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Restructuring, panacea to Nigeria’s political bickering

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SINCE the return of Nigeria’s political system from the military to democratic system in 1999, there have been no time that the clamour for ‘true’ federalism and restructuring have made front-page discourse in the national polity than now.

The agitation for the practice of a true federating Nigerian State is paramount and also shaping the political landscape at the national scene.

The Nigerian political elites are not left out in the discourse as some have thrown their weight in support of the agitation for restructuring of the federal system.

former Nigeria Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in his view stated, “The restructuring of the Nigerian State, with regards to its federal practice is long overdue.

The present structure is a pointer to the tension at the heart of the agitations by many right thinking Nigerians calling for a restructuring and a renewal of the federation to make it less centralised, less suffocating and less dictatorial in the affairs of the country’s constituent units and localities” as quoted by Ita et al in the Journal of Political Science and Leadership Research (Vol. 5 No. 1 2019).

Nigeria being an already existing Federating State, there are calls that the call for restructuring might be primeval and also have political undertones especially when the view is that of a political elite.

Nevertheless, the survival and ensuring of a well-established socio, economic and political space of the Nigerian State is in tandem with restructuring.

However, the clamour for restructuring and the practice of ‘true’ federalism arose as a result of the draconic nature of the already existing federal system, the country’s problem of leadership,

the disparity in power sharing between the federating units and the centre, fear of ethnic dominance in the political space, Federal Character Principle and its application and above all , insecurity.

Late Prof. Chinua Achebe was apt when he opined that the trouble with Nigeria was leadership and this is a major reason why the practice of the Federal System has failed woefully in Nigeria.

According to Achebe, “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character.

There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to raise the responsibility, to the challenge of personal examples which are hallmarks of true leadership”.

 Over the years, the Nigerian State has been able to produce leaders who are committed to self-interest and personal gratification, corruption, leaders who place themselves above the constitution and as such do not adhere to the rule of law and separation of power.

Our leadership style has enthroned money politics, ethno-centrism, nepotism and mediocrity as the new order. To this effect, there is no transparency and accountability to the day to day activities, with regards to governance.

To the subject, Ishekwene(2018) noted, “due to bad leadership, we(Nigerians) are more divided than we were after the civil war.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is at crossroad at the moment in history; the choices we make as a nation regarding the leadership question of this country and the vision for our political, economic and religious future will be largely determined by the nature of kind of change that we pursue, the kind of change that we need and the kind of change we get”.

 To consolidate their economic power, the Nigerian political elites could instigate strife along ethnic and religious lines, which in turn leads to anarchy at the political scene.

The disparity in power sharing between the federating units and centre has necessitated the call for restructuring. Unlike the United States of America to which the Nigerian Federal system is modeled after, the 1999 Constitution as amended, vested on the centre more powers, made the federating units mere appendages and subordinates to the federal government.

The centre and the federating units do not share constitutional powers equitably.

The powers and functions of each level of government are clearly spelt out on the exclusive and concurrent list.

The exclusive list consist of functions only the centre can adjudicate on, these functions are 68 in number while the concurrent list consist of functions both the federating units and the centre could legislate on, with centre having the final say are30 in number.

In fiscal relations, the federal government also maintains an upper hand in the sharing of revenue allocations, while the federal government allocates to itself 52.68 per cent of the federal revenue, the states get 26.68 per cent, the whole of 774 local governments are left with 20.50 per cent and the oil producing states get 13 per cent as derivation fund.

 This unequal sharing formula have left the federating units at the mercy of the federal government as they over depend on allocation from the federation account.

Also, due to recent economic recession, the federal government had to bail out the states by providing funds for them to pay salaries. This negates the tenets of federalism as each component is supposed to be financially independent.

Hence, the constitution reserves the matter of security and its provisions solely on the centre. The military and the Police Force are constituted and controlled by the centre.

The governors who are meant to be the chief security officers of their respective states cannot make laws and orders for security without the directives of the federal government.

This could be seen in the recent event of the formation of ‘Amotekun’ security outfit by the South-west governors amidst the backlash it received from the centre.

The fear of dominance of the political space by an ethnic group has intensified the agitation for restructuring. This tension has had its presence since independence in the political scene of our nation as our political elites struggle for power along ethnic and political lines.

As Ake (1976) rightly puts it thus, “the form and function of the Nigeria State did not fundamentally change at independence because state power remained essentially the same immense, arbitrary, often violent and always threatening.

The political implication of this is that the political class perceived powers as everything and the control of state power became the focal and central preoccupation. Consequently, the struggle for power became so absorbing that everything else including development was slaughtered on the altar of political struggle for power.

Power politics apart from being seen as the quickest route to wealth was also the means to security and sure guarantor of general well-being.”

To this effect, it can be deduced that during the electoral process, the public opinion is not usually focused on who has the capacity to make the Nigerian economy better, salvage our dilapidated education system, enthrone the rule of law rather it centers on which ethnicity or region should power shift to. At the heat of the struggle, it turns to violence a s citizens lose lives and properties.

The principle of Federal Character was introduced formally by the 1979 Constitution to reduce tensions arising from the minorities’ fear of marginalization. Since its introduction, the Federal Character principle has been judiciously applied.

One of its tenets refers to issues of appointive positions in the federal ministries or agencies, appointments are to take a national outlook, taking cognisance of every state of the federation.

The principle of federal character was to prevent tribal or regional dominance of any government or its agency. In application, the Federal Character principle has been used as a tool to promote inequality, lack of transparency and corruption.

Provision of security is an obligation owed to the citizens by the state. This entails but not limited to ensuring food security, security of lives and properties.

Nevertheless, in Nigeria, security of lives and properties is nearly unattainable as the government seems to be lackadaisical in engaging policies that will enhance the protection of her citizens.

According to United Nations, Nigeria has a life expectancy rate of 55 years (Premium Times, April 2019). From the attacks of Boko Haram insurgents to the deadly Fulani herdsmen, the ever presence of abuse of power by the military and para-military forces, the Nigerian state have become unhealthy and insecure.

Further, the strife between the herders and farmers has crippled various economic and agricultural activities especially in the northern part of the country. The rate of kidnapping is also on the rise as the citizens are scared in engaging on the activities of their daily lives.

The Niger-Deltas’ economic activities have also been crippled as their environment is being degraded as a result of the activities of the multi-national companies. These have enthroned food insecurity, hunger and displacement.

With these recent events, the citizenry have at various times called on the federal government to devolve powers to the state and local governments, who are nearer to the people and as such, know the best means to tackle these developments.

Henry Nwosu, a political analyst had his view on the agitations for restructuring of Nigeria’s political system and the best means to arrest these tensions. He noted,while the agitations have raged on, there has been no agreement among the Nigerian elites on the “why” and “how” the country should be restructured.

Whereas there is a broad consensus among southerners that Nigeria needs to be restructured, their northern compatriots on the other hand are not so crazy about the idea.

The demand for restructuring is largely driven by what has been identified as a dysfunctional unitary system of governance that was foisted on the country since the 1966 military incursion into public administration of the country.

The system entails the full control of revenues generated from taxes and mineral resources at sub-national levels by the central government, which then allocates proportions of such revenues to the federating units in an inequitable manner.

The major focus of the restructuring debate has been on changing the percentage of the derivation formula for the regions where mineral resources are extracted.

This formula, which has gone through various iterations, has dropped from 50 per cent in the 1960s to currently 13 per cent. If we have to be realistic with ourselves, this preoccupation with sharing revenue in our extractive economy is anti development. Therefore, what we need is a restructuring of our thinking.

Nigeria needs a new development model that shifts the mindset of our states and the various regions of the country away from dependence on oil & gas and makes us a more economically prosperous nation.

 The six geopolitical zones should have a development plan upon which budgetary allocations will be anchored. For instance, the six states in the south-west will come together to draw up an economic blueprint or development plan for their region. The blueprint should be based on two factors –political and economical.

First, the regional restructuring would require each region to have its own political party, which would be based on their peculiar economic and social ideologies.

This would bring an end to the irresponsible proliferation of political parties and the situation whereby national political parties control the levels of government to the disadvantage of others.

The second advantage of the regional restructuring is that the economic blueprints of each region would be based on the competitive advantage of that region.

For instance, while one region might find it necessary to focus on manufacturing and services, another region might want its development agenda to focus on mining and agriculture. Essentially, playing to their greatest strength.

The blueprint will require the development of export markets and providing employment opportunities for people in that region. There would be independent bodies or institutions that will be set up to implement these plans.

The federal government’s annual budgets would be provided mainly for the funding of the projects that each region has earmarked to be accomplished in a particular year.

The funding would be made available to the regional development bodies with direct oversight from the state governors — rather than the federal government.Under this system, the federal government would divest itself from direct engagements in oil and  gas, education,

healthcare and all other sectors of the economy except defence and foreign policy. It would however impose federal taxes on some regions to fund its own activities.

 This would be in alignment with the streamlining of the federal government’s functions in public administration. This system would summarily bring an end to constituency projects and other bogus contraption that federal lawmakers receive. Such funds would be managed directly by the regions for their development. 

In addition, the bloated and redundant manpower deployed to keep oiling the machinery of the federal government would be greatly pruned.

Nigeria’s unitary system of government — apart from fostering corruption, which is the main culprit of the country’s underdevelopment — has also diminished the country’s economic competitiveness. States and regions that have the potential to be economically productive have become moribund economic centres that wait for monthly allocations from Abuja.

State government workers are unproductive because they are poorly paid, not always paid on time and are not held accountable for key deliverables. Governance has been reduced to a series of small projects with no vision for economic transformation.

The undue reliance on the lucrative Oil and Gas receipts has stifled the growth of other key economic drivers like manufacturing and agriculture. For instance, the manufacturing sector contributed 8.84 per cent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017, based on data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics.

 This is a pittance! Granted that the country has not developed capacity to export finished products, there is room to earn huge revenues from export of agricultural products; like countries such as Brazil have been able to do.

Developing a national economic blueprint based on regionalism has the potential to increase Nigeria’s economic competitiveness, unlock the economic potential of the country and advance our national development. Moreover, Nigerians can also live peacefully among ourselves as we develop the different regions.

To strengthen our regions economically and politically would lead a stronger and more economically prosperous Nigeria.

To this end, it is imperative to note that most Nigerians see restructuring as an end in itself rather than a means to an end. To gain the desired result of a true federal state, the Nigerian federal system won’t be doing enough having just a constitutional background rather its application should be done judiciously.

The present political system which vested so much power to the centre should be devolved. Restructuring should be focused on solving Nigeria’s leadership problems. Nigerians should be focused on electing leaders who have them at heart, who do not possess questionable characters. 

Nigeria do not need leaders who do not understand the economic and political problems of the country, not to talk of finding durable solutions for them.

 As Ita Et Al (2019) states, “if Nigeria is to succeed, it must have a leadership that is committed to the rule of law and has a demonstrable sense of fair-play and democratic tolerance, it must have a leadership with ability, integrity, and able to see beyond the ostentatious pomp of office.

Nigeria needs a leadership that will not only leave its foot-prints on the sands of time, but one which by dint of hard-work, fair-play, dedication and commitment, will live forever in the heart of Nigerians”.

There should be a national re-orientation of attitudes of the Nigerian citizenry, where each sees himself as a Nigerian first before identifying with his tribe. This will do a lot to bring to a stop the corruption practice, nepotism, favouritism, ethnic rancor, amongst others.It is acknowledgeable to state that the practice of ‘true’ Federalism and restructuring comes with enormous gains.

 However, these gains would be inevitable if we (Nigerians) do not sacrifice our self-interest at the altar for our national interest and progress. To earn the desired result, there is need for a new practice of dialogue, negotiation inclusivity, mutual respect, tolerance and above all, good lead

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