NIGERIA: TO BE OR NOT TO BE - RESTRUCTURING IS THE ANSWER
"………. a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. If you don't change, you die. It's that simple. It's that scary." - Leonard Sweet
"Stagnation is death. With love, accept and welcome changes." - Debasish Mridha
"The absence of conditions for self-realization in a country, region and community leads to stagnation, social and economic crisis" - Sunday Adelaja
"……Those values had to die out. There was no other way of escaping from them, and so, slowly and horribly, that phase of the moribund sovereign states concluded." - H.G. Wells
"When you stay too long in the same place, things and people go to pot on you, they rot and start stinking for your special benefit." - Louis-Ferdinand Céline
"What holds true for the individual holds true for a society. It is never static; if it does not grow, it decays; if it does not transcend the status quo for the better, it changes for the worse. Often we, the individual or the people who make up a society, have the illusion we could stand still and not alter the given situation in the one or the other direction. This is one of the most dangerous illusions. The moment we stand still, we begin to decay." - Erich Fromm
he above quotations have been deliberately selected to buttress the urgency for Nigerians and our leaders, to sit back and consider the need and essence of restructuring or reorganizing ourselves as participants in the global village. We do not want to be stagnant or decay as a nation. We do not want corruption and indiscipline to kill Nigeria. We do not want our moribund sovereign status to leave us in everlasting shame and disgrace among the comity of nations. Nothing stays the same and everything must change, whether we like it or not. Change is inevitable or for how long can we allow things to continue like this?
A nation in stagnation can never and will never progress. This is the case with our dear country Nigeria. Can we truly say and boast of progress at the revelation of the endless corruption saga? It sounds more like a fable or a tale told by an idiot! As educated as we are as a nation and as accomplished as Nigerians are around the world, who could have told us that some idiots can take us on such a long ride in the CONCORD plane of corruption, to the land of destruction? Incredible! These guys must be geniuses of no mean caliber! Geniuses indeed! We are talking of the loot of Millions and Billions of foreign currencies and our worthless/valueless Naira. No wonder Cameron said if UK were to be that much severely looted, she would have collapsed. What is really going on? It is time for Nigerians to wake up and guard their destiny, afterwards every man/woman is the architect of his/her own fortune or misfortune.
In trying to reflect on where we went wrong, we have due respect for History but things have degenerated beyond spending too much time on apportioning blames on the Colonial Masters. Agreed they orchestrated the Amalgamation to the detriment of some of the tribal groups which constitute Nigeria, we need not remain in the unwarranted position of being knocked down in perpetuity, groaning and groping. Needless to say that the bungling of 'apples and bananas' was deliberate. We are still suffering from that mess till today. We only have to get up and move on, like a group of people who are not unwilling to accept defeat.
For how long do we want to remain in this unfortunate mess? It is ok to fall but it is foolish to remain on the ground after a fatal fall. For a nation like Nigeria, the whole world is looking and laughing at us. No one is in doubt that we have it all - Mineral, Natural and Human resources, which can make us a world power BUT the pity of it is that we are still crawling, when we should be flying as a nation! Our contemporaries in the Third World category in the sixties and seventies like Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, India, and to some extent China are all gone! When will Nigeria be ready to run or fly as a nation? We have lost our human resources to Brain Drain to other lands. Our mineral/natural resources, which once made General Gowon, our former Military Head of State to say "our problem was not money, but how to spend it" had been massively looted by our unscrupulous leaders. This has left us as a rich nation with impoverished citizenry. What a paradox! May be after the ghost of restructuring, masquerading around and scaring some of our leaders, is finally defeated, we will see some light at the end of the tunnel as a nation.
What is the cause of the reluctance of some groups to accept the verdict of the people which was reached by the consensus of the Confab members? Imagine how many Billions went into bringing together hundreds of Nigerians from all parts and all walks of life? If time means anything to us as Nigerians, can we calculate how many man-hours went into that Conference/report? Look at the caliber of people, their distribution across the nation, their education, exposure and experience of the members of the Confab? Is it the fear of the unknown that could be responsible for the resistance to restructure? How can anybody fathom a sane human being or a group of people who will rather remain static than change position?
It is important for all Nigerians to cherish our togetherness as brothers and sisters, co-existing as citizens of Nigeria. God forbid our disintegration into separate nations on a tribal or geographical basis. We need to reshuffle things and give 'Justice' and 'fairness' a chance in Nigeria, and this is the essence of the dreaded word RESTRUCTURING buzzing around Nigeria. The artificial structure created for us has become moribund and obsolete. Change is inevitable. To keep Nigeria in this static position is to call for her untimely death!
For the avoidance of doubt, restructuring is not the dismembering or fragmentation of our dear nation. We all love and cherish the name Nigeria. That name is so precious to all of us we are reluctant to shed it but rather, may be, rename the emerging new states/zones or provinces, using whatever nomenclature we so desire to use such as Oduduwa, Biafra, Ijaw, Arewa, Danfodio, Hausa, Fulani, or others with Nigeria as the big umbrella. Long live Nigeria.
Who is afraid of restructuring? Who is being haunted by restructuring? These are valid questions on the lips of many Nigerians at this time for so many reasons. There are problems of all sorts among the people of different tribes, religions, ideologies, and political leanings, etc. The phobia is on the rampage and some people are on the run! This is actually like the song we used to sing when we were young:
Fire is on the mountain Run run run run
The fear of restructuring is now real and some people in Nigeria have become jittery. We may as well classify these people as suffering from Restructurephobia! In the beginning, Nigeria started as a secular state and people with two main religions as Christians, Muslims with a small minority as Atheists. Each of these, practiced according to their religious callings or not at all. Later in our development, the Sharia crept in and became institutionalized in parts of the country. Why should it now be difficult to restructure Nigeria so that each section or zone can progress at its own pace and convenience? No one is in doubt that things are not working well for us as a nation? An old saying that "If it does not fit, don't force it" is a perfect analogy for the Nigerian situation. Can anyone force a person of size 10 feet into a size 7 pair of shoes? This simple analogy describes our current state which makes it expedient to reorganize ourselves very urgently.
Restructuring Nigeria is about ensuring justice, equity, fairness in the distribution of what belongs to all of us, freedom of each entity, state, or region to develop at its own pace and to end the age-long domination of the country by one ethnic or religious group. These are reasonable and desirable attributes of a nation for peaceful coexistence and also to be in synch with new global era. One more important rationale for restructuring is that we will be more able to Rebrand Nigeria whose image has been battered over the years. The need to rebrand Nigeria is long over-due she needs a thorough repair or refurbishing!
As a matter of fact, in the religious domain, the north has already discretely restructured Nigeria by declaring Sharia in its Islamic Regions. Why can't other States declare its own laws - religious, tribal or other? The North's resistance to restructuring and opposition to restructuring is therefore inconceivable. It is tantamount to denying the rest of Nigeria, what it is already enjoying. The Sharia move by the North ought to be a welcome development and a sound precedence for others to follow. Has the adoption of Sharia disturbed the peace of Nigeria? Has it put the unity of Nigeria in disarray? At least not to my knowledge, despite its application even to the Christian communities in the Sharia area of jurisdiction. Restructuring will not disturb the Unity of Nigeria by any means. Only the lazy, greedy and selfish Nigerians will see restructuring only from one selfish (fiscal) dimension. Nigeria needs to be 'Born again' and be 'Rebranded'. Once we restructure we would be rebranding by default. We need to repair our image.
It seems obvious and inevitable that Nigeria cannot continue in its present unworkable and ailing format. The longer the change and transition into a new format as the United States of Nigeria, the longer it will be to achieve peaceful coexistence as a nation with many tribes and tongues. It is no longer true that we are sincerely "standing in brotherhood" as contained in the old national anthem. We have been in a state of denial for too long and it is damaging us as a nation, because of the incessant strife and conflicts. Failure to wake up to this reality means that by the time a peaceful restructure or forced fragmentation is actualized, the resulting fragments, may be seen as 'still birth' or states/nations too crippled to stand and walk.
Many well-meaning and dynamic Nigerians have written and spoken about the urgent need to change the status quo but the resistance to change had come from those who do not believe in change. The former Vice President of Nigeria, Abubakar Atiku, had said that the way Nigeria is presently structured, it is economically unproductive and politically weak. "………The restructuring that I have been calling for involves changes to the allocation of powers, responsibilities and resources among the states or zones and between them and the federal government" and also that "Nigerians must continue to live together as one country amidst the seeming pervasive climate of disunity." This will in effect, stop the challenge to our Unity, diversity, progress and development which are at crossroads as things are. Nigeria's option of a "restructured one piece" will make her to be stronger, greater, dynamic, and better on the long run.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Nigeria's former Secretary General of the Commonwealth Organisation had also expressed his view that Nigeria's federalism allows too much power and resources at the centre to the detriment of the country's ethnic nationalities. Similarly, the president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo has expressed his displeasure at what he described as consigning the Igbos to the status of second-class citizen in Nigeria. In reality, it is not only the Igbos that had been made to feel this sense of inferiority complex. Other tribes especially of the southern origin and locations are disgruntled at the lopsided distribution of our nation's resources and that situation is unacceptable to these people.
A former federal commissioner for Information, Leader and Advocate of the Rights of Niger Delta people, Chief Edwin Clark, had been an unrelenting advocate of Nigeria's restructuring and reorganization of the resources for fairness in resource allocation and control by the people. Chief Clark is of the opinion that the existing predicament of the country is not in consonance with the desires of the founding fathers of Nigeria who fought for the independence of Nigeria.
Further, one of the most respected and prudent immediate past governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi canvassed that restructuring seems the only solution to the myriads of agitations and pent-up resentment towards the Nigerian nation by many tribal groups. He opined that in a democratic regime, it is important that the rule of law should be obeyed no matter whose horse is gored. The clarion call for restructuring Nigeria is the most civil and peaceful way and solution to the various agitations and deep-seated anger among the tribal groups, big and small. Various governments at the center have disturbed and consistently stoked tension and prevented the nation from moving forward through their lack of fairness and injustice.
Chief Joseph Okpala, a public affairs analyst and an advocate of restructuring, has argued that our unrelenting agitations remain the trump card for a United Nigeria. He stated that our way of distributing and sharing our wealth to the states had stagnated and deprived us of progress because of the dubious foundation laid by the British colonial rulers. "We got it wrong from the foundation of corruption which the British laid in Nigeria, whereby they gave undue advantage to the north. Allegedly, the Colonialists manipulated the census figures to give the North some undue advantage. That 'fraud', the beginning of corruption, had constituted the reason why it had been difficult for Nigeria to know its population, with any semblance of accuracy to date". How then can we plan for development without accurate data? No wonder the lopsided distribution of resources and budgetary fabrications over the years.
If we are to learn from History, Comrade Gani Adams of OPC once remarked that "Nigeria started with a system that allowed each region to develop at its own space and the Yoruba benefitted a lot from the system which promoted hard work and rapid development across the country." The only sure way to bring this desirable attribute back to Nigeria is through restructuring and reorganization of the way we are governed. This may also be our sure way to eliminate 'corruption' in our various sub-units of the Nigerian State.
Otunba Yinka Odumakin, the national publicity secretary of the Afenifere group, a Yoruba socio-cultural assembly, has been agitating for the restructuring of Nigeria for a long time. He recently had to vent his anger over the injustice displayed to the Ife people of Osun State following the recent clash between Hausas and Yoruba communities in Ile Ife. Otunba Yinka Odumakin, the Spokesman for the Afenifere Group is a front runner in the ongoing struggle for restructuring our great nation for justice equality and even distribution of resources to the federating units. Odumakin posited that the various clashes across the country stemmed from the skewed structure of governance operated in the name of federalism. In his words: "It is all the fallout of the fact that we have refused to build a nation", into proper country since the Colonial Masters left us in this mess. For how long can we continue like this?
The Activist, Lawyer and Pastor Tunde Bakare, Overseer of Latter Rain Assembly had been an objective social critic and advocate of social justice in Nigeria. Speaking during a sermon titled 'Raising of a model leader', Pastor Bakare argued that public officers should not be allowed to promote ethnic agenda, as that is not the way of righteousness. He stressed the importance of justice and equity in nation building, especially in Nigeria.
The emergence, presence and activities of tribal organisations with conflicting interests and objectives in different geographical locations of Nigeria continue to cause concern. Some of them are for progress and development of their tribal groups while many are evil intentioned and simply terrorists. No Nigerian wants to be relegated to the status of a second class citizen. This had fueled the discord and strife around the country. There are two types of groups in the tribal struggles - the level headed and the hot headed. The first group are civil while the other is terrorist in outlook and activities. The Afenifere, OPC, Arewa, Northern Elders Forum, MASSOB, IPOB and MEND, are examples of the civil sectional groups with tribal interests. The second group includes the Boko Haram, Militant Groups and the Fulani Herdsmen (with their dangerous weapons). These are world class terrorists who are ready to kill innocent citizens and do damages to our ailing economy. Restructuring will bring an end to these tribal strife and terrorism.
The buzz going round in Nigeria is that four zones of the country favour restructuring while two zones remain vehemently opposed to it. Those in support of restructuring are reported to include the South West, South South, South East and North Central. The North West and North East are opposed to restructuring. Can it thus be said that they are being Restructurephobic! Why is the Ghost of restructuring scaring anyone or group of people? Should anyone be afraid to work hard for progress and development? Restructuring will make us more globally competitive. Nigeria has to be rebranded because our name (Brand) has been severely tarnished. We need a massive campaign to change our current brand and image. Let us all give change a trial and be assured that we will all be one another's keepers. Let us synergise for peace, progress and development. We can do it, if we try. Restructuring is real and it is now or never. Delay is dangerous. Nigeria will not be allowed to die a premature death. Let's keep it alive by reorganizing, correcting our mistakes and by 'doing things right' for peace and justice for all. Our current system of doing things is archaic, unfair, and obsolete. Restructuring is the only option. We can do it.
CONGRATULATIONS IN ADVANCE FOR A RESTRUCTURED NIGERIA.
Prof Adekunle Akinyemi, President/CEO, Ceezek Foundation Inc. in Pikesville, Maryland, USA, and former Director of the Institute of Education, University of Ilorin, and Former Director, Centre for Educational Technology, University of Botswana, Southern Africa.