Restructuring: Lifeline for a faltering republic (1)

FOR some months now, there has been a growing agitation for the restructuring of the entity called Nigeria. In times past, there has been lots of clamour from Nigerians, for the All  Progressives Congress (APC) led government, to fulfil its promise of restructuring, to the nation. By way of reminder, the APC had covenanted in its Manifesto, before the 2015 general elections, to “initiate ACTION to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.”

You would well agree with me that you can only “entrench” that which does not hitherto exist. So, the APC was well aware that Nigeria has not been operating “true Federalism”, and thus, the major campaign theme for the 2015 election for the APC, was devolution of powers. The song then, from prominent APC stalwarts, was true federalism. It is thus understandable why the party has been under severe criiticism, for abandoning its own Manifesto, after it secured power, following its victory in the 2015 and 2019 general elections.

It is totally uncharitable, for any political party to climb to power on the altar of sloganeering and deceit. And that is exactly what the APC has done, such that six years down the lane after it took over the reins of power, Nigeria is still neck deep in unitary federalism. In the words of the learned authors of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to RESTRUCTURE is “to change the makeup, organisation or pattern of” something, meaning that restructuring involves some fundamental alteration of the existing structure. The structure of the entity presently called Nigeria is spelt out in a document referred to as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Although it claims to be a federal Constitution, it was in fact enacted by the military regime of General Abdulsalam Abubakar (Retd.), as a document imposing a unitary system of government on the people of Nigeria, by concentrating all powers in the federal government and leaving the states and the local governments totally powerless, and I dare say, rudderless. Presently, virtually all regions in Nigeria are in support of and yearning for restructuring, through a fundamental rejigging of the entire fabric of what is left of Nigeria. What we should ponder upon now is why the entity called Nigeria is no longer suitable to the South and the North, given the latest agitations from all the regions.

The simple answer, to my mind, is that Nigeria is in the hands of a cabal, a tiny few, cutting across tribe and religion, spread and entrenched within the business sector and indeed all important aspects of our national life, not excluding even the legal profession. They have cornered the commonwealth of the nation, they are in charge of everything useful to our economic life, not excluding even the legal profession.

They have cornered the commonwealth of the nation, they are in charge of everything useful to our economic life and because of this, they are not directly affected by the sufferings and problems that the masses go through, which in itself explains why they are vehemently opposed to the idea of any form of change at all, relishing as it were, the booties falling their way from the status quo.

In its section 16 (1), the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states expressly that “the State shall:

(a) harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy; for every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.

(d) that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of a few individuals or of a group.”

As you would well agree with me, Nigeria is running exactly on the opposite of the constitutional imperative stated above, given that the national resources of this great nation are only circulating between very few individuals and their favoured agents. We surely cannot continue in this form at all and expect things to remain normal. No. A time is coming, and it is nearer than it used to be, when the people will revolt, when the gunpowder will explode, when tolerance will be exhausted and endurance will thin out.

No one should take the people for granted permanently. So, our leaders should listen to the voices of reason and do the needful very urgently. Without any doubt, the APC claimed to have set up a committee on restructuring without any meaningful result, playing political tricks on the people and dancing on the tribulations of its followers. For sure, the national assembly is currently on its regular weather-beaten track of constitutional amendment, with almost very predictable results. This must stop. We cannot keep taking people round in endless circles allthe time and think that they are fools. Nigerians are choking right now! It is becoming totally unbearable and something has to give.

Someone would well ask me, why do we need restructuring? Please come along with me, on a small exercise. Section 153 (1) of the Constitution established the following federal agencies:

Independent National Electoral Commission, Council of State, Federal Character Commission, Federal Civil Service Commission, Code of Conduct Bureau Federal Judicial Service Commission, National Defence Council, National Economic Council, National Judicial Council, National Population Commission, National Security Council, Nigerian Police Council, Police Service Commission, Federal Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission From all the above, it can be seen that the powers of the federation called Nigeria are all concentrated in either this “federal” institution or that “national” agency. In fact, some states do not have any agency as such, of their own, established for any purpose, other than these federal bodies. Not stopping there, the Constitution then finally castrated the states and the local governments, by enacting the following provisions, in section 4:

“4 – (2) The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.” Now, let us travel to the Second Schedule of the Constitution, to examine some of the matters concentrated in the hands of the federal government to the detriment of the rest of the federation.

EXCLUSIVE LEGISLATIVE LIST

“Arms, Ammunitions and Explosives, Aviation, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Banks, Commercial and Industrial Monopolies, Control of Capital Issues Copyright, Currency, Customs and Excise Duties, Defence, Drugs and Poisons Evidence, Exchange Control, Export Duties, Fishing and Fisheries, Immigration Incorporation of bodies corporate, Insurance, Labour, Trade Unions, etc Maritime shipping and navigation, Meteorology, Military, Mines and Minerals, oil fields, oil mining, natural gas, National Parks, Nuclear energy, Passports and Visas, Patents, Trade Marks, Business names, Pensions, Gratuities, Police and Government Security Services Posts and Telegraphs and Telephones, Prisons, Public Holidays, Quarantine Railways, Regulation of Political Parties, Stamp Duties, Taxation, Marriages, Trade and Commerce, Inland Waterways, Weights and Measures Wireless Broadcasting and Television, etc.”

The existing structure of Nigeria from the above table, is that everything is in the hands and under the control of the federal government; the states and local governments do not exist at all, as far as the Constitution is concerned. This is the reason the governors don’t want state police, because they simply don’t have the funds to run it. And it is the same reason they are against minimum wage, autonomy for the judiciary and the local government. Everything that generates income in Nigeria resides in the federal government, which is controlling even domestic matters such as marriage.

What kind of federation is that, where the other federating units have no capacity for survival or any chance of self-sustenance?

It is a federation where the federal government sits upon all resources and then begins to hand out bailouts to the other federating units. So, in point of fact, there is nothing like the Federal Republic of Nigeria at all, but rather, the Federal Government of Nigeria. No state can handle electricity generation or distribution, they cannot set up telephone companies or even run television or radio stations, or even attempt to regulate the mines and minerals in their domain. Is that a true federation? What is the federal government doing with banking, advertisement, waterways, railways and even electricity?

How do we run a system whereby the federal government appoints judges for the States and the federal government controls the security of the States, to the extent that the governor is totally powerless if the Commissioner of Police of the State decides not to obey his lawful directives as the chief security officer of the State? Why will anybody insist on perpetuating this lopsided arrangement except of course he is an enemy of the people? This is what is promoting corruption, as the fastest way to sudden wealth in Nigeria presently is to be connected to the federal government one way or the other, through one of those moribund agencies that have no relevance to the lives of the people.

How do we sustain this parasitic system that takes away true development from our people, simply because some privileged few are feeding fat on the common wealth? The immediate solution is in genuine restructuring, not this surface attempt of onestep every year, as is being executed by the National Assembly in the name of constitutional amendment.

We must encourage the President and the legislators to go the whole hog and break down the Constitution into a workable template that can deliver true federalism, for our collective dream of a true Nigeria, as stated in the APC Manifesto. The President should not block his ears to the cries of all our people. He has proved himself to be man enough to touch the sacred cows, so he should confront the monster of the faltering imbalance called Nigeria. It is the only lifeline to rescue the sinking ship.

 

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