By Abiodun Komolafe
The vexed issue of restructuring was on the front burner at the just-concluded national retreat held by Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) in Ekiti State.
In an address to the Group, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State called on the proponents of restructuring in the Southwest zone of Nigeria to be more tactical in their approach in order to actualize the dream of an economically and a politically restructured region. In his words, ”there are those who entertain fear on this issue of restructuring. Whether this is legitimate or not, we must reach out to them, because we are not an island onto ourselves.” The governor also advised ARG and others to work closely with governments in the zone to address the trappings of voter apathy which is now threatening democracy in Nigeria, and the Southwest zone in particular.
Without doubt, Fayemi’s speech spoke to the equally troubling issues of resource control, devolution of powers and state policing, not in the realm of politics alone, but the reality of the Nigerian situation. In truth, the governor strikes me as a man who understands Nigeria well enough to have his comments on Nigeria’s socio-political engagements taken seriously any day. Vastly experienced in governance issues, the astute administrator is a smart guy who is not only fiercely loyal to the Nigerian dream, his can-do character also has a knack for achieving results. He is one decent Yoruba leader who doesn’t play politics above public good. Interestingly, the state he currently leads is blessed with highly cerebral minds who, given the opportunity, can turn around any economy.
In addition to its comparative advantage in Agriculture and manpower development, the geographical location of Ekiti dovetails into economic possibilities and Fayemi’s projections for integration places the state in good stand to serve other states that are deficient in those areas in which it has already excelled. As fate would have it, cultural traits have again enabled the governor to face the issue of integration. How I wish other governors in the zone would listen to him and take a cue, especially, now that doing so is honourable?
Legitimacy comes to any social movement to the extent that what it is fighting for conforms to the expectations of the people. Basically, the underlying principle of restructuring deals largely with cooperation! Essentially therefore, if the legal aspects of restructuring are not feasible, people can restructure, based on a pragmatic, workable understanding among governments. In any case, those who hold the view that restructuring is all about devolution of powers, or federalism, or gladiatorial sloganeering to fill the whims of some Pharisees, are only scratching the surface. If by ‘restructuring’ we mean the flow of more resources from Abuja to other federating states of the federation, then we have missed the point. Further still, if, by restructuring, we are suggesting a re-balkanization of the present geographical, deeply divided entity called Nigeria into specific geopolitical zones, we are still scratching the plutonic side of the real issue. Without being immodest, restructuring is a development paradigm that has to do with vision. In other words, restructuring without attitudinal paradigmatic change towards the concept of governance and service delivery profile of public bureaucracy – whatever this implies – will be an exercise in futility!
Beyond national necessity however, attempts to answer some questions on restructuring will end up throwing up more questions. For instance, how did the Obafemi Awolowo’s run Western Region as one indivisible entity before the military fragmented it into tiny states? Why are Nigerians killing Nigerians for Nigerians to live and why are we as a people progressing in error? How many people have died from banditry, kidnappings, police brutality and related crimes in the last few years and what has been our national government’s reaction to these avoidable deaths? Where lies the fate of the South, should the North again refuse to ‘concede’ presidency to it in 2023?
If we may also ask, what does Afenifere as a social movement group want and how can it mount a delicate balance between the particular interest of the Yoruba race and the general interests of Nigeria? Will it not lose focus? But then, what is the particular interest of the Yoruba people? Restructuring, of course! Again, how do we prepare its broth in a way that the aroma will not become inimical to the interests of the generality of the Yoruba race? For example, when the military started with the creation of states as a panacea for rapid development, Awolowo warned that, until Ikenne-Remo became a state, the agitation for the creation of more states would never cease. Like a monkey that was ‘destined’ to miss its branch, the military looked the other way until we got to 36 States. Regrettably, here we are, still struggling with the ‘dividends’ of states creation!
In conclusion, devolution of power certainly has its merits. Nonetheless, the attendant feeling of loss of power or control over the federating states gives the Federal Government irritating nausea. As things stand, the Federation is not working due to too much concentration of power at the centre. Thus, what is needed, mostly, is for the governors within the former Western Region to explore the opportunities already provided by the establishment of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Commission (DAWN Commission) to collectively address the issue of peer review, utilize findings of comparative and competitive advantages in the economic spheres and set acceptable standards and timeframe for development agenda within their zone. This also means that each governor will have to deal with the negative socio-psychological attributes and effects of power and territorial control by dropping the arrogant toga and bankrupt ideas of an emperor – wherever such exist – and strive to work as chief servant of the people!
No doubt about it, those who are afraid of ‘true federalism’ will fight tooth and nail to resist the idea, or the legalism of restructuring. After all, it is a control issue! But we need a bypass; and the time to put our thinking cap on, was yesterday! Again, this is why issues raised by Fayemi are germane for today, much more so as they will be relevant tomorrow.
•KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria ([email protected])