Kalu N. Kalu
While all three presentations seem to support ‘restructuring” in principle and in various degrees (kind of), yet one still gets the sense that there is little across the board agreement on the universal and technical matters that restructuring would address.
While Governor El-Rufai remains ambivalent about the virtues of restructuring referring it as “opportunism of certain leaders who espouse it for purposes of political and media attention,” the celebrated Ohanaeze Chieftain stated that “the disenchantment in the country over the existing structure is such that it would be gloomy if the desires of majority of the people are not met or continue to be deliberately ignored.”
He went further to argue that because “the present constitution was not written by the people of Nigeria nor was it approved in a national referendum; hence its effectiveness will score a very low grade on accounts of its unacceptability. Regrettably, it continues to hold sway and begins with a false proclamation, ‘We the People of Nigeria’—.“
As you can thus see from the above, even if there is a general agreement that restructuring is desirable, but the problem remains in what areas and under what circumstances would such a restructuring take place – suggesting therefore that the hard road to restructuring is still ahead for Nigerians. But dwelling a little bit more on this trend, I will digress again back to earlier points made by Tanko Yakasai. I was taken aback by the obvious realism in his statements, and coming from a northerner at this critical juncture, I thought it could provide a thawing point in any discussion about the emergent state of affairs. There are two areas of agreement that I seem to share with him. First is that breaking the country apart would not end the current quest for sovereign agitation, even within the minority populations or in new sovereign identities that would emerge from that. It would open up a Pandora’s Box where every ethnicity would seek its own sovereign identity rather than be merged with the others. That is, it would leave everyone worse-off than before. Second, I share his views on the fact that everyone needs Nigeria, particularly the three major ethnic groups Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo. For the Yorubas, he points to the economic investment and integration of the region made by the Igbos, Lebanese, and Indians; and the fact that Yorubas also need the broader market base because their industries cannot sell their goods to themselves. The Southeastern and South-South states provide oil and much more. The North provides the food crops from agriculture, products from animal husbandry, and land for farming and market for investment.
But I was also surprised at the rare “frankness” in his write up, hence (to paraphrase) “We the Hausa-Fulani too need Nigeria, and there are five things that we need: The North has no way of having immediate access to the sea than from Nigeria; the north needs the current oil revenue for its development; the North also needs education and the teachers from the southern part of the country to come and teach us; the North needs the technical know-how the South has; and the North needs the investment from Southerners for her own development. And the Igbos need the Nigerian market for their businesses.” Suffice it then to say that if we can take the above, not necessarily in complete agreement but as a working premise, does it therefore not make sense that all concerned should endeavor to engage a process that can only solidify the obvious symbiotic relationships between the various groups and regions?
I have always believed that every part of Nigeria contributes something that is critical to the country’s survival and development, and it does not need to be oil. Natural resources is not the only thing needed to develop and grow an economy; there are countries such as France (that has no oil), Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and many others that have become economic giants without natural resources that comes close to what Nigeria has. Yet they live healthier lives, have better manners, and have a more ordered society than Nigeria. And to say that one section of the country or the other does not contribute anything to the national economy and growth because it does not produce oil is a mere fallacy that should be permanently discounted. After all, Nigeria today has so many problems including corruption made more visible and attractive by illegal rents from the oil economy. How much worse would the country be if every state and region had or produced oil from its land? For restructuring to work, it must not be superficial but must address all areas of governance in such a way that the overall system or machinery of government becomes lubricated as a functioning machine.
The point has already been made about the current 1999 constitution and the way it was arbitrarily ramme down the throats of Nigerians by the Abdulsalam Abubakar’s military dictatorship. It stands as the greatest irony of fate, that a regime that came to power by undemocratic, albeit unconstitutional means, became the one that prepared and approved a constitution for civilian democratic rule. With specific reserve domains and authority skewed in favor of one geopolitical interest or the other, Nigerians have come to learn the hard way, about the dysfunctional nature of the current constitution. They have also come to the bitter conclusion that the military may not be as equipped on the mechanics and sensibilities critical for constitution making in a duly constructed representative democracy. The first step in any restructuring therefore must come from reforming the current Nigerian constitution, because without it, any restructuring of the other levers or mechanisms of government would be akin to planting a seed on top of the desert sand. It will sooner than latter be blown away.
In democratic polities as in most other forms of governmental systems, the Constitution provides the foundation as well as the mechanism for the distribution of power, authority, and incentives of citizenship. A cursory review of the Nigerian Constitution presents a surprising portrait of a project that was not well thought out in all its ramifications.
Prof. Kalu a Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science & National Security Policy and a Fulbright Scholar, writes from the United States.
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