Restructuring: Will it ever happen in Nigeria?

GENERAL Ibrahim Babangida last week added his voice to those who had been clamouring for the restructuring of the country. According to Babangida who ruled the country for eight years as a Military President, the restructuring of the country can no longer be delayed. In a statement made as part of his Eid el Fitri message to the country, Babangida said, “Restructuring has become a national appeal as we speak, whose time has come. I will strongly advocate for devolution of powers to the extent that more responsibilities be given to the states while the federal government is vested with the responsibility to oversee our foreign policy, defense, and economy. Even the idea of having federal roads in towns and cities has become outdated and urgently needs revisiting. That means we need to tinker with our constitution to accommodate new thoughts that will strengthen our nationality.”

Restructuring the country to conform to federalism has been the position of Afenifere for a long time. The pan-Yoruba group has been able to trace the problems in the country, which manifest as cracks in the polity and poor management of the economy, to the concentration of powers at the federal level. Members of the group have always claimed that until and unless the country is restructured, development in the country will always be in the reverse because the warped system currently operational in the country neither encourages productivity nor can it engender creativity.

This has turned out to be true. The best years of this country were the years when true federalism was practised. They were the years when each of the regions controlled its resources. Those were the years when each of the country’s components was allowed to determine its fate and pace. The freedom to choose resulted in creative competition among the regions. This produced the groundnut pyramid in the North, the cocoa revolution in the West and the palm oil wealth in the East. Apart from all of these resulting in prosperity for the regions and the country as a whole, unemployment was very rare and criminality was low. This definitely was the golden era in the nation’s history.

This is what those who have been agitating for the adoption of federalism, which is the kernel of restructuring, want. They want the country to go back to a practice that will engender prosperity and promote development.

It is quite comforting that in recent times, several leaders from across the country have joined in the call for true federalism. This means that it is becoming clearer by the day to everyone that Nigeria cannot be great without embracing federalism. It is even getting more obvious to all and sundry that with different crises in nearly every part of the country, the continued existence of the country is dependent on whether or not it embraces federalism. This is why there is now such a loud din about federalism and restructuring.

But wait a minute, who will restructure Nigeria? Who will bell the cat? Ordinarily, the restructuring should be the call of those in power at the federal level, especially the executive and the legislature. But will they make such call? Put in very plain language, restructuring is about the federal government losing the bulk of its power to other tiers of government. Restructuring is about the federal government losing its revenue and influence to the states. Will this happen in Nigeria? Will those at the helm of affairs willingly let go of their power having tasted it? Not many people let go of power without a fight. Power is never given, it is always taken. This explains why Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Information Minister, speaking on behalf of the government, said recently that restructuring was not, and still is not, the priority of the current administration, though it was a campaign issue for the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is also the reason for the statement credited to Chief John Oyegun, APC National Chairman, that the government was not considering restructuring.

Federalism being the best way to run the country cannot just be occurring to General Babangida, why did he not ensure its practice when he had the power so to do for eight years? Why did he have to wait till now to talk about it? Alhaji Atiku Abubakar cannot just be coming into the understanding that true federalism is the way to go for the country, why did he not push for it when he was the Vice President of Nigeria for eight years? The truth is that those in power enjoy the power of power and will do everything in their power to retain power. Therefore, they are not the ones to effect power change.

So, waiting for those at the helm of affairs in the country to effect the restructuring of the country is akin to Waiting for Godot. Anyone who has read the Samuel Beckett’s play knows that Godot will never turn up. So, waiting for the federal government to restructure the country is similar to waiting and watching to see a crab blink; it will never happen. However, for the good of the country, I pray fervently that I am wrong on this count.