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Atiku: The One-Sided Rhetoric About Restructuring Nigeria

The issue of restructuring Nigeria has been a front-burner in the various debates about Nigeria in recent times. Many were consistent about it but as the 2019 elections draw closer, the political alignments and defections have overshadowed this important issue of restructuring. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has been consistent about it; he has reviewed it from an economic, social and political perspective.

However, the debates and discussions about restructuring Nigeria have taken a one-sided rhetoric for too long. Former Minister of Nigeria, Aunty Oby Ezekwesili described it as an ‘urgency of now’ and as Nigeria completes another 20-year cycle in our political journey, it is important we take the discussion further.

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There is an urgency of now about restructuring; why is there no urgency of how this restructuring would occur? Everyone sees a need to restructure why is there no public debate about how this restructuring should occur.

Looking at Nigeria from three major spheres; social, political and economic, this question of restructuring can be discussed at these levels. I have been in discussions where it was raised and analyzed based on numbers and percentage of revenue when it comes to the economic aspect. The options which remain inexhaustible were 40/30/30, 45/25/30, 30/40/30, etc.

Taking the first example; the states that produce a particular economic product be it oil, cocoa, solid minerals will keep 40 percent of the proceeds, the Federal Government will keep 30 percent to fund major institutions like the military and the remaining 30 percent will be shared among the remaining 35 states. This is the same for every state that produces one product or the other.

The second option can tow a different where the 45 percent goes to producing states, 25 percent to Federal Government while the remaining 30 will be shared among all the states including the producing states.

These options are still basic and require more discussions taking while considering every issue as is peculiar to Nigeria. These will be reviewed and progressive in nature as the years go by so as to cater for regions and states that might not have the full potential to be economically independent.

As Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said last month against geographical restructuring, Nigeria does not necessarily need the demarcation of our maps, regions, and states. The six geo-political zones are largely nomenclatures used for political and campaign calculations and can be maximized for economic integration, partnerships and shared ventures by states. The states are still very demarcated enough for us to decide what modus operandi to operate as a matter of urgency and Nigeria’s economic growth.

The benefits of fiscal federalism are enormous even though they will not be immediate; from security to check the corruption in Abuja driven-by nepotism and migration, cultural integration, equitable distribution of resources and more. There are fears about abuse when powers are given to state governors to deploy the police. These can be checked by laws, strong institutions and the election of credible and competent leaders in office.

The APC-led government created a committee on true federalism which will definitely involve amending the Nigerian constitution. It is unfortunate that this is being done in closed-door meetings in a nation of nearly 200 million people. Like the 2014 National Conference, we need to review these documents and make changes accordingly to reflect present-day realities.

Restructuring Nigeria needs to move beyond the rhetorics of ‘we need to restructure Nigeria’ to how the country should be restructured. The ones who are pushing for it need to either sign a social contract with Nigerians and make us believe that politicians can be trusted to do what they say with timelines of action as well.

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