The issue of restructuring has continued to generate controversy across the country. The unitary nature of Nigerian federation has made restructuring very imperative.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari reopened the debate when he dismissed the calls for restructuring. The president, who was quoted as saying, “there is nothing to restructure,” described those agitating for restructuring as “naïve and mischievously dangerous.” The president, who spoke through the Executive Secretary of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMFC), Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu, in Zaria, Kaduna State, during the inauguration of the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation, said that many of those agitating for restructuring do not know what it means and they also have not even studied the 1999 Constitution. Expectedly, the president’s statement has attracted reactions from concerned Nigerians and groups. The Afenifere, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the apex Igbo group, Ohanaeze, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and some prominent Nigerians have condemned the president’s statement, describing it as unfortunate. They also noted that not accepting restructuring could lead to the country’s disintegration.
However, a few days after, the president backed off somewhat, saying he could sign into law any bill duly passed by the National Assembly to that effect. Despite the posturing, his aides maintained that the president has not changed his opposition to restructuring. Also, some lawmakers from the North have threatened to “kill” any bill on restructuring presented before the NASS.
We consider the president’s hard stance and similar anti-restructuring statements as inconsiderate and unacceptable. There is no doubt that the present system is not working at all. The general insecurity across the country and rising agitations for self-rule are all signs that the country must be rescued through some form of restructuring to make our federation work like others in the world. It is sad that the country is gradually sliding into anarchy because the existing order has failed to address the contentious issues facing the country.
The president sorely missed the point. The real issue is that restructuring has become inevitable. The president cannot continue to refuse to accept the urgent necessity for restructuring. The stubborn stance of the president is not helping matters. At best, it has widened the fault lines that have divided the country.
Buhari’s rejection of restructuring is inconsistent with the earlier position of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which set up a committee headed by Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, which, among other things, recommended restructuring as one of the ways forward for the stability and unity of the country. During the 2015 campaign, restructuring was one of Buhari’s promises to the electorate. What might have informed his present stance on restructuring is not so clear to many Nigerians. It is rather baffling and unfortunate.
It bears repeating that the essence of restructuring is for us to have true federalism. It entails the devolution of powers to the federating units. As at today, power is so much concentrated on the centre with 68 items on the exclusive legislative list. There is need for fairness and equity in the running of Nigerian federation. We believe that the duty of government is to, among others, exploit the human and natural resources in the country and ensure the welfare, freedom and happiness of every Nigerian citizen on the basis of social justice equity and fairness. Sadly, the reverse is the case. To reject restructuring is to support the current retrogression of the country.
There is no denying the fact that restructuring is the way to go. It calls for the need to exhaustively reappraise the prevailing structure and corporate existence of the country. It is no longer in doubt that delaying restructuring is akin to postponing the evil day, or as Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka aptly said, would likely lead to the break-up of the nation. Across the country, the level of discontent is growing steadily. It stems from inability or refusal to do the needful. As we have said many times, this government should listen to the views of eminent Nigerians and decentralise power.