Restructuring; Forget The Messengers, Deal With The Message -By Tope Oke

Filed under: National Issues |


Once upon a time, the world looked forward to the birth of one country; Nigeria. Prior to Independence, the nation had showed huge potential to be Africa’s exemplary leader in a period of a wave of clamour for independence sweeping across the continent. The sovereign nation was born with a parliamentary system of government with a significant measure of self-governance by the three regions which represented the three major tribes in the country; The Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo in that order while the centre was given exclusive powers with matters relating to defence, economy and foreign relations. However, after the military intervened in politics, successive regimes continued a process of decimating the powers of the regions by creating, needlessly, state after state which morphed into the powerful centre in Abuja now.

Whether the political bigwigs then were more excited about the prospect of independence that they didn’t see it coming but the British, like they did in most of their other colonies, managed to design the country in a way that gave undue advantage to a certain part; the North, so much so that upon Independence, the northerners easily won 134 of the 312 seats in Parliament which meant that they, even up until now determined to a very large extent, the future of the country.

This, amongst other major issues is simply why there have been repeated calls for the restructuring of the country. It is quite ironical that the most backward region of the country, dominates the political landscape. It is even more ironical than the bible being the most shoplifted book ever. In a core context, if we mix political history with structure, then an Easterner can only aspire to rule Nigeria. Only aspire! Only once have they managed to produce the head of government and it was short-lived. The Northerners on the other hand not only determine who becomes leader, but who heads virtually every sensitive government agency or parastatal headable.

The quota system which was introduced in order to ensure a balanced representation and create opportunities for people in the so-called disadvantaged regions has not only been a clog in the wheels of development but has further disunited the country. This federal character principle has been manipulated by the elite to fan the members of ethnicity. Even though the ‘disadvantaged’ regions receive extra allocations to sort of improve their education for instance, their status, miraculously hasn’t changed many years after. States like Sokoto, Taraba,  Zamafara and Yobe have 9, 3, 2 and 4 respectively as cut off marks to get into Unity schools, yet their counterparts in nearby Benue have to score 111 or in Kogi 119, yet the country uses the same curriculum and write the same exam! Strangely, it is these students who will end up heading the Customs, Judiciary, Police etc.

It is even more abnormal that after 18 years of democracy, Nigeria still adopts a Constitution that was bequeathed by the military. The document has been begging for change for so long. This is a document that appears to promote tribalism over competence under the pretext of protecting the country’s non-existent federalism. Every time the law makers attempt to amend it, another loop hole emerges. It is quite apparent that most of the political crisis the country has been engulfed in is the manifestation of the structural flaws of the federalist framework. It is crystal clear that the document needs to be done away with and another one created which reflects the voice and aspirations of ALL Nigerians.

While it is quite unfortunate that the recent cry for restructuring is being magnified by those who had hitherto turned a blind eye and deaf ear to it, it is time to forget the messenger and listen to the message. It is time that this country is re-arranged for the betterment of 170m people. It does not make any sense that we still have federal roads within towns and cities which are in a permanent state of disrepair, causing untold hardship and agony to the citizenry. It does not make any sense that we have the Police, the F.R.S.C and the V.I.O all scrutinizing vehicles and vehicle documents. It is an aberration that you cannot get a certain job because you are not from a certain part of Nigeria all in the name of Federal Character. It does not make sense that we have States whose governors do nothing than to go to Abuja every week and wait for the big allocation at the end of the month that makes him decide his next port of call on the world’s map.

Perhaps, what needs more restructuring is the orientation of young people in the country. The days of lining behind parties and individuals for pecuniary benefits should cease. By now, we should have realised that politicians, irrespective of their parties are all play a game of chess and no brainers who the pawns are. It is time to jettison this APC-PDP and whatever party affiliation or the Buhari-Jonathan camps and advocate for good governance irrespective of where it comes from. The truth is   nations are driven by a common ideal and purpose and not by the homogeneity of their race or religion. The sooner we realise this, the faster we progress.

The next elections are around the corner. Let us as young people with substantial voting power support individual(s) who will engineer the restructuring process. The era of campaigning to provide infrastructure is moribund. Developed countries are got to where they are because they strengthened their institutions, it is what we have to do to have a Nigeria of the future.