopeless predicament. We must be careful.