The time has come, and it is now, for believers in the restructuring of Nigeria, to act to push the project to implementation. For those who may have doubts about its meaning, restructuring, in our context, is the re-arrangement of how the nation is organised for carrying out the functions of governance. A belief in the need for restructuring Nigeria presumes that the present structure, or organisation, is not right, or is faulty, and therefore hinders the growth and development of our country and, also, does not allow justice to prevail. The structure of governance includes the assignment of responsibilities to the various elements or components of government – mostly between the centre and the federating units. This aspect of structure is often technically described as ”devolution of powers”.
The basic structure for governing Nigeria was agreed in 1954. It was a federal system with regions as federating units. Its characteristics included fiscal federalism, resource control and a good degree of regional autonomy. That structure was fine-tuned before independence, and it reached maturity, in 1963. The structure worked! The World Bank attested to this when it announced that parts of Nigeria were, economically, growing fastest in the world. The regions (four of them, three in the South, one in the North) were developing reasonably fast, with each region developing at its own pace. The structure, as it was in 1963, can be called the ”agreed” structure – that is, the structure as agreed by our heroes past -Nigeria’s Founding Fathers. Today, when we talk of re-structuring Nigeria, therefore, we are basically, talking about returning Nigeria to its ”agreed” structure – the structure agreed by Nigerian people, through their leaders – the structure that had been confirmed to have worked satisfactorily. That is it, but we can elaborate. To restructure Nigeria is to make changes to the present, or existing, structure or governance arrangement, which was imposed by the Nigerian Military, and is different from that ”agreed” structure, which reached maturity in 1963. In other words, to restructure Nigeria is to go back to pre-1966 arrangements. In this context to restructure is, thus, to re-federate – go back to federation. When Prof Ango Abdulahi declared that the North was ready for Nigeria’s disintegration, he posited going back to pre 1966 constitution – or re-federating, as a way out of Nigeria going into extinction.
The Nigerian Military, as a strategy to win easily the Nigeria/Biafra civil war, decided to isolate the Igbo from the rest of Eastern Nigeria. In consequence, the military created twelve states out of the four regions of Nigeria (six states in the North, and six in the south). By this action, the ”agreed” structure was abandoned. At the end of the civil war, there was no reversion to the agreed structure. Instead, subsequent Military Administrations created, increasingly, more states and Local Government Areas (LGAs), until the number of states came to 36, (19, in plus Abuja, in the North and 17 in the South). The creation of LGAs was, by far, more lopsided, in favour of the North. Restructuring is, therefore aimed at repairing some of the damages, including the over concentration of powers at the centre, which the Nigerian Military did to the ”agreed” structure of governance in Nigeria. These damages have made Nigeria not to work, and justice not to prevail. Of course, it is not being suggested that the ”agreed” structure must be restored exactly like it was. Adjustments can be made to the ”agreed” structure. But any such adjustments must, first, be agreed by the people of Nigeria. For example, the 2014 National Conference approved the addition of 18 new states to the number of states in Nigeria. That will bring the number of states in Nigeria to 54. The ”agreed” structure was based on regions, not on states. We should, therefore, make an adjustment to the ”agreed” structure. How do we do that? The military-imposed structure may suggest that we have 54 federating units, plus Abuja. But that ”agreed” structure has only four federating units. Clearly, economic reasoning, based on the idea of economies of scale, will suggest that most of the 54 federating units will not be economically viable or feasible. (For example, they cannot efficiently generate electric power for themselves). As it is well known, already, only a few of the existing 36 states are economically viable or feasible. A reasonable solution is to extend the four federating units of the ”agreed” structure to six, thus converting the existing six geo-political zones to the federating units. The people in each federating unit should freely work out how they will like to run their zonal government. The freedom should extend to their choices of zonal capitals. Enugu, Ibadan, Benin and Kaduna, should not automatically qualify as zonal capitals, merely because of their pre-1966/67 positions. Indeed, these capitals make some people who, forgetting the long-dead ancient-history basis of their remembered inferiority complex, think of regionalism as ”going back to Egypt”. For example, nothing stops Abakaliki, not Enugu, from becoming the capital of the Southeast Zone!! This increase in the number of federating units is the major necessary adjustment. Other structural features: fiscal federalism, regional autonomy, devolution of powers etc, may remain as in the ”agreed” structure – as contained in the federal and regional constitutions of 1963. There may be new ideas to borrow, where necessary and agreed, from past efforts at restructuring, especially, the 2014 National Conference. Other new ideas may be considered and agreed. For example, the current situation will suggest the addition of internal (Zonal) security to the responsibility of the Zones, leaving only external security in the exclusive list.
The basic truth is that going back to the agreed Nigeria is quite easy – easier than the above comments suggest. It is even more true that, to make Nigeria work and justice to prevail, is in the long term interest of every group in Nigeria, whether the group is large or small. How do individual Nigerians compare, welfare-wise today, with residents of Malaysia, Brazil, Indonesia, etc, countries which were behind, or at par, with Nigeria in 1965 – the last year we operated under our ”agreed” structure. With justice prevailing, there will be peace, with peace, there will be progress, as every group in Nigeria takes advantage of the very large Nigerian market. Nigerians must think long term and try to discount the illusory short term advantages which some people think they derive from the unfair actions of their former military brothers!! By restructuring to make Nigeria work and justice to prevail we should experience explosive growth, and fast become a World Super Power, thus, raising the respect, dignity and prestige of the black man and ultimately, wiping away the shame of slavery from the faces of all blacks. And no man can, again, with justification, call us ”shithole” – in effort to call a spade a spade.
Okwadike, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife CON.
Garkuwan Fika, Akintolugboye of Egbaland.
Chairman, Advocacy Committee on Restructuring.