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The most popular mantra in Nigeria today is “Restructuring”. Check the dictionary, and what you will find will certainly not give you the Nigerian understanding of the term.
To many Nigerians, restructuring means decentralizing the government at the centre and devolving more powers to the states which constitute the federating units. Some prefer to call it True Federalism while others simply refer to it as Resource Control. It envisages a system whereby the states will generate their own funds and contribute a percentage to the federal government to take care of issues like national security and foreign policy, unlike what obtains today where the federal government “owns” the mineral and natural resources in the land and the revenue derivable from it, and “shares” monthly subventions to the states.
When referred to some countries of the world where such system is operable, it smells nice. However, in governance and world politics, there is no one-size-fits-all system. That is to say, what may be a virtue in a clock may be sheer incompetence in a barometer. Some countries are doing very good with democracy, others are doing pretty much well with monarchy, while some others are excelling with a hybrid of both.
Sadly, the political elite in our country have succeeded in beguiling the masses, especially the teeming army of so-called social media activists, to believe that restructuring is a button you push, or a switch you flick, and all of Nigeria’s problems and contentious issues will be automatically solved. But things are not always as easy as they appear to be. There is a vast dichotomy between theory and practical.
For instance, the British government held a referendum on the 23rd of June, 2016 on the issue of seceding, as it were, from the European Union, otherwise known as BREXIT. The majority of the citizens (53.4%) voted in favour, as against 46.6% who voted against. The then prime Minister, David Cameron, who was against the move, honorably stepped aside to pave way for a Theresa May to come in and implement BREXIT. But today, after more than a year, the entire country is still stuck in a quagmire – not able to move forward and not able to BREXIT. That is happening in a clime that is acclaimed to be saner than ours and more politically enlightened and sophisticated.
Back home, in the part of the country I hail from (the oil-rich Niger Delta), my fellow countrymen believe devolution of fiscal power to the states will automatically translate into rapid rural and urban development. I urge them to read the story of South Sudan. They share a lot of similarities with us and there is so much to learn from their unfortunate tale.
When the likes of Ibrahim Babangida (who only a few years back infamously referred to the restructuring debate as a no-go area) and Atiku Abubakar are now calling for restructuring as the only panacea to the myriad of problems bedeviling our country, then it is enough to understand that the politicians are at it again. Nobody should struggle to convince me that these men mean well for Nigeria as a country. They had the opportunity at the highest levels and capacities to serve the country and we all know how they fared.
Otherwise, in a country where more than half of the states are non-viable, a country where the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the clear majority of its states hovers around a paltry 200 million naira per month – from which they are expected to pay salaries/pensions, settle other recurrent expenditures, and embark on developmental projects – who calls for devolution of powers to the states? Seriously, who does that?
The present form in which Nigeria is structured may be very defective, but corrupt realities cannot be changed by immature strategies based only upon good wishes and intentions. Let us focus on achieving the low hanging fruits first, to stave off hunger, poverty, diseases, unemployment, etc., and salvage us from the abyss of underdevelopment.
Restructuring cannot be achieved by fiat or mere presidential/parliamentary pronouncements. It involves a painstaking process of constitutional amendment or overhaul, which must be consented to by both chambers of the National Assembly and the thirty-six state Houses of Assembly in the federation. Knowing our peculiarities, it is a process that may not be accomplished in the next 10 years, as it entails resolving quite a number of contentious issues as they affect various groups and interests. This is what our shameless leaders, who have insulated themselves up to their tenth generations from poverty with ill-gotten wealth brazenly stolen from public treasury, are calling us to endure for the next couple of years if not decades.
It is true that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. But the undeniable fact remains that while this excruciating process will be ongoing, the poor will continue to wallow in extreme penury and destitution, whereas the rich will not drop a single item from their weekly shopping list.
After these contentious issues may have been resolved, if they will ever be, huge volumes of reports will be written, committees will be set up to review the reports, and other committees will be set up to review the review of the previous committees. And from there it will pass on to the implementation stage that will span for another 10 years, at the minimum, as our lazy governors will take their time to get used to the new reality of having to generate their own revenues from within, rather than the usual practice of dispatching their Commissioners of Finance to Abuja every month end to literally “share” from the “national cake”. Mind you, that will in no way affect their lifestyles. They will continue to lavish in opulence, ostentation and extravagance, while they preach forbearance and perseverance to me and my fellow ordinary countrymen and women.
In fact, it will only end up being a prolongation of our already overextended suffering.
Fellow Nigerians, we are used to the repeated sermons of patience and perseverance from our leaders. And whenever it seems like they want to finally attend to the plight of the ordinary man, they come up with long term plans that are unachievable, at least by their likes. Many years ago, the late General Sani Abacha came up with Vision 2020 with all its promises of making Nigeria an Eldorado of euphoria and utopia by the year 2020. Somewhere down the line, President Goodluck Jonathan came up with Vision 20:2020 with its reassuring promises of making our country among the largest 20 economies in the world in the year 2020. We are barely 3 years to 2020 and that vision is still very bleak.
We are tired of been fooled. What we need right now are timely interventions and rapid responses to the plight of the Nigerian on the street. The suffering in the land has reached an emergency level. We can no longer wait for long term projects. I know someone somewhere is already designing a wonderful blueprint of Vision 40:4040 which will make Nigeria the destination of choice in the year 4040. But please, we need quick fixes now to serve as emergency palliatives to our sufferings. We need immediate and out of the ordinary solutions to our challenges of hunger and underdevelopment. We do not need white elephant projects, embellished rhetorics, and classroom theories.
No politician should use us against us with this restructuring jazz. Atiku Abubakar was Vice President for 8 years, and he never knew the word, “restructuring”. Ibrahim Babangida was Head of State for 8 years and he never mentioned the word, “Restructuring”. Why now?
These crazy baldheads have used us as pawns on their chessboards for too long… But our mumu don do.
May God save us from us!
Abu Bilaal Abdulrazaq Bn Bello bn Oare