Restructuring: What memory will he bequeathe? A Fulani irredentist or Pan Nigerianist?
Nigeria like most African countries is a country that shouldn’t have been. It was conjured to serve a constricted purpose and sadly the narrative has not changed. Those who conjured her though are long gone their successors are still neck-deep in the same narrow game of racial parochialism. While the British colonialists criminally carted off Nigeria’s commonwealth to their advantage the owners of Nigeria since their scurrying off have not changed motive. The elixir has always been to seek power for promotion of selfish interests disguised as ethnic/tribal interests. If not, the northern sphere of Nigeria should have been the leading part of this disparate nation because in practical terms the north has always held the levers of powers with the Fulani tribe the primal conductor. However, the region is the potpourri of everything backward. All indices point in the direction of an unsavoury situation as far as the region is concerned. The region’s stranglehold on power from independence has not rubbed off positively on it. There live the poorest citizens in the country. This eloquently indicates that the elite only hankers after and holds power to perpetrate various heists against the country.
The economic situation is in shambles, insecurities ravage the land, hunger and poverty assail the people unendingly, high costs of foods and goods generally decimate the people, despondency, frustration, depression, hopelessness are eternally strangling the citizens. Yet, the managers of the country’s resources aren’t bothered.
The problems are deep-seated, and one major instigator of this is the structure of the country: the inter-state, inter-region and inter-governmental relations. On the paper, Nigeria is a federal republic but in practice it is unitary, with the constituent parts mere appendages. The centre aggregates and consequently appropriates all the powers in gross violation of the sacred principle of federalism. This is the basis of all anomalies grinding Nigeria villainously on the earth.
In years preceding and shortly after independence, the country adhered rigidly to the principle of separation of powers and every part was the better for it but the military incursion and insatiable greed of the rapacious elite that have been coming on the driver’s seat have unyieldingly perpetuated the infraction that is unitarianism or feeding-bottle federalism today.
In the spirit of pan-Nigerianism, patriots have called for a return to true federalism and have advocated restructuring. This they have listed as the panacea for a rejuvenated nation. Restructuring is an all-encompassing term that embraces fiscal federalism, devolution of powers, resource control, state/regional police, autonomy etc.
Chido Onumah in a 2017 essay he wrote notes, “Basically, what restructuring will do is to create new, workable and generally acceptable rules on how Nigeria should federate. We need to reorder the polity for effective governance. Clearly, our fortunes as a nation is tied to the kind of political, economic and social structure we put in place. We need to review revenue generation and allocation. We can’t talk or wish our way to prosperity as a nation. We must end financial irresponsibility and fiscal rascality by revisiting the issue of fiscal federalism. We must allow states to share greater responsibility in the policing of their states. We must abrogate local governments as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution and allow states to create local governments according to their needs. We must redefine citizenship rights and banish the indigene-settler dichotomy. This is what restructuring is about. We must continue to interrogate Nigeria because our misleaders (past and present) have failed to forge a nation out of what was bequeathed to us by the colonialists. The nationhood question is never settled. The way out is to never be afraid to confront it.
“Any attempt to understand and tackle Nigeria’s seemingly intractable problems must go back to the basic principles of the formation of Nigeria. We may not have it the way it was in 1960 or 1963, but it is important that whatever way we decide to have it, the decision is inclusive and acceptable. That is the essence of restructuring. Restructuring is not a silver bullet. It won’t solve all our problems, but trying to solve our national crises without restructuring the country effectively will amount to putting the cart before the horse.
“The bottom line is that Nigeria is not working for Nigerians. It may be working for some Nigerians, either Igbos, Fulanis, Yorubas, Hausas, Kanuris, Efiks, Tivs or Ijaws, but for the majority across the country, it is a nightmare living the Nigerian dream. We can point to poor leadership, bad governance, corruption and the need for attitudinal change, but these are symptoms of a much insidious problem, the existential crisis that confronts Nigeria.
“Nigeria is not working not because Nigerians can’t make it work or are not willing to make it work. Nigeria is not working simply because there is no incentive to make it work; there is no allegiance to the Nigerian dream, if it does exist. That explains the mindless corruption in the country, the contempt the rulers have for the country and its citizens, their eagerness to run it aground and their willingness to run to the Metropole at the slightest opportunity either for medical attention, to educate their children or simply to enjoy the good life. And, the country, the proverbial giant of Africa remains, in the words of Noble Laurette, Prof Wole Soyinka, “the open sore of a continent”; a nation that made billions of dollars from oil, yet (with Pakistan and Afghanistan) is one of the three-remaining polio-endemic countries in the world with one of the highest cases of out-of-school children and maternal mortality.
“The purpose of restructuring, therefore, is to set Nigeria on the path of a civic nationhood, a modern egalitarian society, and not to create new fiefdoms for ethnic warlords. It aims to end internal colonialism wherever it exists in the country and to free the creative and intellectual capacities for Nigerians from the east, west, north and south, to contribute to the development of the country…”
The prevailing situation is a manifestation of the need to restructure Nigeria. That is the path to take in order to reinvent her and usher her into the path of redemption and prosperity.
That is why President Muhammadu Buhari and his co-travellers (but him especially) must patriotically see the bigger picture and break the iron leash against restructuring of the nation. Without restructuring the country cannot be reclaimed and salvaged. That is why it is inevitable, if not in his tenure, in the future this will be accomplished. Nigeria and Nigerians cannot forever be hegemonically held in tethers. For when they reach the end of their tether things will become uncontrollable. The new generation isn’t compliant as shown in the EndSars protests, in the agitations tearing the nation apart, in banditry etc. The nation might altogether be dissolved.
President Buhari therefore should see and seize the great opportunity and move in the direction that can get him immortalized. Let him kickstart the restructuring process and reconstruct Nigeria in the image antagonistic of the current sadistic structure. If he does that he will go down in history as a pan-Nigerianist, a true architect of modern Nigeria. But if he will persist on the side of recalcitrance he will eternally be defined as a Fulani chauvinist, a tribal lord and champion even though he had the chance to embay his name in the annals as a great Nigerian leader. It is a sacrifice he should make to snatch the tag of a Nigerian patriot and not a mere illiberal Fulani jingoist. His remaining one and a half years he can exploit to recast what will be his epitaph. Let him subscribe to true federalism and forthwith begin the process of restructuring Nigeria. Those who favourably romanticize history dared the status quo damning the consequences; they bravely strode to the side the informed (general) public perception swung to. In the end he will stand alone in the public court, the cheer group who egg him on today against the grain of public outcry will have deserted him. History beckons, he has a choice to make between bonding with either the strident calls of the forces of progressivism or the subtle whistling of the forces of provincialism, of liberalism or illiberalism.
The ball is in his court.