By Morenike Taire
Differences between reforms and restructuring are not only coarse but obvious for all to see; yet they appear completely lost within the unwholesome din of the latest restructuring discourse in the country today.
Reasons for this are not farfetched, and are basically due to the present ethnicist contexts that have come to the fore in more recent times. There is now Yorubaland, Igbo country, South south and Arewa. Nigeria is now somewhere in the back ground, a place in which we all reside but which we completely loathe.
This Nigeria has nothing to do with us but is the sole construct of the white man beginning from the amalgamation of 1914. It is the one that signs deals with international oil companies and greedily pockets proceeds from such deals. It is not benevolent to its states; neither is it fair. The states on their part are hurting and are only too happy to denounce Nigeria for not giving them a big enough share. No wonder someone once called it a mere geographical expression. It is a complicated relationship.
A constitution written by one man in his bedroom, as it has been suggested, is ambitious at best in its ability to speak for the greater good of these reluctant peoples, who consequently regard the differences in their tongues, habits and appearances- very slight to a stranger but widely magnified in their own eyes- to be the main cause of their sorrows. Some want to go their separate ways, some want that constitution to be amended, while some have simply joined the bandwagon of the bigger group calling for “restructuring”.
By whatever nomenclature, if what all Nigerians want is a more representative system that would guide the relationship within the various entities as well as their relationship with the centre, a constitutional amendment by the same lawmakers thrown up by the system that has generally been condemned as dysfunctional cannot be expected to provide sustainable solutions.
But miracles still happen, and the lawmakers can attempt to adjust those provisions that clearly don’t sit aright, such as the provision that allows a 13 year old to be referred to as the wife of an adult. They can attempt reforms and express optimism that a system which is itself corrupt can make a real attempt to prosecute corrupt individuals and retrieve the proceeds of graft from their clenched fingers. All that is however not to be confused with restructuring.
For restructuring to take place, the smallest units of community, not the various ethnicities, will have to come up with their own representative, which would then come up with their own representatives and so forth. The process would necessarily take years. Any restructuring effort that does not include the grassroots as its basis is a waste of time.
Moreso, a major element of restructuring Nigeria must be fiscal in nature. This will be by far the easiest element to effect, and yet the furthest reaching in its effect. With fiscal federalism, a massive class of corruption in government as well as ethnic uprisings, would automatically cease.
Last year, when president Buhari was to make his first official visit to Lagos, The host governor had, upon inspection of some of the federal roads, discovered massive craters on the middle of the Osodi Apapa expressway. On the spot he had reportedly issued out instructions for the road to be fixed as well as a deadline within which the work was to be completed.
His principal had actually not visited, but the road had not only been fixed on schedule, regular maintenance has been carried out on that spot ever since, saving commuters at least four hours of rush hour travel time a day.
There is no doubt that the various administrations in Lagos state since 1999 have shown unwavering commitment to the progress of the state regardless of federal contribution. From the Local Council creation initiative and the attempt to provide state electric power which had resulted in a tussle with the Obasanjo Federal Government during the Tinubu administration; to the massive repairs carried out on the all important 3rd Mainland bridge by the Fashola administration, this particular state is holding itself responsible for its own welfare.
Arguably the fastest growing metropolis in Africa, The Lekki peninsula and the upcoming free trade zone have little or no input by the Federal Government and so it will be for all time. Lagos, on its own, is already practicing fiscal federalism, as it were.
Fiscal federalism will force administrators of states to be responsible for their own states. Agitations for new states will come to an end. Resource control agitations will likewise come to an end, as will poor infrastructural development, particularly roads and electricity
The 2014 confab and whatever came out of it cannot and must not be the basis of restructuring Nigeria. First, the confab was constituted by completely undemocratic means. It is no longer news that it was merely a job-for-the-boys set up. Of utmost importance, though, is that the talk-shop was the product of a corrupt system that wanted to perpetrate itself in power. Its fruits are bound to go sour.