Restructuring is a smoldering topic that has continued to gain ascendancy in public discourses as the search for a magic formula to cure Nigeria of its multiple incapacitating ailments, continues to gain momentum.
Acolytes of restructuring have repeatedly argued that Nigeria’s subsisting federal arrangement is a nauseating political liability, rather than an asset. It is a patrimony of the British Colonial regime which deliberately bequeathed on the country an asymmetric political structure that, with the final handover of power to Nigerians in 1960, ensured that the north would always dominate the south in the politics of the post-colonial years.
At some of the consultative sections, prior to independence, southern nationalists had agitated for a redress of the unjust structural ambiguity festooned on the country by the British, which conferred unfair advantages on one region at the expense of other constituent units. But their appeals, logical as they sounded, fell on deaf ears as the departing colonial overlords curiously refrained from correcting their colossal error. The instability that subsequently became the hallmark of the politics of the post-independence years, are traceable to this gross oversight.
Nigeria’s structural imperfections were worsened by the ruling classes that emerged in the post-colonial years who further distorted the governance structures inherited from the colonial masters by sequestrating and concentrating the powers of the constituent units in the center. As has been captured in the works of some raconteurs of the evolution of federalism in the country, the blatant negation of the core principles of federalism in the post-independence years was the handiwork of the intrusive military regimes that intermittently truncated the country’s democratic transitions. Successive civilian governments simply maintained the status quo ante.
Enough of history lessons, let’s move on to the crux of the matter! That Nigeria’s federal structure is in dire need of urgent reconstructive surgery to re-engineer and move it forward is a glaring fact that cannot be overemphasized. The undeniable challenges of unequal political representation, skewed revenue allocation regime, worsening insecurity, uneven physical development, parasitic financial dependence of the states on the center, in conjunction with other inherent pitfalls, which are logical consequences of the country’s contradictory, deficient, unjust, nonviable and discomfiting structural incapacitation, can only be arrested if the existing structure is comprehensively revamped.
Agitations for the complete overhauling of Nigeria’s lethargic administrative structures have accelerated over the years as some disenchanted sections of the country have raucously slammed the unjust tilt of the current arrangement, postulating several brilliant arguments to back up their demands for a new deal. But despite the convincing arguments put up by these dissatisfied sections of the country, successive governments have curiously tended to play the proverbial ostrich by refraining from correcting the visceral deformities in the subsisting arrangement, preferring to continue operating it the way it is.
Historically, the northern political elite, the major beneficiaries of Nigeria’s incongruous federal system, have been the principal antagonists of the idea of tweaking the current skewed arrangement. Reasons for this are not far-fetched: There are 36 constituent states in Nigeria, out of which 19 are located in the north, while the remaining 17 are in the south. Every month the 19 northern states receive a minimum of 57% out of 100% oil revenue to which they contribute virtually nothing, while the south-south, which contributes approximately 87% gets less than 20% of monthly allocations from the federation account, with the rest of the south left with the remaining crumbs.
Again, out of Nigeria’s 774 LGAs, the 19 northern states have 419, while 17 southern states have 357. Every month, the 419 LGAs of the 19 northern states, with paltry contributions, get 54.9% of available revenue to LGAs in the country, while the 357 of the 17 southern states receive the remaining 45.1%, despite contributing almost 100%.
However, while oil and gas in the south-south are ruthlessly exploited by the northern political elite and their southern cronies, the solid mineral deposits in the north such as gold etc are mined and controlled solely by their host states.
In the area of national representation, the north enjoys an overwhelming dominance. In the country’s 360-member House of Representatives, the north alone accounts for 191 members, the whole of the south has 169 members, while in the 109-member Senate, the north has 57 members, while the south has 51; disparities that give the north the edge whenever issues of national significance come up for vote.
The foregoing are just minute reflections of the grossly unjust tilt of Nigeria’s deformed federalism, and accounts for the negative disposition of the north’s political elite to the idea of rejigging the system. They simply detest the idea of an arrangement that would engender a balanced administrative structure that wouldn’t favour a section of the country over the other; one that would deny them the bounties, accouterments and privileges they currently enjoy.
President Muhamadu Buahri recently reechoed the traditional predisposition of the north to the idea of restructuring the country when he stated that there was nothing wrong with the current federal structure, proceeding to advise advocates of restructuring to instead push for local government and judicial autonomy rather than calling for restructuring, while at the same time labeling them “naive” and “dangerous”. For the president, there is nothing to redress, not even the over-concentration of administrative powers in the center which controls 68 items under the 1999 constitution, alongside other injurious structural absurdities. This is ample proof of the north’s unwillingness to allow a reform of the status quo.
The south must wake up from the euphoric slumber of expecting the north and other beneficiaries of this flawed system to suddenly do a volte-face and willingly acquiesce to the persistent demands for a restructured federal system in which power is widely devolved and the constituent units – whether regions or states – enjoy full control over their resources. It is not in their character to do so. So, where do we go from here?
Despite the north’s obstinacy, restructuring remains the best way going forward; there is no alternative to this peace building measure; it is the only hope for the continued existence of the Nigerian State. The north must be made to see reasons with the rest of the country on the need for a reformed system of governance that would engender a sense of belonging and justice amongst the country’s multifarious units, stimulate development and make governance more efficient and effective. Leaving things the way they are is an invitation to chaos!
In all, a legitimate Federal Republic of Nigeria can only be founded on the supreme authority of ALL Nigerians, not on the unstable, marshy foundations the current skewered structure rests. The “Popular Will”, which should ideally be geared towards providing for the “Common Good”, should be the driving force behind attempts at restructuring this polity and establishing a new Nigeria, and the foundation on which a proper Constitution and Bill of Rights should be produced.
God save Nigeria!