I believe in one UNITED Nigeria. In short, Nigeria is too small. I wish it will be possible for all of West Africa to be one country. But that will not happen. So, the one I have now, which is ONE Nigeria must stay. There should not be any argument on the indivisibility of Nigeria.
While I respect all the agitators from the East to South, North to West, the fact remains that any part of Nigeria that breaks out will weaken the nation. Our strength is our diversity, and our diversity is an unlocked opportunity which should cushion us from any cyclical market shock. Nigeria could be a resilient nation that will survive anything from the slump in crude price to crises in agricultural production. There are very few countries in the world with the diversities in resources as we have in Nigeria.
Yet, I do acknowledge that Nigeria is not working. We have not managed the nation excellently. Certainly, the answer is not breaking away. Also, restructuring while it sounds great may not even help fix the federating units. Our problems go deeper than what mere restructuring will do.
Restructuring, A Wounded Idea
The main reason I like restructuring is that it could make the regional governments to develop their respective areas. That will help create jobs for the citizens. So, the region that is good for farming will invest in agriculture and that will deepen Nigeria’s agricultural capabilities. The area with resources for tourism will put efforts in that area to boost it. The same applies to those with excellence in trade. By aggregating all those pieces, Nigeria could develop faster.
That is the textbook expectation when you run the model on paper. Allow the regions to run their affairs and over time, great things will happen in the land. Unfortunately, the reality on what we have seen since 1999 does not usher a lot of confidence that restructuring can fix Nigeria
Why Restructuring Has Limitations
Why restructuring looks good on paper, there is nothing that says it will work. Most of the former governors are in courts fighting corruption cases. In short, restructuring will simply make it easier for them to have more to steal. In Nigeria, I am yet to see any evidence that more money will lead to more economic development. When the Paris Club money was released, some governors just got bigger cars. Their teachers were on strike, they did not care. One governor used the money to buy a mansion in excess of N500 million for a traditional ruler. Are these same governors the people that will run the post-restructured states?
Technically, the only consolation for most people will be that their tribal men are the ones stealing their commonwealth, instead of someone from another tribe. That is the only consolation: the money belongs here and the son of the soil is the one stealing it, so be it. Except that, mere restructuring has marginal benefits.
Making Nigeria Great
You can restructure all that you care; however, the same politicians will still be in charge, stealing the money. Instead of Abuja now, the stealing will happen in State Houses. Unless you can fix the quality of people that lead in Nigeria, nothing of value will happen. Unfortunately, doing that will be hard with the introduction and scaling of stomach infrastructure. When a man is hungry, you can manipulate him. His conscience lost to his stomach. But if the man can hold a little bit to vote with his conscience, he can offer that stomach a better meal in future. Unfortunately, that is not coming anytime soon.
Nigeria is a puzzle. I am not sure the rich-resourced states have done better jobs in human and infrastructure developments when compared with some states that have lesser resources. So even if you quadruple the resources in some of these states, you will get marginal value. The same people will waste them. Check the data, more money has not changed anything.
Let me explain with an example from the Second Republic where leadership was more advanced. Sam Mbakwe was the governor of the old Imo State and within about five years he started an airport, 5-star hotel, largest poultry farm in Eastern Nigeria, power plants, great science secondary schools, palm plantation, built pioneer roads in the state, etc. His impact is still visible today. But if you can name one single project in both Imo and Abia States since 1999 any governor has done, I will congratulate you. Since 1999, I cannot tell you of any vital project except maybe paying workers salaries. But in the golden age of Nigerian leadership, we saw real developments with more resources. In this age, that does not happen.
Nigeria initially thought that local government administration will facilitate development. Unfortunately, that only expanded the axis of corruption with the governor managing foot yes-men. Some governors have strategically ensured that no election holds or even when it does, they can suspend and take over the local administration. Except making it possible for people to get some government services without going to state capitals, there is no value in the local government administration. The state government could have done those services without a political appointee or elected official. Put them under one state ministry and they could be supervised from the state capital. That will save us from buying more cars for the LGA Chairmen and their cohorts.
So even if we restructure, we have to cut the size of government. We cannot afford all these apparatus. It is too much and it will drain the states. Nigeria wastes so much on bureaucracy.
What I Suggest
Financially restructure Nigeria into 6 regional governments with only 6 governors: South South, South East, South West, North East, North Central, North West and the Federal Capital Territory. That means the South East will have one governor. All the present 5 states will collapse into one. From the SE State, there will be 5 senators representing it in Abuja. The House of Representatives will be 15, three from each of the present five states.
At the state level, for each of the present five states, the state house of assembly will present only nine representations in the state capital. In total, we will have 45 state house members. Phase out the political arm of the local government administration and move it into a ministry within the state. Through this, South East will save more than 40% on the present administrative costs. That money will go into developing the region. Those in other new states will do the same.
Our goal is to make sure that more resources translate into more development. That correlation can only happen if we have the right people in power. So, I want to see the states focus on manpower development and supreme accountability. By investing in attracting and retaining top minds in government, the states will make more progress.
How do we do that? We will begin from election. The regional state government under their own electoral umpire, different from INEC, must stipulate the maximum amount any politician can spend on primaries. At the main election, the state will also cap the spending. By making over-exceeding that limit a felony, money politics will dissolve to politics of ideas. We are already in the age of electronic banking; the state will track and ask the politicians to file paperwork.
And finally, no politician will give a gift to any voter that is more than N50. That will remove the bags of rice, vegetable oil, etc. Once we run these processes for two election cycles, you will see higher improvements in the quality of governance.
But without those core elements, restructuring will simply move corruption from Abuja to state capitals. Believe in Nigeria.
Summary From a Reader: You can see this as a nice summary from a LinkedIn reader
There are three points i like in your piece. One is the point of reducing the cost of governance to maximize the actual value of our resources that is targeted at development. This will transform Nigeria. The second point is reducing sub-national governance to it’s most viable economic entity without prejudice to our diversity. The last is the leadership imperative. While there are formidable challenges with trying to even conceive its implementation, your proposal does trigger some food for thought