It is remarkable that restructuring has become a discussion point in this newspaper every week. That frequency underscores the fact that reports on the subject actually surface daily from all parts of the country. In other words, the political topic – restructuring has become an idea that cannot be suppressed anymore. What is more, the office of the citizen, arguably the most important office in any democracy is deeply involved in the hot debate (on restructuring) on all platforms. It is thus fitting that even the ruling party, the APC, has set up a committee to come up with a report of its own version of restructuring. That is how it should be as expectations have been quite high and the urgency the political assignment deserves is quite apparent everywhere we go. There is a glimmer of hope: that the expectation of the people from the governing party will not be cut off on the expediency of restarting development process that got stuck since 1966 when the military unified governance process in the country. The military government’s Unification Decree. No. 34 of 1966 was the trigger.
Yes, “political restructuring” is the most frequently discussed subject in the polity today. Wherever two or more are gathered in the name of politics and even business, the subject seems to be the dominant discussion point. Wherever ethnic nationalities and even village weekly meetings are discussing political subjects, it is not complete until “federalism” or “devolution of powers” subset surfaces. Everyone seems to be talking about it. From politicians to journalists, and from social media activists to secessionist groups, it is the most popular town talk. As most development experts and all interest groups seem to be at their wit’s end, it is understandable that people latch on to the federalism idea they believe holds all the answers.
Even young people who seemed uninterested at the outset now appear to be reviewing literature on the idea whose time has really come. Some young activists have called it the “proverbial silver bullet” just as others say it is “the magic button” to unlock Nigeria’s potentials. It is gratifying to note that young entrepreneurs too are saying to the cynical and doubtful that even businesses have to restructure in this time and age if it must survive, let alone government processes that should drive business and economy. As was noted in our last comment here, the quest has been gathering steam. And so, the storm will not be over until all the stakeholders are satisfied that it has been sincerely addressed. This is the point that authorities in power at all levels must note.
It is a fact, in the circumstances that things get a little bit complicated when you ask certain stakeholders what restructuring actually means. Some take it to mean the devolution of power from the Federal Government to states. Some others simply scream that some power-hungry people and secessionists want to divide the country and control resources in the South. Though, not many have been able to fault the undercurrents of the logic, which follows that powers are too concentrated with the Federal Government that has been unable to use such powers to deliver necessary public goods effectively.
All told, whatever the colour of all arguments, what most stakeholders from all sectors should imbibe without doubt is that devolution of powers will allow states to deliver on some of those public goods. The states can achieve that only if they understand that they can generate the income needed to deliver such goods without monthly recourse to the centre for revenue sharing from a common purse. This is an aberration that should not continue as this newspaper has repeatedly noted.
All told, it is remarkable to advise the ruling party that its committee on restructuring should freeze politics and focus on governance matters that will address current agitations in the country. As we noted in another context recently, there should be some large heart about agitations in parts of the country. Instead of seeking to suppress and demonise agitators, there should be constructive engagements with the people. Yes, the people who symbolise sovereignty in a democracy.
Besides, the representatives (of the people) at all levels in Abuja should note that the crisis of over-centralisation has led to mass misery across the country with poverty levels at more than 70 per cent, unemployment rate at about 65 per cent, among other negative indices.
Therefore, those who have the mandate to run this country should at this juncture, not depend so much on residual influence as even forces of globalisation are still actively affecting the world of business and politics. Which is why “managing change” has become a body of knowledge that leaders who wish to be effective have to acquire.
It bears repeating too that leaders who decide to plot elections victory in 2019 without building consensus around demand for political restructuring may be in for a big surprise. Yes, they may win elections, after all and lose the country that is already a house of commotion. That is a possibility except urgent steps are taken to restructure from a unitary to a federal constitution as negotiated by our founding fathers at independence 57 years ago.
It is curious and sadly so that some political leaders always link demand for practice of federalism to negotiating the sovereignty of the nation. No, that is dubious. Restructuring the federation that is not working for the common good is not synonymous with negotiating its sovereignty. We have gone beyond that twisted logic. An organised leadership can even be resourceful enough to begin strategic restructuring without amending the constitution. For instance, did the National Assembly amend the constitution when the Federal Government recently permitted the Lagos State Government to construct a 10-lane road along Oshodi- Airport expressway in Lagos? There are some low hanging fruits that simple but honest executive can achieve, in this regard. For instance, can’t the ruling party meet to tinker with the controversial exclusive legislative list with a view to adjusting some issues such as electricity and mineral resources in favour of states’ participation? What is needed, in the circumstances, is the political will on the part of leadership who will be willing to take the bull by the horns and face reality in public interest.
Nigeria at the moment requires a leadership that can be persuaded that the most significant benefit of restructuring Nigeria is moving from a rent-seeking and money sharing economic model to productivity. The country requires very urgently a leader that can think out of the box in ensuring that the federating units are free to own and develop their resources and shape their destiny squarely. The country is in need of leaders at all levels who will think through legacy issues that will lift Nigeria from shackles of underdevelopment and misery to wealth creation. No, the country does not need parochial leaders who will think only of how to manipulate the impoverished people to win elections and lose the country, thereafter. That is why the nation waits patiently for the ruling party in Nigeria to come up with its blueprint for restructuring the way the most populous nation on earth should be run after 51 years of unitary model that has delivered only one dividend: underdevelopment.