Beyond the Political Restructuring of Nigeria, By Ahmed Oluwasanjo
…as long as we are not restructuring Nigeria to build strong institutions that checkmate our parasitic political class from looting our commonwealth…and making accountability and transparency in governance a normal practice, we might just be building castles in the air in the hope of an Eldorado that will emerge in the name of ‘restructuring’ Nigeria.
For some time now, restructuring Nigeria has been the most reoccurring topic in the Nigerian public space. As it trends and continues to elicit divergent views from Nigerians, desperate politicians have not been quiet on the need to restructure Nigeria.
To worm their way into the hearts of the Nigerian electorate, they talk loudly about restructuring Nigeria as if the sole problem of Nigerian is her political structure, ignoring the fact that their greed and malfeasance are reasons why things are gradually falling apart in Nigeria.
Of course, restructuring could be a way to right some of our structural flaws if led by responsible and committed leaders. With proper restructuring, there are possibilities that it would catalyse rapid development across the country, as states will be forced to be more productive, relieving our too powerful but inefficient federal government of peculiar issues that affect them.
But, restructuring is not an elixir to bad, reckless, myopic and corrupt leadership that characterises government and governance in Nigeria. In other words, more than what our faulty federalism has cost Nigeria and Nigerians, the failure of leadership at different levels of government has made life in Nigeria hell for poor Nigerians, regardless of our regional differences.
The structure of Nigerian federalism is not the problem in the real sense; those running government in Nigeria, from the federal, state to local government are the problem. They are the ones who monoplised Nigeria’s commonwealth and democratised poverty, unemployment and hopelessness amongst the masses, at the same time.
That different agitating groups gaining massive followership and support, and triggering all kinds of divisive tensions in the land today, cannot be divorced from the increasing poverty, unemployment, and frustration in the land.
As such, we need not deceive ourselves. The debate on restructuring Nigeria will make no sense if it is focused on devolution of power and allowing state to generate and retain their resources, while leaving out hard questions of how it would improve the lives of the Nigerian masses who are the victims of both the present structure and those running it.
Nigerians are not making unrealistic demands on government at all levels. All that an average Nigerian seeks is a good life; quality education to develop the mind to solve problems, a good job to earn and lead a decent life, infrastructure, justice and fairness, and a secure environment to thrive in.
If regardless of our faulty federal structure, the political class, their children, family members and cronies are leading the good life, does it make sense for us to believe that ordinary Nigerians are lacking the basic needs of life because of the same structure?
As such, I think before believing that our major problem in Nigeria is our faulty federalism and that restructuring is the solution, we must honestly ask and demand answers to the following questions:
One, how would restructuring Nigeria by the devolution of power and the acrual of more resources to the same parasitic, irresponsible and thieving state governors and local government chairmen, enable the average Nigeria to access a much better life?
Two, will greedy state governors who are more concerned about themselves suddenly become more responsible the moment they are in control of the resources belonging to their states?
Three, can we trust state governors with more resources and power when what they have achieved with the present resources at their disposal is nothing other that simply enriching themselves, friends and family members, while there is increasing poverty, unemployment and infrastructural decay in their various states?
To be candid, calling for the restructuring of Nigeria in a manner that gives more power, resources and responsibilities to states, while the same bunch of predatory political oligarchs are still the ones to run the structure will only produce the same or worse results.
We know that the federal government is too powerful and, as well, too irresponsible, wasteful and inefficient to discharge its duties properly. However, state governments are not, in any demonstrable way, better than the federal government.
In fact, they could be more irresponsible, wasteful and inefficient than the federal government is. Comparing the resources that have been available to the different states in relation to their present levels of development best illustrates this claim.
In sum, as long as we are not restructuring Nigeria to build strong institutions that checkmate our parasitic political class from looting our commonwealth, putting in place mechanisms that ensure adequate use of available resources, and making accountability and transparency in governance a normal practice, we might just be building castles in the air in the hope of an Eldorado that will emerge in the name of ‘restructuring’ Nigeria.
We cannot restructure Nigeria and hand the new structure over to kleptomaniacs to run.
Ahmed Oluwasanjo writes from Abuja.