The enthusiasm about calls for restructuring was deflated on Monday when President Muhammadu Buhari foreclosed the possibility of such in 2018. WALE ELEGBEDE writes on the development
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to restructure is to change the basic organization or structure of (something).
But in a broader sense, the Wikipedia defines Restructuring as 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.
Whilst it is true that the call for the restructuring of the country is as old as Nigeria herself, but lately, the agitation for the need to restructure the country has continued to dominate the political space. For advocates of restructuring, Nigeria is likely to disintegrate if urgent steps are not taken to address pertinent questions of autonomy for the states; fiscal federalism to pave the way for resource control by the states; equality of states and local governments among the six geo-political zones; state police, among others given the growing discontentment in the polity.
They averred that the present federal system in operation is a disaster as it has only succeeded in creating a powerful Federal Government at the expense of the states and local governments.
Others have queried whether Nigeria should continue to operate the presidential system of government, a full-time legislature, among others, in the face dwindling resources. The manner at which the executive and legislative arms of government take a large chunk of the nation’s budget is ridiculous.
They argued that high cost of governance at the various levels – federal, states and local councils, is partly responsible for the country’s stunted development despite abundant human and natural resources.
The argument is that after deduction of running cost by the various levels of government, little or nothing is left for capital projects even as there are so many ministries and agencies of government with functions, most times duplicates. However, there is another political school that advocates a return to regionalism as the present 36-state structure is no longer sustainable.
Advocates of regionalism are of the view that the proliferation of states had continued to impede the country’s progress.
They made reference to India with a population of about 1.2 billion people, but has only 28 states, while Nigeria with a population of about 170 million has 36 states that are mostly unviable as evident from their inability to even pay salaries of workers. Regardless of the well-cooked arguments of regionalism, some individuals and groups are still demanding for new states.
However, some seem genuine given that they are inspired by the same concerns that preceded state creations in the past – minority fears, inequality and skewed development, demand for others are just to carve empires for their advocates.
Also eager to be heard are those agitating for a re-tooling of the Nigerian federalism by tinkering with items on the Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative lists as contained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The stance of those in this line of reasoning is that the powers of the Federal Government should be whittled down as it seems that it is the only government in place with the 65 items it has powers on in the Exclusive Legislative List.
The position of stakeholders with this reasoning is that the unitary constitution/system of government presently in place under the guise of a federal system has failed to solve the country’s numerous problems, and therefore, the need for restructuring cannot be more urgent than now that the country is faced with agitations for self-determination as well as its unity under threat.
Perhaps after weighing the arguments for and against, as well as efforts of the past and present to drive the restructuring move home, President Muhammadu Buhari, puts a final nail on the calls, saying he does not see it as a priority.
Speaking during a nationwide New Year address on Monday, the president said though he welcomes ideas on how to make the current presidential system less permeable to extravagance, waste and corruption; he noted that Nigeria should continue to operate the system.
“When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure. No human law or edifice is perfect.
“There is a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better.
“I assure you that government is ever receptive to ideas which will improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability,” he said.
Interestingly, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), constituted a committee headed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, in 2017 to look into agitations for restructuring and make necessary recommendations.
The president had in his national broadcast on his return from medical leave in London in September 2017, said that the National Assembly and National Council of State were the appropriate bodies to handle issues of restructuring. Thus, he directed all agitations to both bodies in line with statutory responsibilities they had.
Expectedly, torrents of reactions have followed the president’s decision to dismiss calls for the restructuring of the country.
Speaking to New Telegraph, the Secretary of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and a delegate at the 2014 National Conference, Dr. Kunle Olajide said President Buhari cannot stop restructuring if Nigerian citizens want the country to be restructured.
His words: “The ways the President went about the issue of restructuring of the country was not completely acceptable to me. The impression he created was that restructuring is for a particular section of this country. And the restructuring as far as we are concerned is for the entire nation and all parts of the country will benefit from it.
“I am not satisfied with Mr. President’s comment on restructuring. I think he will need to do much more than that. The Year 2018 to me is a critical year for the political restructuring of this country. If you recalled about 10 days ago, the British High Commissioner said restructuring is going to be the main issue in 2019 elections. So, I think much more would still have to be done in that area.
Similarly, a chieftain of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and Second Republic member of the House Chief Ralph Obioha, said restructuring remains answer to Nigeria’s problems and he is confident that Nigeria will be restructured the day the country produced a leader that is sympathetic to restructuring.
“It is unfortunate that when restructuring should have been carried out during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, he couldn’t carry it out. Politics in whatever way you look at it is always maximisation of interest. I do not think that is in the interest of the president’s constituency to support restructuring,” he said.
Also commenting on President Buhari’s position on the issue of restructuring, a public analyst and law lecturer in the University of Lagos, Wahab Shittu, while speaking during a Channels Television programme ‘Politics Today,’ said “Government must look at the reports of past National Conferences to address the problems in the country. They should look at why people are agitating across the county and look at how to resolve the problems.”
Clearly, the president may have given the executive verdict on restructuring but is not going to stop the agitations. But whether this will be a campaign tool in the 2019 general elections is left to be seen.
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