Restructuring is the only human path to the survival of Nigeria now, Professors said on Thursday during a discussion on Midwest Movement Whatsapp group organized by the convener, Dr. Pedro Obaseki.
The discussion titled “Restructuring the Nigeria Federation: The path to true federalism and resource control” which was monitored by NAIJA CENTER NEWS was delivered by Prof Edoba Omoregie – University of Benin, Benin City and his counterpart, Dr. Aghogho Akpome – University of Zululand, South Africa and moderated by Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, Delta State University, Abraka.
The discussion was organized to allow members to ask questions about the need for Nigeria restructuring which has raised several specks of dust and rejected by the current administration led by Mr. Muhammadu Buhari and his vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
The discussion started at about 17:55 and ended at 20:00 hrs on Thursday evening and all posts to the groups were prohibited by Dr. Obaseki to enable members participate solely.
Restructuring in Nigeria has gained little or no attention as the Nigeria elites, particularly from the Northern part of the country believed it’s a jibe at them and an instrument to reduce their grips on the country political terrain.
Contrary to the view, Dr. Aghogho argued that “restructuring will give Nigerians the rare chance of national self-definition and political will-formation which is sorely lacking among most Nigerians. It is this sense of estrangement from and near rejection of the idea of Nigeria that caused Awolowo to describe Nigeria famously as “a mere geographical expression” and why Balewa spoke of the Amalgamation as “the mistake of 1914”.
“Given our history of colonialism and the fact that we were forced together for the selfish economic objectives of the British, restructuring is a golden opportunity to own the nation and be committed to it.
“The process of restructuring and the negotiations that will necessarily attend it will fulfill the purposes of popular consultation such as was proposed by the calls for a sovereign national conference in the 1990s and the calls by minorities during colonial rule. In this sense, it can fulfill the difficult but necessary need to get Nigerians sitting on one table and shaping their destiny together.
“This is what the seminal notion of an “imagined community” is based on
“This has the potential of changing the adversarial relationship and mutual suspicion of the constituent regions and ethnic collectives
“Which is what led in part to Isaac Boro’s rebellion in 1966, the fratricidal Civil War and Niger Delta militancy from which we are yet to recover”
The lecturer further argued that restructuring was the only instrument to decentralize the power and a complete balance to the tiers of government.
“It is important to note that restructuring is the only path to the formulation of a decentred power arrangement that brings different arms of government as well as the different tiers of government into balance
“This is a simple definition of true Federalism which is so far the most successful form of governance for multicultural entities such as ours
“A third philosophical imperative of restructuring is that it enables us to address fundamental issues of the polity rather than dissipating our energies battling with symptoms such as corruption and inefficiency rather than the root causes of our problems. “
In his own deposition, Prof Eboba argued that the current system of government does not encourage Nigeria diversity. He stressed that with the current system, the four regions of Nigeria is restless.
“We must appreciate that our country is a classic example of one that must be governed through a system that accommodates its diversity.
“The current federal system does not promote nor guarantee accommodation for Nigeria’s diversity, not even for the apparent “gainers” of the amorphous system. I will explain this by saying that none in the east, west, south or north of this country is at peace with self or with each other under the current system.
“The idea behind the changes that were foisted in the 1979 Constitution was to create a central government that will blunt centrifugal forces through pulling everyone to the centre.
“The system is unworkable and has actually boomeranged. Those familiar with physics will agree that pulling forces together with granting sufficient allowances or space will sooner create a structural collapse.
“So, the primary benefit of restructuring to is to take the heat off our being too tightly close by a process of decentralization consistent with basic federalism principles; because in the final analysis, restructuring is re-Federalisation.
“The second point is how do we go about decentralizing without rupturing the country’s peaceful coexistence? The philosophy of restructuring will create a platform for civic and civil engagements on the specific details of reforming our federal system, setting out timelines, the immediately possible, those matters that can be differed, those that may require legislation or constitutional intervention or even policy approach. Except we agree on the need for these, there will be discordance,” he lectured.
The discussants agreed that restructuring was the only human path to the survival of Nigeria, adding that the country is in a slow death and the fates of others such as Yugoslavia and Somalia may beckon ominously unless Nigeria bend, like South Africa, did with CODESA in the 90s, and the USSR and Ireland, the country might be at the brink of disintegration.
Meanwhile, the Vice President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo had argued that Nigeria only needed good governance and not restructuring.
The VP said this while delivering the 40th-anniversary lecture of the Association of Friends in Lagos.
Osinbajo spoke on the theme “Restructuring and the Nigerian Federation” He said stronger state government, not geographical restructuring was what Nigeria needed.
“I have been an advocate, both in court and outside, of fiscal federalism and stronger state governments,” Osinbajo said.
“I have argued in favour of state police, for the simple reason that policing is a local function. You simply cannot effectively police Nigeria from Abuja; only recently, I made a point that stronger, more autonomous states would effectively eradicate poverty.
“So, I do not believe that geographical restructuring is an answer to Nigeria’s socio-economic circumstances.
“That would only result in greater administrative costs, but there can be no doubt that we need deeper fiscal federalism and good governance.”