Nigerians across ethnic, political, and religious divides have now joined the call for the restructuring of the country.
Those who spoke with BusinessDay Sunday said the precarious security situation the nation has found itself in and the manifest failure of governance at the centre, have necessitated the urgent need to carry out the restructuring.
Within the last few years, agitation for the restructuring of Nigeria has been on the rise.
Currently, in Nigeria, it is believed in some quarters that the lopsided structure of the country and the military-imposed1999 constitution were responsible for the nation’s numerous problems. This has fuelled national mistrust among the various component units.
Within the last few years, there has been unanimous resolution by several ethnic nationalities; especially in Southern Nigeria that the country is overdue for restructuring. The leaders have consistently questioned the present structure of the country; they say there was the need to tinker with the current structure for effective governance and development.
Proponents of restructuring have argued that the restructured Nigeria with the six geo-political zones as federating units will work much better because these zones each would have economies of scale.
The leaders equally warned that the problems bedevilling Nigeria would likely remain in the years to come if President Buhari refuses to urgently restructure the country to eliminate the illegality of the 1999 constitution and re-order the country along the article of faith that the founding fathers of the country had with the British before the independence in 1960.
There have equally been oppositions to the idea of restructuring Nigeria, especially from leaders from the Northern part of the country; they accused the proponents of fronting such ideas to dismantle the country for their selfish interest.
But such thoughts have been waved aside, by leaders in the South who argued that the North may continue to oppose restructuring given the huge allocation it derived from the current socio-political configuration of Nigeria.
“The best arrangement for Nigeria is neither the unitary federalism the military leaders imposed on us, nor a confederation, but a real federation with a finely calibrated balance of powers and responsibilities between the central and federating units.
“In this scenario, the federating units can look after themselves more effectively without the ‘feeding bottle’ of the central government.
“The centre becomes less powerful, but not weak, because it will retain core sovereign responsibilities such as the armed forces and security services, citizenship and immigration, foreign affairs, and the central bank,” Kingsley Moghalu, a former presidential candidate, had said.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians have also argued that the problem with Nigeria was not only about restructuring, they say Nigerians must change their mind-set to get where they desire.
Former president Goodluck Jonathan said recently that the country can’t be restructured without first tackling challenges that polarise it, such as tribalism and nepotism.
He believed that the amalgamation of 1914
was not the problem but the divisive politics that had greatly affected the nation’s unity.
“Yet, all that does not seem to have provided the answer to the questions of the administrative structure of our country and how best it should be governed. As president, I had the privilege of celebrating our nation’s golden jubilee in 2010 and the centenary of our amalgamation in 2014.
“My belief is that all nations have their unique history; the amalgamation is not the problem in my belief, rather, there was too much emphasis on divisive politics and this has greatly affected our nation’s unity.
As a country, we have our peculiar challenges and should devise means of solving them but we should not continue to tilt our spleen on the amalgamation. My conviction is that discussion on restructuring will not help except we restructure our minds because some of the challenging issues at the national level still exist at the state and local levels.
“How do we restructure to make sure that those things don’t happen again? This shows restructuring alone may not solve all the anomalies in our system.
I believe that restructuring for a better nation is good but there are other fundamental issues we should also address.
“We cannot restructure in isolation without tackling the challenges that polarise our nation. These include nepotism, ethnic and religious differences as well as lack of patriotism. The issues of tribe and religion have continued to limit our unity and progress as a nation.”
Interestingly, despite the overwhelming agitations, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari have shown little or no interest in the idea of a wholesale restructuring of the country.
Recall also that restructuring was a key campaign promise of the party in 2015 and of President Buhari, while campaigning to be elected president.
Although the President has often avoided commenting on the issue publicly, in 2016, in a national broadcast he had said that the problem of the country was not the structure, but the way of doing things.
Following intense pressure being mounted on government , President Buhari and the APC in 2018 had set up a committee on restructuring, headed by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai; although the report has since been submitted with recommendations, implementation has been the major problem.
In the last few years, many leaders of the APC have also been clamouring for restructuring. Recall that some South-West leaders of the party had some time ago made some moves to push for the implementation of the party’s official paper on restructuring.
Some of the party’s chieftains, including Bisi Akande, Segun Osoba, Tajudeen Olusi, and Yomi Finnih, had visited the President at the State House to discuss the report of the panel.
They reminded the President that the reports had been endorsed by the APC and the National Executive Council (NEC), urging him to forward the report to the National Assembly.
They had wanted some of the recommendations to form part of the constitutional review being embarked upon by the bicameral legislature. It was their belief that such would help douse ethnic tensions that are rising across the country.
So, for political watchers, President Buhari’s action has not come as a surprise; they say his inability to keep to his promise to restructure the country was a demonstration of the all-round failure of his administration and manifestoes.
“If you are surprised that Buhari has not implemented the APC report on restructuring I am not. He was forced to set up that committee, right from the beginning it was clear that he saw such issues as the Southern agenda to divide the country and you know Northerners stand on that.
“This system favours them; he is part of that system. Buhari to me would not restructure Nigeria, such a plan can only work if a Southerner is in power, but a Northerner I am not too sure,” political analyst, Kunle Ogunwale said.
Meanwhile, political, ethnic nationality and opposition leaders have warned on the dangers of not restructuring before the 2023 election, they say that the country risks chaos if it goes into the election with this structure and constitution.
Amid the clamour for power shift to the South in 2023, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association and popular legal practitioner, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said recently that the country would not be saved by either an Igbo or Yoruba presidency, adding that a constitutional change and restructuring was overdue.
Olanipekun lamented that previous Nigeria’s presidents had rejected his idea to restructure the country and change the constitution because they were benefiting from the system.
“By and large, if you want to be elected into any office in 2023, don’t you want to govern people that would be alive? Then, you need a working document. We still have some time before 2023 and that is enough time to do something.
According to him, “Failure to do that, if an Igbo man or a Yoruba man wins, we will witness the same thing we are experiencing under President Buhari. Then, where are we going? Is that a way to build a country? Many of us were busy trying to out-speak one another during the last election in the United States, whereas we don’t have a system or institutions here.
“I didn’t just start advocating for the restructuring of Nigeria yesterday; it’s been a long time that I have been calling for the overhauling, replacement and restructuring of the 1999 Constitution.
“When I was the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, I led a team of lawyers to the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and among the things we suggested to him stoically and patriotically was the overhauling of the constitution.
“We also volunteered to assist him, but he didn’t like it. I told him in clear terms that this constitution would not take us anywhere.”
Amid the rising tension in the country and the fast approaching 2023 general election, stakeholders have advised President Buhari and the APC to yield to the call by Nigerians and save the country from impending doom.