By Charles Onunaiju
The problem of Africa in general and Nigeria in particular is the carving out of political fiefs before any thought is given to the material condition that can sustain their viability and secure their relevance in the long run. That is why, even in local government areas that are largely homogenous in respect of ethnic and religious composition, the agitation for further partitioning is equally as vociferous as the demand for geo-political regions.
The increasing bankruptcy of the existing States in Nigeria, whose earlier creations were considered important and even an adequate response to the challenge of evolving federalism, can be seen now with benefit of hindsight as wrong-headed. If the proliferation of States and local governments has not held at bay the calls for political restructuring, it is doubtful that deploying the long political knife to further balkanize them will do any magic. Nigeria’s unreleased capacity and capability to harness and realize its huge productive potential can only be a viable project to which any meaningful restructuring can be constructively addressed.
The call for re-structuring the Nigeria federal system gained momentum after the former vice president and a chieftain of the ruling party, Atiku Abubakar, lent his weight to the clamour. He has observed that “Nigeria as it is structured today, is not working… In short, it has not served Nigeria well and at risk of reproach, it has not served my part of the country, the North, well. The call for restructuring is even more relevant today”.
Against the background of his observation, the former vice president cast his lot with “agitation by many right-thinking Nigerians calling for a restructuring and renewal of our federation to make it less centralized, less suffocating and less dictatorial in the affairs of our country’s constituent units and localities”.
However, the call for restructuring of the Nigerian federal system is now as alluring as the previous political myth that civil rule holds the key to the country’s socio-economic Eldorado, without addressing the fundamentals of its economic base.
As it has become obvious that a mere return to civil rule does not hold the key to unlocking the potential of Nigeria and guaranteeing the prosperity of her people, the viability of any political superstructure, whether true federalism, fiscal federalism or even a con-federal arrangement is most unlikely to do the trick, until and unless the economic base upon which any viable political superstructure can be erected, is addressed.
The critical element to Nigeria socio-political atrophy is the economic base of under-developed productive forces, that render the lean available public resources a theater of beguiled and intense conflict amongst stakeholders across the ethnic and religious divide. The political conflict across the primordial faultlines of the ethnic and religious identities are the consequences of the underdeveloped productive forces and the blurred lines of its derivative social relation.
In such instance of socio-economic stalemate and political dead end, a socialist framework that consists of scientifically interrogating the economic fundamentals with proper focus on unfettering the productive forces is strategically relevant to overcoming the persistent conundrum
On the contrary, the allure of political myth does not validate its viability as the Nigerian experience has consistently shown. The bandwagon effects of the loud call for political restructuring shares the same euphoria of the voluble calls for the return to civil rule as the panacea to all the country’s woes. This is not a validation or justification for military rule since both are constrained by the objective condition of underdeveloped productive forces.
The socialist framework is underwritten by scientific interpretation of the existential social condition and objective analysis of the options for constructing a viable economic base and political superstructure conducive to it. Nigeria’s most notable governance deficit is the patent lack of scientific rigour in comprehending and analyzing the universal laws of the development of society, with specific reference to Nigeria’s characteristics. Only within the context of socialist reconstruction of Nigeria, would the scientific interpretation of history and objective evaluation of our specific social circumstances, provide broad and viable alternatives relevant to our national challenge.
Nigeria’s politics in particular and Africa’s in general have thrived on the whim and disposition of the political leaders whose insight lack the scientific rigour to interrogate the fundamental disconnect and existential conditions. To this extent, Nigeria’s socio-economic and political fortunes have been anchored on the caprice of the ascendant political faction or cliques.
Africa, nay Nigeria’s governance dilemma is not that it is short of good leaders or even courageous ones, but many whose visions do not correspond to the social fact and existential reality of the society’s prevailing condition.
The context of Nigeria’s forcible integration into the global capitalist economy as an outlet for reserve labour and mere market for metropolitan surplus means that the local productive forces have no objective conditions to develop.
The fact that national independence did not create the condition for the development of the productive forces prevented the emergence of autonomous national economic elite capable of driving a national political project, relatively independent of the corrosive influence of international finance capital.
The current wishy-washy political agenda, including the advocacy for restructuring the Nigeria federal system, corresponds to the historic entrapment of neo-liberal capitalist domination. Only socialism offers a refreshing vista to scientifically examine the options relevant to interpreting our conditions.
Socialism is not the vast bureaucracy of the defunct Stalinist Soviet Union and the spy and police state it engendered in the Eastern Europe then. The Socialist framework is not a model but a tool of scientific interrogation of the existing social reality and the application of the relevant paradigm to the challenges of meeting the changing needs of society and fulfilling the imperative of social order, which is to seek and advance the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.
Even as a recipe for planned economy, socialism is not averse to the market. In fact, Leon Trotsky, a key theoretician of Bolshevik revolution, second in prestige and intellectual rigour only to Vladimir Lenin, stated clearly that “a planned economy cannot rest merely on intellectual data.
The play of supply and demand remains for a long period a necessary material basis and indispensable corrective. Socialist construction would decisively relieve the historical disconnect in the material base of our back ward productive forces and re-align the fresh momentum to viable opportunities and possibilities in the search for a commensurate political super-structure.
Nigeria and Africa’s travails in breaking through the ceiling of sustainable socio-economic and political development have its origins in the summary arrest of our historical process through violent colonial domination.
The distortion, disarticulation and disaggregation that has ensued up to this day, created social condition in which capitalist formation is impossible and in which socialism holds the prospect to break with the false start.
The recent clamor for political restructuring of the Nigeria federal system might be appealing, but its context, outside the scientific interpretation of our social reality renders it a hollow slogan. The much- touted recommendations of former president Jonathan’s national conference of 2014 pales into insignificance to the Justice Cookey political bureau of 1991 which took direct input from all segment of the Nigerian society and arrived at the historic conclusion of Nigerians overwhelming demand for socialist reconstruction.
Onunaiju writes from Abuja