By Brenda Agba, Terese Tse, Faith Igbudu, Esther Akaa and Egbe Attah
Academics and politicians have outlined their views on the national clamour for restructuring with majority of the respondents saying that it was time for the country to be restructured in order for it to attain its full potential.
In an interview with The Voice, a cross section of academics and politicians said government can no longer pay lip service to the clamour for restructuring by a broad section of the Nigeria society.
It will be recalled that the Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere; the Igbo socio-cultural group; Ohaneze Ndi Igbo as well as other groups in the South-South and the Middle Belt have all joined in the call for the restructuring of the country, in order to correct some of the ills that have been perceived to have tied the country down for so long.
Recently, the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom joined the train of the restructuring agitators, saying that the restructuring of the country was inevitable if Nigeria is to make progress as a nation.
In separate interviews with The Voice reporters, university dons and politicians said the clamour for restructuring of the country can no longer be wished away.
According to the immediate past Vice Chancellor, Benue State University, Makurdi, Prof. Msugh Kembe, restructuring will have to be defined in clear terms for it to sail in the public pool.
“My understanding of restructuring means to re-organize Nigeria in a way that it will be ran more efficiently.
If that is agreed, I will support restructuring. A system that will give room for a more manageable Nigeria, it will give room for competition, and it will give room for better utilization of resources, it will give room for more inclusiveness. Some people already feel that they are not carried along in the affairs of this country, if there is restructuring, such persons will be involved in the affairs of this country and to me that is fair enough.
I however, don’t subscribe to the country dividing into smaller parts. You know, when you say restructure, people tend to think that it is about division but you can even restructure sections of the country like you can restructure how the revenue is shared. At the moment, the Federal Government takes the chunk of the money, I think that should not be the case. To me, local government should take more funds than the Federal Government. To me power should not just be solely at the center as they are closer to the people and I believe if they have more money there will be better development. We can restructure the country in such a way that it will be efficient to run” he concluded.
In his reaction, Hon Baba Acka, SSA to Governor Samuel Ortom on Abuja Liaison Office said:
The issue of restructuring of Nigeria’s political system is already partly documented in the 2014 Abuja confab which has been endorsed by the federal executive council under former President Jonathan, and handed over to President Buhari. So what remains now is implementation.
Restructuring entails alteration and reorganization of the system of government for more fairness and equitable distribution of Power and resources. It is an advocacy for devolution of powers to the extent that more responsibilities are given to the states while the Federal government is vested with the responsibility to oversee our foreign policy, defense, and economy.
And it is on this basis we the minorities have been demanding for the restructuring of this country. We should follow the tenets of the constitution that allows for devolution of powers to federating units. There is need for real federalism, if we had real federalism, there will be no agitations. Real federalism was what we had before 1966 when the regions had their own institutions.
Though, restructuring and fair distribution of powers will certainly not provide all the answers to our challenges; but it will at least help to reposition our mind set as we generate new ideas and initiatives that would make our union worthwhile. The talk to have the country restructured means that Nigerians are agreed on our unity in diversity; but that we should strengthen our structures to make the union more functional based on our comparative advantages.
To douse the present agitations in the country, the federal government needs to be serious. To actualize our real federalism dreams, the federal government should be left with some residual powers on defense while the states should be given powers over their affairs.
I wish we have a federation with independent self sustaining federating units able to develop infrastructure, critical amenities, undertake other developmental projects, education and health without a centre body interfering. If we do this, Nigeria will move forward.
In his opinion a Professor of Psychology and Dean, Social Sciences, BSU Makurdi, Prof Ihaji O. Ihaji said “Well, I don’t think there is any need for restructuring, those calling for restructuring are doing so for selfish reasons.
“Restructuring the nation will only allow for another level of corruption which we are already facing. Now that it is made that the local governments collect monies directly from the Federation account, what is happening? State governments are embezzling same.
“All we need is a change of attitude of our individual selves so that good can be done. Restructuring Nigeria is like bathing a pig, it will go back to the mud.
“Every government is worse than the former. It plunges the country more into corruption. Our leaders need to change their attitude, that in itself is restructuring and it is what we need as a country.
“What we have is enough but corruption has smeared everything. We need to do away with corruption not restructuring or whatever name it is given” he said.
In his view, a lecturer in the department of History and International Studies, Federal University of Lafia, Nasarawa State, Dr Fred Ekpe Ayokhai said:
“The nation-state is a social system. Like all social systems, a nation-state is a composition of several sub-systems which function together for the effective attainment of the goals and objectives of the overall social system.
The argument is that restructuring has been ongoing since Independence. I admit that this is historically correct, but we must also admit that restructuring has not been logically and efficiently aligned with the goals of national unity, national development and citizen inclusiveness.
My position is informed by the historical experience of the country in the recent past. For instance, the first major restructuring of the Nigerian state was a reaction to the exigencies of the civil war. The dissolution of the regional structure and the adoption of the 12 state structure was purely to serve the purpose of the civil war. It created its own problems and the attempt to resolve these problems have led to the creation of more and more states, the weakening of the subunits and the over-concentration of powers at the centre. Unfortunately, this has not served the common goals and the clamour for more restructuring has become louder.
Does Nigeria deserve further restructuring? My answer is yes. But we can’t continue along the same path. We must reset our national goals and objectives and the structure of the Nigerian state must be rejigged to align with the attainment of the well defined national goals and objectives.
It must meet the goals of a free and democratic state, an inclusive society and state system where egalitarianism and social justice are fulcrum of governance. It must be development oriented, capable of facilitating meritocracy, economic well being and equity.
Also speaking, Dr. Benjamin Ogbu, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Benue State University Makurdi, said there is great need for Nigeria to be restructured in order to give every unit a sense of belonging.
According to him, the major challenge about restructuring is the issue of ideology.
“If the country is going to be restructured then, we as a people must first of all address the fundamental issue of our ideologies as a nation because every other thing about a country revolves around its ideologies which for me as a person, is seriously lacking in the Nigerian situation.
“We should have an ideological restructuring which will chart a cause for the way forward”.
Speaking further, Dr. Ogbu said, “there are a lot of agitations on ground and the way it is now, we are on course already very close to a time bomb if those agitations are not legitimately and quickly addressed.
“Looking at the issue from the Benue point of view, what is it we have that will be able to sustain us if Nigeria is restructured? We have to seriously start to look at such areas and begin to develop them and in doing that, it means emphasis must be placed on agriculture as well as other areas that give us competitive advantage”, he summed.
In the same vein, a lecturer in the Department of Soil Science, College of Agronomy, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Dr. Samuel Wuese, also described the call for the restructuring of Nigeria as apt.
In his words, “The country’s system is in a state of confusion as a result of which it is no longer as operational as it should be.
“This confusion has led to the accrual of so much power to the Federal Government, making it so powerful at the detriment of the states who have little or nothing to do.
“Take security for instance, state governments are most times helpless when challengers come up. You can also look at the sharing of resources. The resources come from the various states who unfortunately do not have control over them such that even those generating very much are getting back very little and this affects citizens of such states negatively.
“The operators of the present dispensation have taken advantage of the situation to amass wealth for themselves, a situation that has put so much pressure on the citizenry.”
On the alleged fears that restructuring might lead Nigeria into disintegration, Dr. Wuese said, “I don’t think Nigeria will disintegrate. If all segments of the country are involved in governance, the various segments will begin to harness the potentials within their individual enclaves so that collectively, the country will develop much more”.
To Emah Lawrence, Senior Lecturer and Director of Communication, College of Education, Oju, Benue State,
The term restructure means to reconstruct or give new form to or reform. The phrase restructuring Nigeria means to reform the country or change the structure of Nigeria.
“But my question is that what aspect of country should be changed? Politically we practised the parliamentary system of government in the first Republic and it failed. We are now practising the executive system of government and it is not working well. Structurally, Nigeria was first divided into three regions, then four and then twelve states. We later split to nineteen and to twenty-one and now thirteen-six states, yet, development continues to evade us. The more states you create, the more the agitation.”
Emah said he, does not subscribe to restructuring of Nigeria. He holds the view that the types of restructuring the nation needs is the restructuring of the attitudes; a change in the way Nigerians have been doing things.
He queried Nigerian style of democracy which he said is too expensive stressing that the leaders are living comfortably at the expense of the common man. The lecturer maintained that the salaries of public officeholders should be slashed to take care of infrastructure.
“What we need most in this country, is economic restructuring. A situation in which our commonwealth is in the hands of selected few is bad. A situation in which the Federal Government of Nigeria controls much of the wealth of the nation at the detriment of the component units is not palatable and need to be changed. If all Nigerians are treated fairly, if there is equitable distribution of the Nation’s resources, economically and politically, there would no be such agitation for restructuring. We don’t need physical restructuring, those calling for that are doing so for their own selfish interest.
According to Agene Itodo, Benue South Chairman of Action Democratic Party (ADP), the restructuring of Nigeria means that everything about the country have to change. The political and social structures, even attitudes should all be reformed. “The recent youth uprising was as result of discontent of the people with the Nigerian system,” he said.
Agene, faulted the sharing formula in Nigeria. He condemned the system whereby the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. He lamented that too much money is in the hands of the federal and state government while the local governments where the poorest of the poor are living are feeding on the crumbs.
“Politics in Nigeria is tilted to favour the rich at the detriment of the poor as the poor don’t have the finance to vie for political offices. Our democracy is too expensive and politics in Nigeria favours the major ethnic groups. Not every tribe in Nigeria can produce the president,” the ADP chieftain argued.
He maintained that those agitating for restructuring of the country are right and that, this is the right time and the government has to listen to them stressing that, the recommendations of the last National Confab be implemented.