After many years of hard liberty, Nigerians have finally blurted out. They seem to be tired of making a bad situation look tolerable. Even those who relapsed into ignoble ease are fed up with their complacency. They want a new life. They seek a new beginning. The old order must be jettisoned in favour of the new. Having taken a hard look at where the present order has placed them, the people are convinced that the country has not made progress. The lot of the people has not been enviable. They feel claustrophobic. Like caged birds, they want to be released from captivity. The people no longer have confidence in the Nigerian state as presently constituted. They want a different arrangement that will guarantee them an air of freedom and a sense of belonging. That explains the strident calls for the restructuring of the political and economic architecture of the country. This is the prevailing mood in Nigeria today.
The calls have been there before now. But the tone and timbre have changed. They have assumed the status of a crusade. The people want a new Nigeria. The agitation has even crept into religious circles. Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the respected cleric of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, who has never been known to make political statements, recently weighed in on the matter. He wants a restructured Nigeria. The interjection from Adeboye is uncommon. It is an indication that the matter has gone beyond politics.
No doubt, restructuring means different things to different people. For instance, what Adeboye put forward may not be the popular brand that Nigerians are asking for. But the spirit of the call remains the same. The simple message is that there is something fundamentally wrong with the structure we have on our hands. When Adeboye advocates a two-layered power sharing formula, he is simply worried that too much power is concentrated in the hands of one man. Since Lord Acton has long told us that absolute power corrupts absolutely, we have a situation where power is routinely abused by its wielders. The frustration Nigerians face today is that the provisions of the Constitution and certain laws of the land are recklessly side-tracked to serve narrow, selfish interests. In situations like this, they have had cause to ask that the right thing be done. But they have roundly been ignored, as if their opinions do not matter. Adeboye may have reasoned that a shared power arrangement will not make this impunity possible. However, whether Adeboye’s brand of restructuring is the ideal variant or not, the important message here is that we need to restructure, if we must make progress. The content of the agitation is already familiar. It is only those who are afraid of restructuring that pretend not to know what Nigerians mean when they are asking for restructuring. But no matter how hard the pretenders try, what matters at this time is to admit that things are no longer what they used to be. Change has, therefore, become necessary and imperative.
But it is disappointing to note that the government of the day is incensed by all this. The other day, government did not disguise its fury over calls for restructuring. It sounded as if the agitators were peevish schoolboys who must be whipped into line. Such embarrassing display of intolerance is most unbecoming of a government, which derives its legitimacy from the people. The most elementary definition of democracy presents it as government of the people, by the people and for the people. If we dissect this a little, we will be saying that government is supposed to serve the interest of the people. It also presupposes that the people must be the drivers of whatever they think will serve their interest. But when the people are wilfully shut out and even reprimanded for exercising their democratic rights, then we cannot claim to be in a democracy. Democratic governance simply means that the will of the people will prevail. Government does not exist for its own sake. It exits in the service of the people. Irascible display of ill temper by agents of government will, therefore, not serve any useful purpose.
But the resistance to change by our government is understandable. Nigeria, at the moment, has a feudal structure with the people stratified into nobles and vassals. The nobles see Nigeria as their God-given property. The rest of the people are vassals who must do the bidding of their masters. It is an arrangement that makes a section a special breed. The section in question has got used to what Prof. ABC Nwosu has described as unearned privileges. With such undeserved privileges in their kitty, they are most likely not going to be receptive to anything that seeks to upset the apple cart. That is why they are holding tight. But the fact, which we cannot run away from, is that government should exist for all not for a segment. Government must, therefore, come out of its cocoon and confront the reality of the moment. That reality is that the structure of the country must be tinkered with to meet the wishes and aspirations of one and all.
Those who are not yet at home with restructuring are invited to note that the agitation has a reason behind it. It is borne out of dashed hopes and expectations. The federal structure, which we claim to be operating, has since been known and seen to be nothing but a unitary order. The components that make up the so-called federation are slaves to the centre. The federating units do not, strictly speaking, exist. They are mere paper tigers. This discredited federal structure is what is breeding agitation for restructuring. If the structure we are operating were working, no one would fret over restructuring. The agitation is, therefore, borne out of abuse. The abuse has degraded the people. It has scorched the land. The people are seeking escape from an arrangement that has rendered them impotent.
The hardliners should also note that the agitation in the land is not about restructuring alone. There are those who, in their state of oppression and suppression, are asking for the extreme case. They are the people who want the country to be dismembered. This separatist agitation, as we all know, does not resonate well in Nigeria. The country fought a war for the purpose of uniting the land. Any suggestion, which borders on separatism, is, therefore, viewed with suspicion and utter resentment. Ironically, it is the experience and outcome of that war that is driving Nigeria to the precipice. Those who consider themselves victors of the war have not allowed equity and justice to reign. They have been enjoying the spoils of war at the expense of those they consider the vanquished. Thus, whereas the beneficiaries of the unjust order want the country to remain as it is, those who have been disadvantaged want a change. The corollary to the existing order is dismemberment. But we have the moderates who want the country to remain together. All they are asking for is equity, equality and justice. They are the real patriots that want a united Nigeria. Those who are resisting restructuring, whoever they may be, are as extreme in their position as the separatist agitators. They do not wish the country well. They are also seeking dismemberment by other means.