Men's Roundtable: Who is afraid of restructuring Nigeria?

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The Men's Roundtable

The latest buzz word in Nigeria today has been restructuring which many see as the panacea to our myriads of problems.

In the past few months, the word restructuring has been the latest buzz in the political landscape of Nigeria with both political and non-political actors pushing forward their ideas of the word.

Not quite long ago, the word was an anathema to many politicians and other actors but now, it is spreading like wild fire with many jumping on it even when they do not really know what it portends.

For the avoidance of doubt, Wikipedia defines restructuring as the corporate management term for the act of reorganizing the legal, ownership, operational, or other structures of a company for the purpose of making it more profitable, or better organized for its present needs.

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But what exactly is the idea of restructuring Nigeria?

Nigeria, as it is presently perceived, is a federation but then, it is more of a quasi-federation where power is concentrated at the center with the federating units having

For the proponents of restructuring and devolution of powers, this will certainly bring about true federalism, fiscal federalism, and political reforms that are so much needed in the country today.

Nigeria is currently made up of three major ethnic groups, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. But added to that are more than 250 other tribes with dialects and sub-sects dotting the landscape.

 

Just as there are differences in culture and traditional orientations, there are also differences in the periods of exposure to Western culture and education. This factor has invariably led to a variety in the focus, mission, and vision for the Nigerian nation as well as the attitude of different segments to nationhood.

There have been arguments on how to ensure proportion in size of the divide and equitable allocation of the resources because each of the regions in the country has carved a niche for itself through agitations for issues of interest to them, with trademark topics that have continued to pose unanswered questions to the Nigerian entity.

In the South-South and the oil-rich Niger Delta region, resource control has been on the front burner for years while in the South-West geopolitical zone, there have been cries of political marginalization while in the in the South-East, the agitation has been on economic marginalization and domination.

The nation has been perpetually in search of solutions to its myriads of problems and the advocates of restructuring have insisted that the devolution of some of the powers currently contained in the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent or residual lists is a panacea to the ills of the country.

In all these, there have always been discordant tunes, with each region already becoming quite predictable on it will take and the issue it will espouse in any national debate or discourse whenever there is one.

However, those who are against the restructuring of the country believe Nigeria is not ripe for it just yet but if carried out with a conscientious effort, restructuring can bring about a sense of justice, equity, and fairness.

The North-South divide and what has been described as ethno-religious consciousness to this argument are not only constant but present. The concerns exist in the psyche of the proponents of the arguments in every instance.

While key leaders of the South had, at various times, described the Nigerian federalism feeding bottle federalism, some leaders from the North appear to see little or no fault in the setup.

Many advocates of restructuring believe that if federating states can control their resources and contribute to the center, it would bring about development at a faster rate instead of states queueing up for handouts from Abuja at the end of every month.

 

Not a few other Nigerians see the issue of restructuring as a necessity to ensure the progress of the country.

The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, is one of those who believes that restructuring is the way out for the country.

Ekweremadu, in a lecture he gave earlier this month, posited that the crisis of restructuring and federalism in Nigeria are offshoots of its deviation from what 'can be called the classical centripetal federalism that had worked in other settings like the United States of America and the old Soviet Union, USSR.'

"Nigeria’s cannot be said to be a centripetal federalism as we have in the United States, for instance. Neither is it loose-centre federalism as the former Union of Socialist Soviet Republic (USSR). 

It will rather be best described as a centrifugal federalism with vast and heterogeneous populations.  It is also a coercive or forced federalism where the colonialists lumped groups together, while riot police and soldiers have been used at different times to quell dissidents and insurgencies.”

Senator Ekweremadu was of the opinion that the nature of federalism in existence now is highly centralized and a coercive federalism which is a product of the command structure and characteristics of the military.

A key component of the flawed federalism which encompasses the restructuring question in power sharing among the federating units. For instance, it has been identified that rather than gradually whittle down the controls exercised by the Federal Government on the federating units, the powers had increased substantially since the collapse of First Republic.

The key issues of the problematic federalism Nigeria is practicing today have to do with the greedy accumulation of power at the center, which sees the exclusive list skyrocketing every year.

For instance, earnings of Nigeria’s federating units have continued to dwindle from 50 per cent derivation at independence in 1960 to 45 per cent between 1969 and 1971, and again 45 per cent excluding offshore proceeds from 1971 to 1975.

Between 1975 and 1979, earnings dropped to 20 per cent excluding offshore proceeds and the zero per cent from 1979 to 1981. From 1982 to 1992, it climbed back to a paltry 1.5 per cent; 3 per cent from 1992 to 1999, and 13 per cent from 1999 till date.

 

That every state of the federation had to go to Abuja to receive some shareable funds every month has become a curse rather than a blessing and so does the attendant attack on productivity.

Nigeria needs a restructuring of not only the political landscape but that of the mind in the way we do things.

If power is devolved, the people will be more vigilant and ready to hold their leaders accountable when the federating units begin to live largely on internally generated revenues and their sweat.

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The feeding bottle federalism that we currently run is an act of robbing Peter to pay Paul, which we have gradually enthroned as state policy.

One of the very important and urgent steps Nigeria must take to reclaim her federal arrangement and unity from a worrisome level of ethno-religious consciousness and much discrimination is through restructuring.

Restructuring may not provide all the answers to our developmental challenges but it will help to reposition our mindset as we generate new ideas and initiatives that would make our union worthwhile.

On a general note, some proponents have declared that restructuring and true federalism have the potential of releasing the creative and productive abilities of the different federating units.



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