Some prominent Nigerians, including the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, recently made a strong case for restructuring of the country. The patriots, who spoke during the ‘Handshake Across Nigeria’ summit organised by Nzuko Umunna/Aka Ikenga and Core Federalists in Lagos, argued that the calls for restructuring cannot be wished away. Soyinka particularly argued that “a methodological way of stopping the bloodbath in the country is to reconfigure the nation. And nobody has the right, either through body language or any other means, to say no.”
Soyinka’s observation is central to understanding the need to rework the structure of the country and, he might have spoken for many Nigerians. Without doubt, the call is appropriate and timely. Many Nigerians believe that the country is long overdue for restructuring. The proponents of restructuring are of the view that it will save the country from disintegration.
Debates about the future of the country have been with us for a long time, but have lately taken a new dimension with persistent calls for restructuring. For the country to develop, its structure needs to be tinkered with.
Many Nigerians are frustrated that the All Progressives Congress (APC) government, which promised to restructure the country, appears to be stalling it. The government should listen to those calling for the restructuring of the country. Restructuring the country will make the federating units thrive better. To achieve this, we believe that it is time to go back to the vision of our founding fathers and return the country to true federalism which we claim to practise.
Having 68 items on the Exclusive Legislative list makes ours a unitary federalism unlike in the First Republic when we had only 12 items on the Exclusive Legislative list. In the present Concurrent list, we have 30 items, compared to 15, in the First Republic. Then, each of the initial three and later four regions, had the political and economic independence with coordinate powers with the central government.
In all thriving federations in the world today, that is how the system works. A federation, truly defined, means that the federating units have come together to cede some of their powers to a central government. The federating units create the centre and cede some select powers to it, and not the other way round.
What we are presented with therefore is a unitary form of government, posing as a federal system. The origin of this unitary federalism dates back to the unitary Decree 34 of 1966 following the first military coup in the country. Sadly, all our Constitutions since then have not deviated from that military arrangement.
The unitary federalism is, therefore, unworkable and unsustainable. Any system that is not working is subject to change. Nigeria as at now is not working and there is urgent need to change the structure in order to make it work effectively. There is no running away from this inevitable fact that confronts all of us. The sad reality is that this nation is not working for the vast majority of the people. There is no doubt that Nigerians fared better in the First Republic than now. We must look for those things that worked for us in the past and use them to solve some of our socio-economic problems.
The era of lamentation should be over. The discontent in the country does not augur well for development. We recall that the present APC government set up a restructuring committee under the chairmanship of Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, and it came out with some recommendations which are yet to be implemented.
The government should continue the process and go ahead with its plans to restructure the country. The restructuring of the country has become more imperative now than ever before. Let the government should not toying with it.