President Buhari in his New Year address to Nigerians made it known that restructuring nation is not a major priority.
“In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the on-going debate about “Restructuring”. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments. We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure”
Honestly, Mr. President has a point there. I have noted that while we did better in terms of infrastructural development in early 1960s when the nation was divided into regional governments with control at regional levels, the situation today is different. The time of Awolowo, Okpara and others, we had decent leaders who actually utilized the immense resources they controlled to develop the regions they managed.
Today, if you take a hard effort, more than 50% of former Nigerian governors since 1999 have a court case related to corruption. And these are from the pool we are going to hire for the new restructured governments. My suspicion is that the problem we have in Abuja will move to state capitals and they would be very far away from ICPC and EFCC to deal with them [I know some will prefer that model provided the stealing is happening in their state capitals; very unfortunate indeed]. Governors are like lords and no one can police them in the states, so allowing them full control would be a big mistake unless we can set condition precedents.
Yes, restructuring while leaving 36 states will not change anything. I want Nigeria to revert back to regional government via six super-sized states where the six geopolitical zones we have today are converted into states. That will save us more than 80% we spend in the national assembly and state capitals maintaining politicians. With that we can invest more in the real country. If we can have that condition precedent, then restructuring makes sense.
Otherwise, I agree with Mr. President, the problem is not structure but process, and if you do not deal with the processes, you just push the issues to the state capitals as the same actors in Abuja will be running the states. So before restructuring, get the National Assembly to collapse the 36 states into six states. Lol. When that is done, we can begin the talk of restructuring. With six states, governors will have resources to invest. Today, the fragmentation is mind-blowing that some states cannot afford to build anything. We need them to come together to have scale to finance major projects. That was how Nigeria developed in the past. Harmonization of states will do that and not restructuring.
Within the Nigerian context, restructuring (fiscal federalism) will usher in the following benefits:
- Result in a lose of ultimate significance of the presidency. It will put an end to the perpetual scramble for the presidency thereby reducing the do or die tension about what geopolitical region will produce the next president.
- It will deescalate or totally eliminate the quest for secession as the people can now hold their state or regional governments accountable for their development or the lack thereof.
- It will result in state or regional governments leveraging on their competitive advantages for overall economic viability instead of waiting cap in hand for manna from Abuja. State governments will become more enterprising because suddenly the buck stops there. No more excuses – all the current secession energy will be redirected against any non-performing state government.
I, however, agree with you, a successful restructuring requires a successful harmonisation. Some states are simply not up to scratch as far as viability goes.