We should negotiate Nigeria

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PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari speaks about Nigeria with a magisterial finality that makes the country seem a nice piece of estate devoted to pleasing his tendencies to rule by fiat. When he rules that the “unity of Nigeria is settled and not negotiable”, he steps beyond being magisterial to a new status of a deity. How, if we cannot negotiate Nigeria, live in it in unity?

UNFORTUNATELY, behind the President are followers acquiescing to whatever he says–no questions, no advice, no introspection, no contemplation. They have made the President a law unto himself, and certainly the judge of all cases, including his. These fellows have worsened the situation of Nigeria more than the current recession has done.

THEY have spent months mouthing the “non-negotiable, indivisible Nigeria” of the President. Their positions are mere regurgitations of lines that have become trite, for they add nothing to what we know, except the stridence with which they insist that Nigerians cannot discuss how they live with one another.

NOT done with reducing the debates to “no issues”, they have successfully wielded “restructuring” and “secession” into one meaning. Their intention is clear: those asking for restructuring are asking for the break up of the country. What is wrong with a break up? The Constitution is their witness that it is “unconstitutional”, to, as it would seem now, contemplate having Nigeria outside the way it is currently framed.

HAVE they not succeeded in distracting Nigerians into tangoing over keeping their country together, whereas, restructuring has nothing to do with breaking up Nigeria. If anything, restructuring can be the best guarantee of the future of the country. What a wonderful country that we have!

THE President has decreed that there would be no restructuring by any means, other than the National Assembly. The same National Assembly has severally affirmed that “Nigeria would not break up under its watch”, a song that the 36 State Houses of Assembly, adopted when their Speakers met in Owerri only days ago. It was a continuation of meetings that have held in Uyo, Yola, as if a nationwide tour was required to conclude that Nigeria was not working.

BLAMES shared across the polity, names mentioned to emphasise their roles in the enthralling mess, and the constant injection of the agitations of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), as the best reason for asserting that the time for restructuring is not now, have failed to address the larger question of how to rule a country with an over-burdened centre, which decides issues some of which States, or even local governments, should handle.

LITTLE progress has been made on restructuring since the breakdown on talks about mending a collapsing country in Aburi, Ghana, 50 years ago, led to the Civil War. Thereafter, restructuring the country meant the centralisation of most decisions to decapitate the abilities of parts of the country to develop, independent of the thinking at the centre.

IN 50 years, all parts of the country have depended on the centre for decisions about parts that those at the centre barely know. Insertion of provisions in the Constitution about the unity of Nigeria being a matter that had passed the negotiation stage, left Nigerians shackled in a union that made no provisions on how they would live for their own benefit.

UNITY in the current setting is an end in itself. Once the country is hemmed in, falling parts refused any indications of their decay, the “prosperous enteritis” gloating over their ingenuity, and others use the Constitution to threaten those who suggest that things could be done better, Nigeria is deemed to be on the march to progress.

WE think of unity differently. If we are to consider unity a national value, it must have benefits that can improve the lives of our people. How does the unity of Nigeria benefit Nigerians, except the tiny few, who have legislated a different life for themselves at the expense of the people? Can the resources that are wasted running an unwieldy federation, which through the Constitution ensures that the States replicate the waste, not be avoided?

HAVE our “non-negotiable” proponents thought of how to harness the resources with which to run Nigeria’s humongous bureaucratic wastes, when oil stops earning revenue? When shall we start thinking of Nigeria beyond the immediate gains of occupying office? When will the blackmails about the purposes of restructuring stop?

THE concentration of powers at the centre has created a cessation of thinking in the States. Competitions for economic and social developments that the various regions had because they harnessed their resources, invested them for their good and paid taxes to the centre, from which they also benefitted, have been wiped out. In their place are guile, greed, and outright disruptions of development of the States.

RESTRUCTURING is not an option or alternative to whatever Nigerian leadership is doing now. It is an imperative that even the most developed countries still adopt to do things better. The befuddlements that have been heaped on it are unnecessary interruptions to injecting life into an ailing patient called Nigeria.

HOW restructuring will work is what Nigerians should be discussing now. The immediacy of the matter does not grant us the luxury of the delays that some patriots insist on throwing into the discussions. The patient, Nigeria, is in the intensive care unit, and treatments for what ails it, must be dressed with emergency attitudes that reflect the seriousness.

THE “non-negotiable Nigeria” is a military imposition that stripped us of our freedoms, our rights to be open with our fears and doubts about the country and offering these concerns on national platforms that would have attended to them. Nigeria was run as a pretense; it is no longer sustainable.

WHAT are the benefits of restructuring, some would ask? When Nigeria restructures, Nigerians would have the freedoms to think, to talk, to engage in alliances and associations that would create wealth across various platforms of our existence, engender trust, generate relationships that celebrate competences of our various parts, and rejuvenate a competiveness that would see individuals, organisations and governments engaging each other in worthy pursuits away from the constricting structures of Abuja deciding everything.

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