The topic of restructuring this country is one that has raged on for years and has garnered as much disagreement as it has gotten agreement. If you ask every citizen of the country, everyone probably has their own opinion on this ever-divisive topic.
At the 18th Daily Trust Dialogue held in Abuja recently, the topic of restructuring was the subject of discussion once again in a theme titled “Restructuring: Why? Why? How?”
Eminent personalities of the different ethnic divide were present at the event with former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former chairperson of the Independent National Electoral Commission Attahiru Jega, Arewa Consultative Forum Chairman Chief Audu Ogbe, former Ohanaeze Ndigbo President-General Chief John Nwodu, Northern Elders Forum Director of Publicity, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed and elder statesman Chief Ayo Adebanjo in attendance.
For some, the problem runs deep and has been in existence from the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorate by Lord Frederick Lugard and continued in the creation of states from the existing regions after gaining independence but has been peppered over through the years but is now coming to the fore due to the perceived negligence and marginalization of some in the political leadership of the country.
They believe that it has just been a great mistake to merge such a diverse people and ask them to live together under one umbrella and so everyone should just split and go their separate ways.
Some believe that a return to the era of having regions is best suited for a country with more than 250 ethnic groups. This side of the divide that believes restructuring does not have to imply a division of the country from its existing functional structure of federal, state, and local government. What needs to be restructured is the 1999 constitution which is currently the law governing the country. A look into and possible return to the 1960 and 1963 constitutions which gave more political stability and freedom to federal and regions should be the right way forward for undertaking this restructuring which the country truly needs.
Some also believe that there should not be a Nigeria with everyone splitting along the existing 6 geopolitical zones and everyone left to manage its resources and have autonomous control of its resources, security, trade terms.
Well, there are possibly a few more different opinions that different persons have but if there is anything everyone agrees on, it is that the current system is not working for anyone and should be worked on. Each and everyone’s opinion has its flaws and while some are more greatly flawed than some, it is clear that everyone is tired and admits that a change is needed to move the country.
Of course, the writer of this piece is equally a Nigerian who has his own opinion, and whilst I agree that a change is needed in the system of government, I strongly feel that our problem runs beyond the constitution, the system of government, or even political partisanship. I do not believe that neither breaking up the country nor giving autonomous power back to regions would be the solution to moving the nation forward.
Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan mentioned very importantly that “we cannot restructure without solving issues that polarize us: nepotism, ethnic and religious differences and lack of patriotism.”
We see it in our daily interactions with people, not just in political appointments at federal, state, or local government levels but also in job interviews, we hear in conversations random citizens have, we see it in the daily actions of regular people. A change in the mindset of the citizens is important as well for the restructuring to be effective. Strongly built systems and institutions help improve and move a nation forward but if you do not put people with the right mindset in the system, then chances are the system would be trounced on set up to fail.