There are persistent and unceasing calls for the restructuring of the nation. The popular perception is that the existing political superstructure is not only anti-progress, it is at the root of the acrimonies that stare us in the face like the sword of Damocles. The gaping anomaly is that a country that was conceived and created as a federation, for various reasons, is now being run as a unitary state. It hardly surprises anybody that there is a persistent and violent agitation to address the national question. The anger and resentment that were bottled up during the military era are now oozing out in different forms from even the most unexpected quarters.
I am sure that not a few Nigerians were jolted when former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former minister of defence, General Theopilus Danjuma and former Nigeria’s Representative to the United Nations, Alhaji Maitama Sule, called for the immediate restructuring of the Nigerian federation, in such a pattern that the powers at the centre would be whittled down considerably. In the same vein the leader of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and immediate past governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, called for the adoption of unicameral legislature, saying the Senate was adding no value to the advancement of our democracy.
Alhaji Atiku emphatically deposed that devolution of power would not threaten the unity of Nigeria. The prevailing realities, he stressed, underscored the need for restructuring, adding that the excessive concentration of power at the centre, a situation that has made the Nigerian president the most powerful in the world, was a creation of the military. He was also emphatic that the lopsided nature of the revenue allocation formula had rendered the states impotent in social infrastructure provisioning. On the idea of state police, his position is that it is noble and that states that can afford it should be allowed to create it.
This development is significant, especially coming from these unexpected quarters. It simply shows that there is now new converts in the camp of the apostles of change. Opinion leaders from all over the country seem now to agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with the political architecture of Nigeria. This present structure has been inflicting monumental wounds on the polity.
It is also in the same spirit of saving Nigeria that a group of businessmen and political leaders has called for prompt action “to halt Nigeria’s looming descent to the dark era”. These leaders, which include Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, Basorun J.K. Randle and Chief Lugard Aimiwiu, made their position known during the recent 52nd yearly general conference of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) held in Abuja.
For Governor Yuguda, the air of freedom that came with the return of the country to democracy in 1999 seems to have “opened the wounds that seem to have eaten deep into the nation’s fabric”. Agonising the sad turn of events in the country, he averred that “the binding forces of the nation as reflected in its historical antecedents, based on the philosophy of unity in diversity … had been turned into a bane rather a blessing.”
Yuguda is dead right. All over the country the sentiment seems to be the same. The mushrooming of militant ethnic militia across the country is a sign of a nation that is drifting. It is sad that we have degenerated to a level where there is low premium on the sanctity of life. The nation loses valuable lives on daily basis as result of intolerance, and to some extent, what some perceive to be the inherent anomalies in the system. We have ample chance now to arrest the looming Armageddon. The cause(s) of and the pillage associated with the civil war that ended 42 years ago have remained a scar in our collective psyche.
That war was fought at a time the level of consciousness about injustice and oppression in the system was at its lowest level. Things have since changed, as all Nigerians seem to realize that our warped federalism is a huge burden. The time has come for a concerted action to change things to arrest a looming carnage that might take us to the brink.
There is definitely no basis for some Nigerians to be so scare–stiff of restructuring the nation, given our prevailing peculiarities. The courage to do this is like the lever that will trigger off the different potentials hidden in different parts of this federation. It is the panacea for all the centrifugal forces that are propelling us towards disintegration. A united nation pays us more than a divided one.
Professor Ndubuisi, an attorney at Law, is of the Dept of Philosophy, UNILAG