When will restructuring Nigeria start?

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THE ORACLE TODAY COMMENT

OFTEN, it is challenging to know what goes wrong with the best ideas about the future of Nigeria, particularly when the defects set in. Almost a year after Southern Senators met on the “political re-engineering” of Nigeria, a long silence has endured. Other groups also deliberated on their various versions of the re-structuring of Nigeria.

THESE meetings have produced nothing. Earlier in the year, the Al Progressives Congress (APC), had a committee report supported to the APC national Chairman on re-structuring. Promises of results within weeks have remained unfulfilled.

OPPOSITION to suggestions that Nigeria requires some adjustments in its administrative and political strictures, if it would survive, is often stiff. The reasons are obvious. There are beneficiaries of the skewed structures on which Nigeria runs. They are scared of losing their control of the various centres of power that would emerge from decentralisation.

ALL the concerns about the survival of Nigeria are secondary to power-mongering. Many legislators, while rightly claiming they are the ones to legislate on restructuring, have done nothing. They, too, are concerned, about how much of their powers, especially the appurtenances of their offices, would be affected.

CALLS to restructure Nigeria have been deemed the cry of the opposition. Some who want to obfuscate the issues say they were the cries of those who lost the 2015 elections. They know the befuddlement lacked substance, or they were at best outright lies.

MOST of the debates at the 2014 National Conference – when there were no winners or losers, as they are seen today – were on restructuring Nigeria. It did not matter the part, party or the politics of those involved. The main difference was on the method of the restructuring.

THERE is no unanimity on what restructuring Nigeria means. There may never be. The point is simply that different parts of Nigeria hurt from different things. Interpretations of a restructured Nigeria merely reflect the perspectives of the different parts of Nigeria in their pains.

IT is important that the different pains are diagnosed and not dismissed as tends to be the reaction of some parts of Nigeria to other parts. There also appears to be a misunderstanding of the fact that structural defects in the systems Nigeria runs are capable of perpetually bugging the country down by the differences that they generate.

EXAMPLES abound, but we would concentrate on the abuses that Education sector represents. The common ownership of administration of education by the Federal Government has resulted in maladministration and numerous constitutional abuses. They are all overlooked. The Federal Government through its agencies determines admissions into all government-owed higher institutions, including those that belong to the States. Federal government colleges are also in this category.

IN line with policies that enunciate federal character, a quota system is applied to gain access to these institutions. Admission spaces are seemed as national assets that should be apportioned to all the States, including those with unqualified candidates.

WE think that the practice ensures those States would not develop rapidly. The entitlement that the practice ensures means that candidates from some States only need to show up, and they have places reserved for them, for efforts that in some cases would produce less than 10 per cent of the marks demanded from other students.

A restructured Nigeria would not tolerate such practice. There would be better ways of getting those candidates into higher institutions without denying more qualified candidates places, a practice that violates the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. These practices violate Section 42 of the Constitution.

SECTION 42. (1) states, “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-

(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.”

IF these are not enough, Section 42 (2) re-emphasised discrimination through origin thus, “No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.” The deprivation and disability that Nigerians from certain parts of the country suffer through the administrative policies on admission to federally managed educational institution abnegate the constitutional provisions.

WHEN people discuss restructuring, the attention instantly goes to material and mineral resources, which evince the immediate greed of most of those concerned. Restructuring would throw up more resources in the management of the economy.

SOME of the wastes that the size of a centrally administered Nigeria entails would be saved. There would be no need for a National Assembly of the size that we have. It would also be necessary for the various components to operate according to their needs, and not necessarily the compulsion of replicating the bureaucracies of the Federal Government.

FEARS about losing power persist. Those who believe that the current structure gives them the best opportunities to access power have little concerns about what type of Nigeria they would govern. Membership of group counts everyone from the councillorship aspirant to the presidential hopeful. For each of them, restructuring could delay or deny them trophies that are within sight.

THE Senate rejected restructuring in 2017. Some of its members re-considering it, indicates the tensions that the earlier decision generated. It could also be a later realisation that restructuring was critical to any of them holding their relevance, something politicians can give an arm for, in the near future.

INDIVIDUAL interests of legislators should not be imposed on us as substitute to the common interest. The journey to restructuring Nigeria would take more meetings, some not as placid as the one just concluded in Calabar, to make a head way. The important thing is to start.

ISSUES about Nigeria’s future are so imminent that they afford no further latitudes for the indulgences of meaningless meetings. The 2014 National Conference and other national engagements have documented the concerns of Nigerians about Nigeria.

THEY can be dusted up in months to restructure Nigeria along lines that reflect the urgency of its survival. Restructuring is now a race against time. We ignore it at the risk of more peril.