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Jonathan, Jega, Nwodo, Adebanjo: Why Nigeria must restructure before 2023 general election

A nation is an organic being whose life is characterised by reforms, adaptation and structural changes… The call for restructuring has continued to grow louder. Within these six decades, our political space has assumed many colourations –Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan

Some eminent Nigerians, yesterday, declared that restructuring of Nigeria before the 2023 general election is possible. Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan; former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega; immediate past President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo and Chief Ayo Adebanjo, chieftain of Afenifere, who spoke at the 18th Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja, gave various reasons why Nigeria must restructure.

Jonathan, who chaired the dialogue, however, said restructuring must be holistic and cannot be done in isolation without tackling the challenging polarising the country. The former president who noted that Nigeria has grown from 45 million people and three regions at independence in 1960 to over 200 million, 36 states and 774 local councils presently, said some of the challenging issues at the national level also exist at the state and local government levels.

“For instance, in some states, it is not easy for some persons to win an election because of the area they come from, the language they speak or their religious belief. “Take a look at how local government elections are conducted at the state level.

Why is it very difficult for an opposition party to win a chairmanship or councillorship seat in a state, despite the fact that the same party probably secured seats in the state Assembly and National Assembly elections, organised by a federal election management body?” Jonathan asked.

He identified nepotism, ethnic and religious differences as well as lack of patriotism as some of the challenges that have continued to limit Nigeria’s unity. “The concept of restructuring is not new to us as Nigerians. Before the civil war, Nigeria operated with four regions.

“At the onset of the war, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, then Head of State, thought that running Nigeria under the regional structure posed a threat to the unity and sovereignty of our country, so he opted to restructure Nigeria into 12 states.

“There were mixed reactions, for and against, across the nation by our people. But in the end, the 12 states structure stayed. “What Gen. Gowon did, in a war situation, preserved our nation and saved us from disintegration. “A nation is an organic being whose life is characterised by reforms, adaptation and structural changes.

“At independence in 1960, the population of Nigeria was 45 million and our early leaders and the British colonial government decided that the young nation was too vast and complex to be governed centrally from Lagos. “Thus, they bequeathed a federal system of government with strong regional autonomy and a unifying central government. This arrangement was also accepted and reaffirmed by the Republican Constitution of 1963. “Sixty-one years after independence, our population is now estimated to have exploded to over 200 million.

“In the same vein, the call for restructuring has continued to grow louder. Within these six decades, our political space has assumed many colorations. We had gone from the three regions to 36 states and 774 local councils.

Yet, all that did not seem to have provided the answers to the questions on the administrative structure of our country and how best it should be governed,” Jonathan stated. He added that it was an attempt to address the issue that made his administration to convene the 2014 National Conference, to address “the issues that have been agitating the minds of Nigerians.”

Jega, in his presentation, noted that among 25 countries practising a federal system of government, “Nigeria is one of the worse models of political accommodation of diversity, as well as power and resources sharing.”

He regretted that the two national conferences organised since 1999 – the Political Reform Conference of 2005 and the National Conference of 2014 – to general national consensus to address burning national issues were unconsidered and unimplemented. Among the advantages of restructuring, Jega believes that equitable redistribution of power and resources from the Federal Government to the sub-national governments is the most desirable.

The former INEC chairman, however, did not see the possibility of Nigeria restructuring to either the former four regions or 12 states structure. He envisages “challenges and tensions to this ‘given that their people have tasted relative autonomy.” Jega proposes a threephased restructuring agenda for Nigeria.

The short term, which he said, should take place between 2021 and 2023, has to do with the “setting up of a compact but broadly representative technical committee to review the reports of the Political Reform Conference and the National Conference and synthesise and prioritise their recommendations for implementation.” Jega said the medium term restructuring should hold between 2023 and 2027, to implement the prioritised recommendations of the technical committee and hand over more responsibilities and resources to the states.

The long term restructuring, according to him, should be from 2027 and beyond and should involve other pertinent constitutional and administrative reforms. Nwodo, on his part, argued that Nigeria has to restructure because the current electoral system is dysfunctional and does not elicit confidence and also to reduce insecurity in the country.

“We must do all we can to restructure before the next elections in 2023 because the level of dissatisfaction in the country as evidence by the last #End- SARS protests gives one the impression that any delay may lead to a mass boycott or disruption of the next elections to the point that we may have a major serious constitutional crisis of a nation without a government,” Nwodo warned. Adebanjo, who addressed the dialogue virtually, blamed the nation’s constitution for its woes.

He noted that at independence, the derivation principle was 50 per cent, adding that such enhanced healthy competition and economic development among and within the regions. Adebanjo called for the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report. “Anybody planning to hold election in 2023 before restructuring does not love this country,” he stated. Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, in his contribution, said the North is not against restructuring, but wants all the issues brought to the table.

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