Restructuring has become a word to love or loathe, depending on what part of the divide you stand, in the ongoing heated debate about our nation and its future.
As typically Nigerian, there are powerful protagonists and antagonists, offering powerful views on the desirability or otherwise of a restructured country.
But is it a term to be scared of? Should Nigerians split hairs over it? Who’s afraid of restructuring? Should anyone truly be afraid of restructuring?
What does restructuring even mean?
Wikipedia defines it thus: “Restructuring is the corporate management term for the act of reorganising the legal, ownership, operational, or other structures of a company for the purpose of making it more profitable or better organised for its present needs.”
My view: No Nigerian, who truly wants this country to be great and prosperous, should be afraid of restructuring. It is about a country serving the interests of the majority rather than a few, fat cats in the corridors of power anytime and every time a new government is in power!
Only those benefiting from the present lopsided arrangement, where the poor are getting poorer, in spite of our rich material resources, should be angry and afraid of restructuring. In my view, it is not a North, South, West/East tangle. It is not an ethnic or religious strife. Restructuring is about putting right structures in place to enhance efficiency of our system.
But, of course, restructuring will not be ‘the end all’ of our problems. If we have a restructured country without the right leadership, we may well be on a circus. Restructuring must go hand in hand with focused leadership, leadership that delivers for the people.
Restructuring should build for us a strong union, anchored on justice, equity and fairness. That, I believe, are the key issues confronting our nation.
That’s the reason we are a federation of the angry. Nigerians need to honestly engage themselves and find ways to resolve the issues confronting them.
To confront these challenges, we need to go to the drawing board and examine how our country can begin to work for citizens irrespective of tribe, region, religion or any other primordial sentiments.
That, I also believe, is what restructuring should be about, not a breakup. Breakup? No!
Below, excerpts of FEDERATION OF THE ANGRY, first published few weeks ago, which encapsulates my argument for frank conversations on strengthening the bond of unity and the beauty of our diversity…
IF YOU were a Nigerian living in Nigeria, or you had your gaze hooked on happenings in the fatherland, you would think Armageddon may well be nigh. You would believe that the cataclysm prophesied by the Americans is about to happen. And if you were the fearful or lily- livered, you would fear and tremble at some of the volcanic eruptions, emitting from the mouths of some of our brothers.
No one can blame the perplexed citizenry. No Nigerian, who witnessed or read about the fratricidal feud, which ravaged the country for 30 crazy months, would not be worried at the way things are going, and the fear that things could snowball into something less palatable.
How can we have a situation where both the youths and, sadly, the elders are talking hate and anarchy at the same time? What kind of nonsense is going on? If anything, Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb, which could explode sooner than we think, except we call the mongers of hate and drummers of war to order. Then, urgently call a conference, meeting, round table or whatever name we wish, to iron out our differences. That is the way to go if we truly desire to have one country, live as one in peace and unity.
We can’t continue to sweep the issues that challenge our nationhood under the carpet. We can’t continue to pretend that all is well, when all is far from being well. We can’t continue to patch things up, hoping that by pretending and hoping that our troubles will be over. By so doing, we will only be postponing the doomsday.
What am I getting at? The agitation in the South-East and the response by the northern youths, and some of the elders, are quite baffling, but not altogether surprising. The altercation clearly shows the misgivings, suspicions and mistrusts that have characterised the relationships among Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities, especially the major tribes in the country.
For far too long, these sentiments (suspicion and mistrust) have been sup- pressed, instead of being confronted. For too long, we have had parts of the country in muffled grumblings, sometimes loud, but oftentimes ignored and shoved aside, as inconsequential rantings. But, problems as experience tells us, are not wished away, but solved.
Truth be told, Nigeria’s successive leaderships have continued to play the ostrich. They talk soothingly about the indissolubility and sovereignty of Nigeria not being negotiable; that we must continue to live as one nation. But, their governance and leadership style often promotes factors that question the same sovereignty they claim to champion. When a leader champions ethnicity, tribalism and cronyism, is he promoting the concept of one, indivisible country?
What point am I making? Nigeria is going through this terrible pass because we have blatantly refused to confront three key issues that strangulate and divide us: Equity, justice and fair play. No nation can have peace or make progress without fair play, without equity, without justice, no matter how far it pretends to go. That’s at the core of the current crisis.
Every part of the country believes it is being short-changed. The Niger-Delta that produces the largest chunk of the wealth of the nation, can’t seem to reconcile its squalid condition to the amazing wealth that has been taken from its soil; the South-East can’t understand the reason it continues to be treated like second class citizens in the allocation of the nation’s resources and political positions; the South-West demands each region gets a commensurate allocation of what it contributes to the national till, and the North is aggrieved that other parts of the country continue to deride it as parasitic, when it believes it had in the past also chipped in its wealth to national growth.
So, what we have had since 1960 is a federation of the angry. Every part is aggrieved. Every part is feeling cheated and short-changed. That’s the reason when a leader or president gets to power from a section of the country, he tries to satisfy his people because their turn to chop has come. And the other sections feel left out. And agitation kick starts. And the cycle continues.
Indeed, in real sense, what we have had are tribal and regional leaders posturing as national leaders. The bitter truth is that we have Nigeria without Nigerians. That is the stark reality facing us. That is the reason ethnic tensions are easy to ignite once some rabble-rouser or ethnic jingoist in the East or North or West, lights the flame.
The way out of this malady, this insanity creeping in to eclipse our tottering nation, is simple: Call a frank and urgent discussion of the federating parts of the union. And as I have argued here in the past, “If we must talk, let’s talk seriously, we must be free to talk all the talk. No area must be designated, ‘no go.’ Let the talk centre on the totality of our being, our nationhood. Let us be free to discuss if we wish to live as one or separately. There should be no hypocrisy or pretences. Of course, I want to be part of one, big, united family. But in a union of perpetual acrimony and mutual distrust, we must be free to discuss our nationhood and terms of our union. You may be shocked to find that many of the delegates will vote to remain one united and indivisible country.