57 years after independence, the clamour for ‘restructuring’ continues to resonate and as the next general elections closes in, it may seem like the call is now getting to the climax. The agitations that have surrounded what is called the ‘National Question’, which ‘restructuring’ is a component of, have gotten to crescendos and tipping edges that are akin to what we are witnessing presently in the country. The character of the political class and elites that have dominated the Nigerian socio-political and economic space, both in and out of power have no doubts constituted a huge obstacle to nation building which have led to several repeated starts, fake or transient victories.
The fact is that the discerning Nigerians who understand the history of the political intrigues of the country in the past years would apparently adduce the coming general elections in 2019; and the mostly inordinate ambitions of desperate and opportunistic politicians as the reason behind the recent calls for restructuring.
At the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, when the renewed call began to gain ascendancy recently in agitations, we had said that the restructuring of Nigeria’s body polity required to be profoundly interrogated, to understand the motivations and core purpose of the seemingly justified call.
Circumspection on all the labyrinths of issues over the National question remain very imperative, so as not to fall into the pitfalls of the past. Nigeria with the apparent faulty foundations remain shaky owing to the historical reality that Nigeria and Africa in general were indeed partitioned at the bayoneting ends of the guns of colonizers; for the convenience of their political cum economic exploitation and subjugation of the people.
Again without any iota of doubt, the call to restructure Nigeria is neither the exclusive preserve of the ruling class in their intra-class fractional and factional struggles, nor is it a new call. It is a call, a demand, a bargaining weapon of choice, in their now covert, now overt intra-class skirmishes as 2019 general elections approaches.
The truth is that no matter how Nigeria is ‘restructured’, the fundamental issue will remain about the social emancipation of the vast majority of the people. Any form of restructuring that is not achieved side by side with the social emancipation of the component units of Nigeria will amount to naught. Such achievement will make no significant difference in National life and the lives of majority of the people who would still remain oppressed and exploited in any arrangement that emerges from ‘restructuring’ designed and controlled by the present ruling class i.e. the representatives of the political and economic status quo.
We are convinced that unless and until when the oppressed people of the different component units of Nigeria unite against their oppressors in their various units in a popular process that will put the destinies of the vast majority in their hands regardless of the unit/s they come from, the National question may permanently become a permanent question.
The pre-independence constitutional conferences, as well as the post-independence constitutional reform processes have all been at the heart, about restructuring Nigeria, as has been the numerous state agitation/state creation processes and the many constitutional and political conferences.
It is important to learn from the history of Nigeria’s several attempts at addressing the National question, either initiated by the Government or by the people (Civil society). From the Obasanjo staged managed National Conference to the last National Confab organized by the Jonathan Goodluck-led government, it is explicit that the call for restructuring and addressing the National question is beyond what the status quo will organize for obvious reasons.
The call to restructure Nigeria, it must be affirmed has also periodically found resonance among ordinary Nigerian citizens like National Consultative Forum, NCF and Pro-Peoples’ National Conference, PRONACO which gained traction particularly in times of deepening economic and political crisis. The more debilitating the economic crisis, the greater the instability in the polity, the louder the calls for restructuring gets.
Therefore the ongoing groupings and meetings across the country on restructuring are also not new. But the quintessential questions would be: do they have the full mandate and representative capacities to speak on behalf of the group, sectional or regional interests they lay claim to represent? What do their constituents understand by restructuring; the gains, losses and are they on the same page in terms of consensus? What would restructuring translate into practically; for the vast majority that will bear the brunt of possible gains or losses in terms of social economic development? What are the modalities for restructuring if a consensus is reached that such is expedient? These are the underlying fundamental questions and issues, the political class and elites across the country are not bringing to the fore in their present ‘agitation’ for restructuring beyond their phraseologies and sloganeering.
The story of Brexit and the consequence of superficial introspection and circumspection in process which is still fresh in global history is manifest in yet-to-be resolved dilemma-like situation that subsist between the United Kingdom and European Union where the UK have had to revisit the referendum that led to its exit from EU. We as people should take a cue from that and look before we leap beyond the apparent political bargain weaponry being wielded at presently by sections of the ruling class and elites across the country as the 2019 elections approaches.
Nigerian politicians are largely inconsistent in their views obviously because the positions they assume at most times on national issues are directly proportional to their narrow political interests’ tendencies beyond that of the country. Majority of politicians’ views on restructuring therefore cannot be far-fetched from inconsistent.
Hence the recent calls being shielded in nationalism and genuine will for nation building from members of the ruling class should be handled with ‘a pinch of salt’. This is because the ruling class factions and fractions who lost out or are losing out in the jostle for control of and access to state power at central and sub national levels proceed to mobilize existing grievances along the lines of existing cleavages, as well as co-opt existing and incipient resistance struggles of impoverished and oppressed citizens against declining living conditions and intensifying economic hardships.
Finally, we think President Muhammad Buhari’s speech on the occasion of the 57th anniversary is one that inspires hope for a better Nigeria in spite of the background of being a country facing very serious challenges almost on all plains. So we commend him for demonstrating commitment and sincerity of purpose in rebuilding the nation and particularly in the bold confrontation against corruption since he took over the reins of power.
The President’s call on the National Assembly and the Judiciary for support is nothing but presidential in act and humility exemplified and we support every move that will ensure harmony amongst the arms of government. The President outlined some ways he intends to make the fight against corruption more effective and that is what is expected of a leader and Nigerians should support him on the campaign.
Quintessentially, Nigerians must resolve on altering the socio-economic and political system which has concentrated the wealth of the collective in the hands of a tiny few that have subsisted for too long in their country. This is the fundamental task that must be done. Long live, Nigeria!
Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman, CACOL