• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

The endless cries for restructuring 

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Can you imagine that various tiers of government in Nigeria have spent over N55.4 trillion in the last 17 years, but there is little to show for it? Unfortunately, there is still poor state of infrastructure, services and poor quality of life which stare the country in the face.
That is not all, apart from the Telecom sector, the nation cannot be sure of any other sector. Health, education, transport, solid minerals sectors, among others are shadow of themselves. Human Development Index is low as Nigeria was ranked 159 out of 178 countries in the world by the United Nations in 2010.
Citizens born in 1970 are today 46 years old and many of them may not have experienced one week of steady electricity and water supply in all their years. What they see daily are decayed infrastructure, poor rail lines, poor roads and insecurity. Shockingly, this is a country with huge economic potentials but untapped.
Surprised that Nigeria has spent such amount of money without appreciable impact, Chike Nwanze, a former president of Institute of Directors (IoD), recently lamented that it is difficult to believe that such colossal amount of money has been spent in the last 17 years, still Nigeria appears to be backwards as poor state of infrastructure, services and quality of life are still here.
If care is not taken, the nation may spend such humongous amount of money in the next 17 years with still little to show for it.
Nwanze, who is the CEO of Icon Stockbrokers Limited, compared Nigeria of today with 36 states and Nigeria of early 1960s with 4 regions and concluded that the later structure was better. Then, there were competitive struggles to tap the potentials but now they have been abandoned for oil.
“The fragmentation of the country into 36 states, very few of which are economically viable, over-dependence on oil revenue and operation of a semi-unitary system of government under the guise of a federation have made it impossible to fully harness the endowed resources of the six-geo-political zones,” Nwanze said as a guest lecturer at Nigerian Institute of Management annual lecture recently in Lagos.
Assessing Nigerian leadership, the management expert said the fact that Nigeria, the 7th largest producer of crude oil in the world, imports fuel is a sign of leadership failure or misrule. According to him, it has therefore, become critical today to address the challenges of political governance and the structure of the federation as these leadership challenges have retarded Nigeria’s development.
Periodically, fresh or rehashed concepts to put Nigeria on speedy growth path are initiated by Nigerians. Many of the concepts go to the trash-bin and when adopted are not implemented.  The citizens are indeed tired of being in a socio-economically deprived country for several years when its peers such as Brazil, India, Singapore, Malaysia and China have moved on.
After the Vision 2010 and other visions and dreams have failed to yield results for the nation’s development, the new call is to restructure Nigeria which Nwanze, Afenifere, Ohanaeze and other stakeholders have keyed into towards achieving economic growth.
Nwanze recalled that the journey towards a Federal Government in Nigeria started in 1946, when the Richard’s Constitution introduced a quasi-federal structure of government. This became formalised in 1951when the Macpherson Constitution was passed into law. Three regions were established – Eastern Nigeria with Enugu as capital; Northern Nigeria with Kaduna as capital and Western Region with Ibadan as capital. In 1963, Nigeria was further restructured with the creation of Mid-West Region with Benin City as capital.
During this period, according to the proponents of restructuring, regions were easily identified by what they produced; there was also healthy competition among the regions and there was good management of resources.
Today, Nigeria is faced with multiplicity of economic and political challenges that have pushed more stakeholders, including  former Vice Presidents Atiku Abubakar and Alex Ekwueme; for­mer Minister of Informa­tion, Jerry Gana; Yoruba leader, Ayo Adebanjo; Afenifere; Ohanaeze; former Anam­bra State governor,  Chuk­wuemeka Ezeife, among other eminent Nige­rians, calling for immediate restructuring of the coun­try in line with the princi­ples of true federalism.
Socio-political organisation, Afenifere had in document by its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, argued recently that “The central plank of restructuring is for Nigeria to go back to the true practice of Federalism wherein mineral resources that abound in all states would be freed from the exclusive list so that states would move into prosperity and not be reporting at Yemi Osinbajo’s office for bailout from a centre that only corners what belongs to the states. They would also have enough to contribute to sustain the occupiers of Abuja and the functions that are allocated to them.
“Beyond resources, the country is reeling under crime today and the single police we currently maintain have proved incapable of dealing with the situation. When you listen to commissioners of police lamenting at the scenes of crime these days, you will think they are part of passers-by terrified by the horror of crime. It is clear we need multi-level policing to combat crime and have effective policing. From the federal, down to states and local governments, we are bogged down with over-bloated bureaucracies that consume as much as 90 percent of available resources and with little or nothing left for development. We must address how long we want to travel with this culture of waste and to see if we can deliver better governance with a manageable architecture”.
Buttressing Afenifere’s point, Nwanze further said that the present 36 states and 774 local governments structure is faulty, wasteful and expensive considering that most of the states or local governments are not viable without Federal Government support.
“The Nigerian structure promotes waste, lack of accountability and high cost of governance. The political system and its manner of remunerating political appointees make the cost of governance prohibitive and probably unsustainable,” Nwanze said.
Nwanze and other proponents of the idea of restructuring believe in the advantages of restructuring to include drastic reduction in cost of governance. According to them, it will achieve true federalism, encourage healthy socio-economic competition between regions which will lead to positive economic development.
He said it will also eliminate ethnic, religious and cultural conflicts, eliminate kidnapping, and solve the problem of resource control.
Those against restructuring such as the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo had kicked against the calls for the restructuring of Nigeria, saying it would not make any difference.  The president of NIM, Munzali Jibril believes that bringing certain communities in to particular regions may not be politically healthy.
Some protesters had recently marched the streets of Ikeja denouncing calls for restructuring Nigeria, saying such was a coded way of calling for the disintegration of the country.
The protesters, under the aegis of Stand Up Nigeria (SUN), led by its South West Coordinator, Oluwafemi Desmond Abiona, while declaring their total support for President Muhammadu Buhari, insisted that rather than restructure the country, the critical issues that needed to be addressed were those bordering on corruption, impunity, insurrection and insurgency.
Recently, in Abuja, some youths under the umbrella of the Coalition of Patriotic Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora in Defence of Democracy said the clamour for a restructured Nigeria was a distraction for the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
But those in support of restructuring argue that those against the idea missed the point as without restructuring to achieve true fiscal federalism, Nigeria would remain like this for the next number of years unless central government loosens its grips on certain critical sectors.
Where does Nigeria go from here, restructure or not? Restructuring would push regions or states to tap their potentials and develop their economies for overall interest of Nigeria. They would also police themselves. There appears to be more and high level voices in favour of restructuring for better performance on the belief that if Nigeria is not restructured, the nation may not achieve its dreams in the next 40 years as the country has been at a stand- point in the last 50 years.
Daniel Obi