By SEGUN OLATUNJI
There is no point in belaboring what restructuring denotes. Since 1966, there have been numerous review conferences on restructuring. By now from the review conferences, literature review, symposia, and articles we should comprehend what restructuring means and entails. We also should fathom the positions of the regions on restructuring: the South, the South East, the West and the Middle Belt are enthusiastic about restructuring while the North is lukewarm to restructuring.
Because of the dichotomy between other regions and the North, the polity is incessantly overheated causing regions to proclaim their nationhood: Southwest, Odua; East and South, Biafra. The disintegration of the country is reasonably foreseeable in the nearest future if compromise continues to be elusive. The clamor for restructuring is so ubiquitously deafening that conceding the presidency to any region will not assuage the agitation for restructuring. For real, ignoring or downplaying the exigency of restructuring of Nigeria will be too perilous.
Restructuring is the re-engineering of the relations between the center and the federating units, among the federating parts, and among the citizenry. It covers the superstructure and discursive issues of law, technology, economy, security, politics, infrastructure, etc, for actualization of good governance at all tiers of government, patriotism, and sustainable development.
We cannot deny the overdue issue of restructuring at this critical juncture, any further ado will blow the entity into pieces. Although, there are some variations in the definition and implementation of federalism, the core requisites are indelible: 1.) devolution of powers from the federal government to the states where the federal is limited to internal and external defence, foreign affairs and macroeconomics (executive list) and some very limited roles in the concurrent list; 2) the states deal with the issues of education, water provision, transportation system, electricity, policing, firefighting, etc; 3) each state controls resources and allocates part of its revenue to the federal; and 4) empowerment of minorities from marginalization.
The inveigh against the prevailing pseudo-federalism is at climax, provoked by distinction in poverty; eroded life-expectancy; skyrocketing unemployment rate; pervasive insecurity; ruinous infrastructure; rundown social amenities; over-dependency on finite mono-culture economy; over-centralization of power, fiscal policies and resources at the center; massive brain drain; stampeding business flights; wrecking inflation; audacious disdain for justice; glorification of corruption; and promotion of mediocrity over meritocracy, which is about to deliver a monster baby in form of disintegration of the country if exigent, holistic and patriotic actions reflective of our heterogeneity are procrastinated..
Lest we forget, the characterization of the current relationship between the fake federal government and the 36 states as a federal system is misnomer. In current Nigeria, where the center forms and maintains the police force, transfers funds from the federal to the states, controls resources given to the states, approves the amenities for state to establish and determines the ability of a state to generate electricity, cannot be said to conform to federal orthodoxy. Little wonder why the country is infested with precocious and intractable corruption, bad governance, sprawling poverty, pervasive security fiasco, deterrence to upward mobility, and auto-degenerative malaise which are axiomatic of a failed state.
Besides, many people mistake confederalism for federalism. Where confederation is an association of sovereign states, federation has only one sovereign center. While confederalism is characterized by weak center, the states are powerful, making dissolution of the country easier. In a federal system, both the center and the federating states are powerful, making the country powerful because the healthy competition and symbiotic relations among the states hastens development across the states, consequently, the country. In Nigeria, the current configuration weakens the center and emaciates the federating units because of the dependency of the federating parts on the center; it demotivates creativity and innovations for diversification of resources because of the financial largesse from the center to the unproductive states instead of incentizing productivity across the federating components.
Most of the proponents of restructuring have erroneously latched on to physical and security restructuring to the exclusion of institutional, attitudinal and fiscal restructuring. A holistic restructuring should be done within a set period of close-ended dates as opposed to slow-grinding approach with open-ended dates, especially after squandering 55 years (1966- 2021) overkilling restructuring. An inchmeal or delay-restart approach is not an option. The fact that esoteric individuals drew the 1999 constitution makes the document a nullity for various reason; thus, a pointer to either a restructuring or a new constitution or a burst. Geographical expression devoid of institutional, economic, security and attitudinal restructuring is more injurious to the nation and its citizenry than not having restructuring at all.
Whistle-blowing, non-governmental organizations, autonomous and financially independent judiciary, tribunal, security apparatuses, and research centers should be permitted to flourish in order to provide institutional back bone to nurture and nourish functional federalism and democracy. The attitudinal/mental restructuring must be geared towards socialization of the ultimate sovereignty (the electorate) on the provisions of the new constitution on continuous basis through several agencies in addition to be a part of curriculum from elementary to secondary schools, and all media: radio, television, social and print.
Furthermore, the paranoia about true federalism stems from centripetal forces with strong vested interests in the infested status quo, and ignoramuses assuming that confederation and federation are fungible, and assuming that oil is forever. And the centrifugal forces who subscribe to infinity oil suffers the same fate. The current pervasive insecurity will escalate beyond imagination and containment absent restructuring. Nobody will be safe, especially the political and economic prodigals.
Even in a true federation where there are minorities with the unique attributes like culture, language, religion, etc, the minorities are accorded autonomy so as to maintain their identities– Kurds in Iraq, Chechen in Russian, and Quebec in Canada –and to preserve the federations. Acknowledgment of the pronounced differences among richly diverse citizenry of a nation informs the wisdom of true federalism. Since Nigeria is a profound omni-gatherum, federalism becomes a sine qua non. Failure of India to adopt federalism after independence caused the disintegration of India into three nations (India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan) along religious line. In the Southwest, the Yorubas would like their traditional religions be on equally footing with the exogenous and foisted Christianity and Islam. In addition to the Nigerian Constitution, each state can formulate its constitution as it was done in the First Republic and is done in the USA, etc. Pluralizing security along the three tier of government would offer effective and efficient policing. In the USA, the center has its security agencies, ditto the states and the counties (local governments) without resulting into threat of dissolution.
The relationship between dishearteningly poor standard of governance and disintegration of Nigeria is not only causal, linear and beeline but also dangerously short. The sole viable intervening variable to keep us together is restructuring along true federalism. Nothing more, nothing less! Restructuring now and fast can head off the ominous disintegration, not conceding presidency to any region to muzzle the agitation for succession. The decibel of agitation for succession is so frighteningly deafening and maligant that only a rapid restructuring can occlude the minatory burst into pieces.
If importunate action in form of true restructuring is not taken, Buhari may be our last president. With the suffocating aliments pulverizing Nigeria and its citizenry spawning misgovernace and dystopia, our country may implode into several and disparate countries. This time, reliance on threatening and actual violence (agumentum ad culum) to mend the fault-lines may be nugatory and too late.
Any constitution that omits the involvement of the popular or foremost sovereignty (substructure) is on borrowed time. The popular sovereignty provides individuals for drafting committees, ratifies the drafted constitution, and ultimately votes for their representatives, and in some countries like USA, the popular sovereignty is entrusted with recallability authority to rescind or recall errant representatives as mechanism for accountability and propriety.
Ditto, the popular sovereignty has recallability power over judiciary in some climes like the USA. They can vote out any corrupt or indolent judge during electioneering period or referendum. In a null shell, we have four-tier of government: Center, state/provincial, local, and the people (the electorate). The major reason for socialization of the public for attitudinal change is paramount and endless: well-informed electorate is the life-blood of functioning democracy.
Suffice to conclude that failure to restructure now may lure the military into taking over, or the country irrupting into fragments. Any intervention by the military cannot retard the inevitability of the impending burst because of ethno-religious or geo-regional or political coloration of the military usurpers, just like bribery to concede presidency to a region for divide and conquer purposes. Regardless of the motivation behind the procrastination of restructuring of Nigeria—ethno-religious or geo-regional or personal or class interest—the stacking, stinking, and hopelessness of the unbearable status quo makes restructuring urgently imperative or risks dismemberment. Without more, our desideratum is restructuring in fact for development in effect, or de facto burst!
Segun Olatunji writes from UniWorld Legal Services, Lagos.