Restructuring: Appeal to Confab delegates

Last week’s verdict by the Committee on Restructuring at the on-going National Conference to retain the existing unviable 36-state structure and 774 Local Government structure , which gobbles 74% of our recurrent expenditure, as the building block of our federalism  has only deepened the cynicism of those who  had said not much would  come from the N7billion project. To point out the irrationality of those opposed to political restructuring, Professor Gbadegesin, like many other model builders recently highlighted on the pages of this paper, “the simplicity and clarity of the principles that justify political restructuring along the line of true federalism”.

Gbogun Gboro similarly pointed out the sheer idiocy of allowing some self-serving people to continue with a scheme “that degrades  our country into a land perpetually devastated and shamed by a monstrous federal government which enjoys the pleasure of toying around with weak and incompetent state governments, a land of hideous poverty and corruption, of hopelessness, conflicts and crimes”.

Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary General, also  called for stronger regions as was the case in the pre-independence era, reminding that it is the “destructive control of power at the centre that exacerbates the primordial instinct in our people and also fans religious and ethnic differences with the result that rather than being a source of strength, our pluralism has become a harbinger for discrimination and disunity.”

But long before the current interventions by Nigerian opinion leaders, the departing British, after a thorough appreciation of the deep-rooted mutual suspicion among our various nationalities over a period of 60 years had hinted that it was their presence alone that ‘prevented  a disastrous disintegration’ and that their withdrawal would mean for millions, a descent from nascent nationhood into the turmoil of warring sect’. The self-fulfilling prophesy came barely five years of their departure.

And it wasn’t as if that tragedy couldn’t have been avoided if a segment of the political class bent on destroying what they couldn’t have had remained faithful to the policy thrust of the colonial masters as espoused by the then British colonial secretary of state, Oliver Stanley in 1945 when he made it clear that the policy thrust of Britain  was to “see the various peoples of the various  territories develop themselves along the line of their natural aptitude, their own culture and their tradition’.  Awo who saw federalism as “a philosophy of opportunities for the various ethnic nationalities to progress at their own rate” had on this score in his seminal work on Nigeria federalism in 1947 suggested the 10 Nigerian major ethnic groups as the building block of our federation.

But sadly today, in spite of all the verifiable monumental achievement of our nation when we had a workable federal arrangement, and in spite of an on-going vigorous campaign by the United Nations for preservation of group identities, those who are benefiting from the current anarchy in our land will not listen.

The committee report itself is a lesson in self denial  It pretends not to know that the on-going mindless killing by alleged Fulani herdsmen is closely linked with the past popular uprising in the Middle Belt violently suppressed by the military in the early 60s; the judicial battle successfully waged against Obasanjo’s fraudulent mainstreaming by the old South-west  was closely linked with the insurrection in the old Western Region following the rigged election of 1965; and that  the challenge of political Sharia under the presidency of Obasanjo  is not markedly different from the ongoing face-off  between President Jonathan, a minority, and Boko Haram insurgents.

And those who have argued that we can continue with the current structure which defies rationality, by simply addressing the issues of values, and leadership, are missing the point. As P.C Loyd has said, Nigerian different nationalities are at different levels of cultural development. And since one culture is not superior to the other, we cannot impose our own standard or values on others. In some parts of the country, a governor may get away with donating millions to a musician. On the other hand, the late Professor Ambrose Alli who as governor of the then Mid-west spent state money to bury his father was ordered to refund the money by Awo, his party leader. In some parts of the country a defeated General comes back as a hero; in other parts, he commits suicide and if victorious, restricted to the outskirt of the city. If you think that was in the past, do a study of all the Yoruba leaders who were once perceived to have worked against the interest of the people. It is the erosion of values nationalities hold dear that has given way to a new Nigerian value of corruption, ineptitude and decadence.

I also think restructuring will solve the problem of indigene-ship and settlers. Those comparing us with America are only being mischievous. Unlike the US, a nation of immigrants, excepts perhaps for the Fulani who as nomads and Jihadists came to Nigeria about 200 years ago and subsequently conquered the Hausa states, there is hardly any group that is not spiritually attached to its roots. The recent expulsion of Fulani herdsmen from Niger and the Tor of Tiv’s declaration that an inch of Tiv land would not be conceded as grazing ground for the Fulani herdsmen means it is not an issue we can wish away, We can add the unsettled issue of abandoned property in Port-Harcourt and the battle with Governor Amaechi over Okrika by the First Lady

But we are not alone. We have seen how India , a more complex society creatively devised an harmonious relationship among its 1.3 billion peoples and over 2000 ethnic nationalities  through the creation of 27 strong regions We are today witnesses to the picture emerging from European Union after two devastating World Wars. Restructuring is the only way to stop any group that rigged its way to Abuja from insisting on determining how others live their lives.

As for the contentious issue of resource control, I think what is needed is compromise. I do not for instance see anything provocative in the position paper of the North’s delegates to the National Conference.  If anything, I will think it is a quiet craving for return of the old three regions which hopefully will help each region confronts its own demons.

I also think the call for the abrogation of onshore/offshore oil dichotomy in view of the “International law (1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea UNCLOS, Article 76 on territorial waters/boundaries which stipulated that 200 nautical miles off the continental shelves belongs to the central government exclusively,” is not in the least provocative.  The littoral states cannot eat their cake and have it. They have always been aligned with the north ostensibly for protection against their more aggressive neighbours. The rest of the country funded the war just as it made huge investments in the exploitation of the mineral deposits. With all institutions and programmes such as the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Ministry of Niger Delta and the Amnesty programme for the Niger Delta militants and components of the SURE-P, the HYPADEC, 13% of the on-shore oil revenue should be acceptable. It should not be too difficult to persuade Bayelsa State to see that earning in a month what Taraba earns in a year, negates the principles of justice and equity to the federating units.

Of course, the fraud called local governments, an arbitrarily-created entities funded by federal government must revert back to the federating regions

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