There appears to be a significant headway in the clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria. This arises from the recent statement credited to the Federal Government that it is taking note of the debate. It went further to state categorically that it wants more Nigerians to get involved in the debate. Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo speaking through the President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Adviser on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, at the official presentation of a book in Abuja recently, disclosed that government would want the debate to continue. According to the Acting President, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is taking note of the ongoing debate on restructuring, and would soon harvest the various views and act on the major issues thrown up by the debate so that the country can make progress. In his words, “We can assure you that all of the contributions being made across the country, whether from the north, from the south, east or west; the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is taking note of all the contributions you are making, and very soon, we are going to come out with policies that would take care of some of the issues that are germane in this debate about restructuring.”
Many notable Nigerians have also spoken openly in support of the restructuring of Africa’s most populous country, whose stability is critical to the stability of the continent. They include former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, and long time persistent crusader for restructuring and former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Traditionally, the southern bloc of the country has been agitating for restructuring of the country before progressive elements from the north began to support the campaign. The south easterners are the earliest campaigner and against the unworkable federal structure Nigeria has been running since the collapse of the region apparently because they were the first victims of the fake federalism so being practiced in the country. Following the defeat of Biafrans during the Nigerian civil war, the south easterners became more preoccupied with survival challenges in the post civil war Nigeria and the oppressive Nigerian federalism became secondary problem. Even when states were being created, little consideration was given to the region and this substantially explains why there are only five states in the region while the other regions had six or seven states each.
The south west after enjoying the immediate post war opportunities soon realized that the fake federalism was dragging the region back and since then had been in the vanguard for restructuring of Nigeria. The Middle Belt region, and the South South region have both also suffered from the pseudo federalism and have both realized that Nigeria’s federalism is fake. Today, most of the component of the federal republic of Nigeria that fought the civil war on the side of Nigeria to defeat Biafra are regretting that their efforts were in vain, with some feeling worse of than the Igbos who were defeated and also vanquished. Many regions of Nigeria now feel that their drive and enterprise are being dragged downwards by the structure of Nigeria and yet some others are beginning to face the looming danger of being wiped out or their social/cultural identities will vanish if this federation is not adjusted.
Unfortunately, those who benefitted from the mal-adjusted polity all the while had opposed calls for restructuring of Nigeria equating such calls with breaking up the country. Today, the dichotomy in opinion on restructuring appears to be disappearing. The time to take concrete action on restructuring is now.
To start with, there is the need to adjust the revenue sharing formula, taking a reasonable out of the federal government’s 52% and distribute it to the states and the local governments. Consequently, some of the duties and services being provided by the federal government should be moved to the states and the council areas. The federal government should concern itself with such duties as Defence, foreign affairs, currency, immigration, etc. The issue of defence is quite critical because Nigeria’s experience with Boko Haram has shown that the country needs to be militarily strong to be able to defend the country from external aggression and internal insurrection. There is also the need to create two more states from the south east and one more state from the other four zones that have six states so that each of the six geo-political zones will have seven states. There should also be balancing of the number of local governments in each state and zone since this is a revenue-sharing criterion.
There should be state police to enable state governors take care of the security of their people. The 13% derivation for mineral producing states should be increased to curtail restiveness in the mineral-producing states.
Similarly, full financial and administrative autonomy should be granted to local government councils so that they can pursue development that is meaningful to their localities without interference from state governors. Other complex and emotional issues like full resource control, what to do with the present states structure, etc could be treated later when consensus would have emerged on them.
The AUTHORITY shares General Babangida’s view that “restructuring has become a national appeal as we speak, whose time has come.”
The time to start is now.