By Seun Kolade
The debate about the restructuring of the Nigeria has generated a wide range of responses from all sections of the Nigerian society. Former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida is among latter day advocates who have joined the chorus for restructuring of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In short, restructuring is the new fad in town.
Understandably, a number of well meaning Nigerians are wary of this curious coalition of latter day restructuring activists, suspicious of their intentions, and doubtful of their sincerity. We have a history of self-serving opportunity hijacking popular clamour for positive change, seizing control of the movement and taking it in entirely new directions to satisfy their own agenda.
In response to this legitimate concern, a number of commentators- who should know better- have cynically adopted a derisive tone on the campaign for restructuring of the federation, suggesting in one example that it is a ruse employed by desperate persons jostling for political power.
This unfortunate side-talk distracts and detracts from what is in fact a fundamental issue of viability and function of the nation state. The Nigerian nation state as it is presently constituted simply cannot work. For the past few decades it appeared to be surviving due to two main factors: oil receipts, and the inherent resilience of the people. Even so, it has always tethered on the precipice. In recent years, with the drastic fall and fluctuation on the price of crude oils, and collective resilience of the people reaching its elastic limit, we hit the wall. Nay, we right on the edge of the cliff.
Nowhere to hide, not anymore. So you have a situation where groups that are usually opposed to one another- Arewa Youths, Biafra agitators and Yoruba nationalists- have come to agree on one thing: this house cannot stand. Either it collapses on us, or we forestall the imminent disaster by undertaking controlled demolition and rebuilding. This is an auspicious opportunity, not the time for idle cynicism and impertinent naysaying.
You do not need a coalition of political saints or ideological purists to achieve a goal that is all important for the continued survival of the collective entity called Nigeria. Or, at any rate, the collective survival of the constituent nationalities and peoples of the geographical expression called Nigeria.
Louis 16 -who later became known as Louis 16 the unfortunate- was an important and strategic supporter of the American revolution. Even Karl marked literally survived on the support of a capitalist’s here. What is important to engage our critical intelligence on clarifying the principle as well as the specific goals of restructuring. And lets not get into a muddle: restructuring of the mind and restructuring of the nation are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive, goals.
The creation of states was, as far as I can tell, a “joker” deployed by the then Federal government to diminish regional identity and regional aspirations. Remember this was in the wake of the pogrom and the civil war.
We must therefore view the current idea to proliferate (non viable) states with curious eyes and vigilant minds, in so far as the states would be federating with the centre. In other words, to have more states, and no regions, is to accentuate and reinforce the powers of the centre by other means- through the back door. Having regions as federating units is the best, clean break from this pseudo-federalism.
Conversely, having more states will be more of the same. We should look at United Kingdom, not United States, as a model of what is best. Let’s have the regions on the basis of shared history, language and cultures, and then districts, cities and towns as constituents under those regions. This is the best option, and it would not by any means imply that the rights of minorities under that system will be weakened. The opposite in actual fact, because you will have cities and townships sending their representatives to the regional assemblies, and electing their own mayors.
A federation of regions is also a great antidote to the expensive and inherently corrupt character of Nigerian politics. Earlier today I was speaking with an Ogun state gubernatorial candidate in the last election, and he described at length how frustratingly expensive the electoral process is, and why it so dominated by moneybags devoid of any ideological substance or interest in service.
For a gubernatorial candidate to maintain structures in a state’s wards, hundreds of them, he needs billions of Naira. And that is separate and apart from the other costs of campaigning, including printing posters and running adverts.
Now consider a system in which the candidate need to campaign only in his locality (local government, etc) in order to be elected to the regional or federal parliament. Or, for that matter, as his town major or chairperson. It significantly lowers the costs of electioneering, reduces the opportunity to corruption, and increases the chance for successful participation of more credible candidates in the process. For good measure, the person so elected by his local constituents can become the head of government, as is the case with the UK Prime Minister.
This is not full proof, of course. Nothing is full proof against corruption. But you’ll be hard pressed to deny that, from a practical and structural point of view, this parliamentary federal system significantly reduces the potential for corruption and money-oriented politics, the likes of which invariably throws up thoroughgoing criminals and Philistines, to the detriment of all.
Seun Kolade, P.hD; chairman of the Oyo Global Forum is based in the United Kingdom.