… Why we must urgently reverse to the dream of our founding fathers

Since the proper federalism that triggered exponential growth of the North, West, East and Midwestern regions was destroyed by military politicians, Nigeria has not recorded any tangible growth in any economic or political sense.

The popular proverb in Igbo land that says that what a man can see sitting down, a child cannot see even if he climbs an iroko tree best describes the miserable shackles we are experiencing just like efforts in futility. Again, it is said that once one deviates from focus point, h e gets distracted and distraction can lead to destruction.  Nigeria has since 1914 gone through many phases in its political development. It has passed through the colonial era, the period of agitation for independence prior to 1950, the self-governance period of 1950-1960 the post-independence period of 1960-1966, the military era of 1966-1979, the period of democratic rule of 1979-1983, another military era of 1983-1999 and the current democratic dispensation which started in 1999. The colonial era brought about economic stability in the administration of the country. This economic stability continued in the period after independence as the country was administered on regional basis, as the founding fathers of the country, conscious of the realities of the time and the diversity of the ethnicities that make up Nigeria, strove to make that diversity a source of strength for the overall development of the Country. They therefore strengthened the Regional System of government and under them, the regions were able to develop economically and politically. Each region, in an atmosphere of healthy rivalry competed with the others in a bid to provide the basic amenities of life for the citizenry. They placed a huge premium of agriculture and were able to generate income sufficient to put in place long lasting policies and infrastructure many of which serve to this day, as a testament to the greatness of Nigeria. This however did not last as the military incursion into politics which started in 1966 brought with it a regression of the gains of the founding fathers.

Just recently some political elites saw the need for the nation to be restructured basically due to the way things have unfolded in the Political, Social and Economic sphere of the nation. A lot of eyebrows were raised when this issue came up and we had different reaction from various political ideologists. While some where seeing the idea as a right step in the right direction and as a means to an end, an idea which time has come and yet others were of the school of thought  that the idea as that which we need to exercise caution as we put more confident in scheme of things. On the side some see it as a secret weapon by a section (cabal) to break up the country so that others would not have access to the oil and gas resources, invariably the main stay of the economy only available on one part of the country.   

Come to think of it, when firstly the issue of restructuring was brought up by the former Military Head of state General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, a lot of questions came to mind thus do we need restructuring at this moment in time?, which region stands to benefit more from this idea?, what are the motives behind the clarion call?, Which region will embrace the idea and which will not?.

Incredibly, as if demonic forces have blinded our eyes to against the truth, Restructuring and Federalism have become the most misrepresented words even by those who should understand and work for their actualization in the interest of peace and progress of Nigeria, it must be stated unequivocally. However, that the honest pursuit and enthronement of federalism in its true meaning will be hugely beneficial  to all Nigerians from all the geo political zones. The first and the most fundamental point is that there is a common denominator, poverty and mass illiteracy all over Nigeria.

The effect  of those decades when the military overthrow the finesse as well as practice of federalism are being felt nationwide in other words, the real problem with Nigeria is not understanding the impact of the over throw of the principle of federalism, a system that once triggered the growth of Nigeria. The first military head of state Lt. General Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi thrashed federalism threw a unification decree No34 in 1966 before he too was killed in a counter coup that did not restore federalism. In fact, successive military Government beginning from General Yakubu  Gowon, General Murtala Muhammed to General Sani Abacha kept creating state that has become mere  Administrative capitals and peripheral beggars instead of federating unit of development, the states since 1966 have been depending on crumbs from the centre

Since a proper federalism that triggered exponential growth of the North , West, Eastern and Midwestern regions was destroyed by military politicians, Nigeria has not recorded any tangible growth in any economic or political sense. The selfless leaders from the North and Southern region  of Nigeria in the first republic were arguably the last of the great men this country has had. Since federalism or regionalism that propelled them to greater heights collapsed, crass opportunism and enlightened self interest have given birth to small minds a ‘Big men’ who have led the country to the nadir of reproach. Nigerian brand of democracy has been described with all manner of negative words; the jungle style, survival of the fittest – a do or die affair. It is the resilience or is it the recidivism of the Hobbesian primitive existence where life is “nasty, brutish and short” for the multitude of people, even in the 21st Century. It is the lot of 200 million inhabitants in a land of abundant promise whose faces are a mosaic of misery and whose bodies are a calligraphy of agony. It is the plight of over 250 ethnic nationalities otherwise generously endowed by the Creator, but now reduced to a hell-hole of multiple deprivations, multiple illegalities and multiple systems failure. If we continue on this track, it is certain that they may finally nail the national coffin under the appellation of democracy.

A good name is said to be than gold and a child can cross rigid hurdles just because his father lived a good life. Come to think of national complex of Nigerians in Diaspora. Are they really proud of national identity? I stumbled on this report by Rev. Fr. George Ehusani titled “Of Rogues, Gangsters and Politicians  where he shared an experience. In the course of my travels and my presentations, I was constantly challenged or confronted with the bundle of contradictions that is called Nigeria. And on one or two occasions my moral credentials as an ethical crusader were even called to question: Why, they said, would a Nigerian living in such a morally bankrupt society (as was seen portrayed in their recent elections), come here to teach or preach to us about good governance, leadership, integrity, ethics or responsibility? “He should be told to go back home and preach to his people, for charity begins at home!”  I was derided and lampooned for coming from a tribe of fraudsters, internet scammers, treasury looters, drug pushers and election riggers. I went around with my head bowed low, bearing the burden of our national disgrace. I felt humiliated not by the acquaintances and adversaries in Singapore or Hawaii, but by our own autochthonous conquerors whose greed for money and lust for power have pushed the country into a state of acrimonious poverty and social dislocation that have assumed the moral equivalence of war – a state of affairs where illegality is the norm, where criminality is handsomely rewarded, and where gangsters and bandits call the shots and set the tone.

Recently, the former governor pf Anambra State Mr Peter Obi has blamed Nigerian Presidents, govs, ministers as cause of Nigeria’s problems rocking the nation. “There was need to pray for the country to withstand the “impending collapse staring her dangerously in the face.” Speaking at the 9th diocesan women conference of Ebenezer Anglican Church in Onitsha, Anambra, he maintained that the recent agitations coming from different sections of the country were as a result of joblessness which he attributed to “accumulated leadership failure” in the country. “Our dear country is the only country in the world that has as many as 11 million children out of school. Between 70 and 80% of this scary figure do not have jobs. So, why won’t there be agitations all over the place? Be it Biafra, Arewa, Niger Delta; it’s just because of one thing – accumulated leadership failure all through the years since independence. The real scary problem is that it will even get worse as we move into the future. When all these people without jobs get to retirement age and there’s nothing to fall back on, then the real danger comes in the open.” He concluded

Be that as it may, all the regions have roles to play and are all important. It is therefore time to tell Nigerians including those who profit from misleading the people about the many benefits of restructuring. Just as there was oil in the south , cocoa in the west , rubber  and timber in the mid west. The north of Nigeria use to play host to most of the best textile companies in the country and indeed west Africa. The same north use to be the home of the famous groundnut pyramid in Kano and a place where cotton, millet and among numerous other economic crop grow. it is a shame that Nigeria  leaders would not be eager to harness these vast mineral agriculture and water resources in the area from the North central to the North West within the context of truly federal Nigeria. Benue states for instance can go to Nasarawa state and invest in some mineral resources and employ the people there just as Lagos stste is currently doing with kebbi state in rice production. It is Kebbi’s citizens that will be employed and taxes will be paid to the state after all that way, there will be a balance of opportunity to exploit what is available in all states.

Instead of shooting down and foreclosing discussion of opportunities that abound in fiscal federalism, all Nigerians should encourage their representatives to take another look at the recurrent  and exclusive legislative list that gives too much power to the federal government in exploitation of mineral and resources should be relaxed and the ruling All Progressive Congress(APC)  should begin the process of devolution of power to the federating unit for the rapid development of the country.

Besides, those who wield federal power now should seek to renew their mind and be persuaded that Nigeria cannot be broken or hampered by the practice of federalism as some have mischievously submitted, indeed federalism will even strengthen democracy and make the country grow economically

I think the 36 federating unit should be allowed to exploit all the natural endowments in their state and develop state policies based on priority and then pay their workers according to what they can afford. Development at the centre will be a mirage. Poverty in the federating unit which keeps asking for bailout from the centre before they can pay even basic bill is shameful and unacceptable too.

Therefore the time has come for Nigerian’s at all level and region to remove politics from discussion of many benefit of fiscal federalism and focus on how ventures such as cattle rearing, grains, gum Arabic, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and rice production etc in the North can be exploited for the glory of the region. This does not remove any steam from the effort at finding oil in the North –East which may be some added value against the background of diversification with emphases on agriculture and mining as central element in the political economy that all things are available in every state but not exploited until now is a shame of the nation. Government should step forward and remove obstacles to these resources and the values accrue to all citizens there from.

No doubt, the country is already factionalize over this matter. The elites caused the division which Nigerians do not need and the country was not always like this, in 1993, this same country organized presidential election in which a political party fielded a Muslim ticket that no one complained about anywhere. It was a pan Nigerian mandate which chief MKO Abiola won convincingly before the military cancelled the result. The same obtained in the election that brought Mohammedu Buhari to power in May, 2013. It was a popular mandate that was not disputed. Now history beckon on Buhari to see the popular mandate as one to be exploited to listen to what Nigerians are saying and implement true federalism. Nigerians, especially member of the elite must show an understand beyond the dubious position of those who associate true federalism with the balkanization of the country.

All regions stand to benefit immensely from restructuring and when achieved, it will go a long way to bring about healthy competitiveness and mutual synergy between the federating units, a catalyst for development which will metamorphose all regions. It will also divert the attention of those calling for disintegration of the country to also join hands on deck to forge a new path for the nation for the betterment of the generation yet unborn. Words of Rev Fr George Ehusani has been seen by a lot of people as prophetic as he says “Yet as a man of faith, I am convinced that our fate, the destiny of our dear nation, is not entirely in the hands of these warlords. My faith tells me that the court jesters shall not have the last laugh. I know for sure that soon, very soon, we shall be liberated from these criminals, these gangsters, these usurpers. The transformation shall come about either by design or by default, such as the aftermath of a general systems collapse that appears imminent to me. But it shall surely come about, for as presently constituted, the superstructure we have in place is only a pack of cards. It will soon come crashing down!”