Feature: Let’s Restructure Not Break Up

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Femi Ojo

Currently, there are growing plethora of voices promoting the partitioning of the entity called Nigeria. It is no doubt that our polity is heated up as a result of many challenges that confront her and this has heightened the crescendo for separatism recently. But even given all the perceived wrongs inherent in Nigeria’s imperfect federalism, the vicious eruption echoed in advocacy for disintegration by ethnic warlords and their cheerleaders can never be the solution to our contemporary political contraptions.

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However, to be fair to the cheerleaders of separatism ideology, their agitation for Nigeria’s liquidation might be theoretically valid when examined from the perspective of perceived hegemonic domination and marginalization of other ethnic groups but even at that, the balkanization of the entity called Nigeria is not the best option and not one to be approximated to political reality. Our federalism and her structure, I agree, stand on a faulty foundation but notwithstanding, being united together in our diversity is what makes us special and great.

If you would ask me, there are an abundance of valid and time-tested reasons, that are more logical to substantiate that we would be much more better as one undivided entity than our partitioning. Take, for instance, our cherished historicity of inter-ethnic relations, divine placement within close geographical boundaries, inter-marriage affairs, political alignment, cultural nexus, economic relations, and regional comparative advantage(s) that complements one another’s economic demand and supply just to mention but a few. All these are solid reasons that would convince anyone that we have gone a long way together and being united guarantees a greater future as one indivisible polity.

I think confronting the myriads of our challenges and redesigning the foundation of our federalism, in a way that addresses the perceived injustice, marginalization, and political hegemonism in a restructured way will guarantee fairness and political inclusiveness of all the tribal entities that make up Nigeria. The current modus operandi of governance, where the central power is more domineering and solely controls the fiscal power in a distributive manner needs urgent political surgery.

The lopsided federal system of government where the central government has become the semi-god, wields overarching powers, controls the natural resources domicile in regional units and solely dictates the distribution of fiscal resources to the component units are responsible for the current eruption of separation struggle by ethnic clans who have felt unfairly treated.

The bitter truth is, Nigeria’s federal system is garbed in a unitary system of government and the manifestation of this is crystal clear in the modus operandi at the center. There is an urgent need to decentralize, so as to promote creative governance practices at the regional levels and allow the component units to be truly autonomous. In my opinion, a political structure that allows complete resource control by the component units, fiscal autonomy of the federating units, facilitates rotational political leadership, guarantees regional security outfits, supports detribalization of strategic political appointment at the center and discourages political hegemony will
silence the voice of separation and foster unity.

If we can restructure the political system in Nigeria, I have no doubt that this will go a long way to solve the issues of injustice, unhealthy rivalry, mis- governance, marginalization, unequal distribution of resources and quench for once the voices of disintegration of Nigeria. There are some responsibilities in the exclusive list in the country’s constitution that need to be tinker with to ensure true devolution of power to the federating units and reduce the overwhelming responsibilities on the center. In a restructured Nigeria, the central government can continue to take exclusive responsibility for our security and defense, foreign affairs but the exclusivity of controlling the police from the center should be redesigned in such a way that state police would be enshrined.

The component units should as a matter of urgency, be able to develop infrastructure, critical amenities, undertake other developmental projects, education and health without a center body interfering. This is what true federalism opines.

The constitutional contraption calls for restructuring but not the partition of Nigeria along tribal lines. Let’s build, consolidate, address the foundational political structure but not disintegrate!

Femi Ojo is a media communications professional and writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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