Restructuring has become a catchword and it is advocated by individuals and organizations as well as politicians who ride on the back of the agitation for restructuring to get to power. As soon as they get into office, they drop the word. Restructuring often becomes a national discourse towards general elections without concrete effort towards its realization. Average Nigerians view restructuring only as positive as it is portrayed. What actually is restructuring and to what extent will the restructuring affect Nigeria as a country?
Over the years, we have encountered several concepts; Fiscal-federalism, Resource Control, Devolution of Power, True Federalism, Creation of Additional States, Local Government Autonomy, Regionalism, Self-determination and so on.
These ideologies aim at one thing; to correct the systemic injustice – the neglect of institutions and infrastructure, moral decadence, and inequity in socio-economic, socio-political, socio-cultural, and distribution of resources as well as impoverishment of the Nigerian people.
Nigerian people have been taken for a ride for so long while the political elites feed on the resources. Given a just society, the available resources in the soil of Nigeria will feed Nigerians, take care of her education, health systems, and infrastructure among others and probably extend help to other African countries of less endowment but that has become an over expectation; an utopian dream.
Coming back to the meaning of restructuring, Cambridge dictionary defines it as, “the act of organizing a system in a new way to make it operate more effectively.” Many people have different views as to how to make the country operate more effectively for all but many have defined these views and ideologies differently which connote different beliefs in actualization of a new system.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed had said, “It is not the government that is not clear about what restructuring means, rather it is the people who are asking for restructuring who are not clear about what restructuring means.” He further stated, “For some, it means creation of additional states, for others, it is all about resource control, for others it is about moving certain items from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List, for some it means community policing, for others it is about devolution of power.”
The exclusive lists are issues of national interest on which the federal government can make laws or polices. They are; external affairs, defense, currency, mines and power, railways, ports and other issue of national significance. While the concurrent list is the issues on which the federal and state governments can make laws or polices. They are issues related to healthcare, housing, agriculture, water resource, education, etc.
The non-uniformity of definitions of restructuring makes it hard to understand for implementation.
It was Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon who divided Nigeria into three regions in 1939. He divided the southern protectorate into two leaving the north. That heralded the imbalance. The structure of federalism in Nigeria was laid by the Richards constitution of 1946 which introduced regionalism into the polity with its formal operation starting with the adoption of the Lyttleton’s constitution of 1954 that gave significant autonomy to the regions. By 1960, the established federal system of government has been consolidated where the new country began with three regions; East, West and North. The Republican Constitution of 1963 granted these regional governments, power and control over natural and human resources within their territories to fast track local development.
At the time of post-independence, many people viewed federalism as a tactic of the Colonialist Britain to maintain its neo-colonialism and argued that unitary system of government would work well. It was one of the reasons that led to the first coup. The revolutionary soldiers wanted to break down the country from the four regions to fourteen states.
Decree 34, (unification decree) promulgated by General Aguiyi Ironsi, in May, 1966, established a unitary system of government. The four regions at the time were named provinces and retained their authority to manage their assets and resources. In his January 1966 speech to Nigerians, Ironsi declared that, “All Nigerians want an end to regionalism. Tribal loyalties and activities which promote tribal consciousness and sectional interests must give way to the urgent task of national reconstruction. The Federal Military Government will preserve Nigeria as one strong nation.” Decree 1967 by Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon repealed the regional system by creating twelve states and transferred management of public properties and resources to the federal government.
In her 61 years, Nigeria has undergone systemic restructuring with several constitutions and amendments. Nigeria started from three regions to six regions which are within the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory. The northern region was bigger in area than the Eastern region or the Western region and parliamentary seats were allocated based on that. Out of available 312 seats, the north had 174 seats. This imbalance in representation continued till present time. Out of 36 states, the north has 19 states, while the south has 17 states. These have not resolved the fundamental issues as the north with its size still has deciding number to influence things in the polity.
John Stuart Mill opined, “There should not be any one state so much powerful than the rest as to be capable of vying in strength with many of them combined. If there be such a one, and only one, it will insist on being master of the joint deliberations; if there be two, they will be irresistible when they agree and whenever they differ, everything will be decided by a struggle for ascendancy between the rivals.”
The structural imbalance and inequity as well as domination of Nigeria political space by the northern region has become one of the bedrocks for the calls for restructuring.
Power was devolved down to the local government so that Nigerians would feel the presence of government right up to their various wards but as it is, such system of government has rather betrayed the people. If restructuring takes the country back to the regions, will the people in the inner towns and hamlets feel the impact of government or will they continue to witness systemic injustice? Would the states and communities having tasted autonomy agree to such structure? How far are the proponents of restructuring aiming at?
That is what we are yet to find out as there is yet no clear definition of restructuring.
Having no definition for restructuring has made the call to sound like an empty barrel which the federal government pays no heed to, instead, use it as a political tool. It is incumbent on the propagators to arrive at a definition so that the people will have a firm understanding of what it entails.
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