November 30, 2021

Imperatives To A Peaceful And Stable Nigeria; An Opinion Piece On The Restructuring Of The Nigerian State

7 min read

By Comrade Peter Nwokolo

The agitation for some sort of restructuring of the Nigerian State has always been a recurring issue since our independence in 1960.

The late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, a young, idealistic officer of the Nigerian armed forces from the Niger Delta region started what can be described as a protest, demanding for greater autonomy and resource control for the oil producing areas and of course, the 3 year civil war which started in 1967 and ended in 1970 was also a result of the inability of the Federal military authorities then to effect wide ranging restructuring measures that would have put the country on the path to sustainable peace and stability.

In the wake of the civil war, a peace conference was held in Aburi, Ghana, to try to fashion out a workable model for the new nation that would ensure justice, equity, even development and autonomy for the 3 regions that make up the Nigerian Federation then, but again, the Federal military authorities reneged on its earlier agreement to allow for a confederal arrangement which was thought to be a compromise solution in resolving the lingering political crisis that had plagued Nigeria. The rest, they say, is now history.

Thereafter, to douse the tension, Twelve States were created out of the 3 regions and subsequently19 and now 36 States, including the Federal capital territory Abuja. Ironically, the creation of more States in Nigeria has not brought about the much desired change and equity that the nation so much craves.

The years of military rule compounded the problems and exacerbated the divisions and mistrust between the various ethnic nationalities in the country. Perhaps, the military more than any other institution in Nigeria contributed in no small measure, to the polarization of the country and created deep seated suspicion between the various regions and what appears to be the institutionalization of corruption.

The criminal annulment of the June 12 1993 general elections by the then military president, Ibrahim Babangida, widely considered to be the freest, fairest and most credible election ever conducted in Nigeria and clearly said to have been won by the late business mogul, Chief MKO Abiola, further gave impetus to the clamor for the convocation of a sovereign national conference, which many ethnic nationalities within the Nigerian Federation, considered as a necessary pre-requisite and irreducible minimum condition that can set Nigeria on the path to becoming a truly great, united and peaceful nation, devoid of all the negative influences that has tied us down as a people and as a nation.

Proponents of a sovereign national conference have argued, that some sections of the country have become a milking ground for others to exploit. Post independent Nigeria was a very vibrant nation with a mufti-economic resource base that was the envy of other countries. At that point in our history, Nigeria was a net exporter of Cocoa which was produced in the South West of the country and a great source of foreign exchange for the country, so was the groundnut pyramids in Kano, North east of Nigeria as well as Coal which the country exported in very large quantities and mined in the South East of Nigeria and how about the booming timber and plywood and the palm oil industries in the Niger Delta?.

The country was therefore almost self-sufficient in all areas of development and Nigerians looked forward to a great and brighter future. Ironically, the discovery of petroleum in the Niger Delta has rather than create prosperity and engender peace and equity, become a source of grave economic deprivation and degradation whilst also creating disunity and corruption, giving rise to all sorts of militancy and criminality. The result of the discovery of this natural resource, which is indeed supposed to be a blessing, has turned out a curse, the curse of a nation.

The scramble for the billions of dollars accruing from the black gold has turned our political class into lions whose only mission is to ensure that no other animal lives even outside its own territory. The other existing natural resources which for many years was a source of foreign exchange earner for the country has therefore been totally neglected, so much so that today, all those products have since become history, while many countries around the world, which were indeed importers of these products from Nigeria are now exporting same products to the country. That is the tragedy of a nation whose leadership tethers on the brink of ineptitude and moral bankruptcy.

Opponents of a sovereign national conference on the other hand, argues that the convocation of such a conference will create anarchy and could lead to the eventual breakup of the Nigerian State, saying that sovereignty presently belongs to the elected representatives of the people and should there be any need to discuss the future of the country, the right people to do so, must be the national assembly.

My humble opinion is that sovereignty belongs to the people and not the elected representatives. The average Nigerian does not trust the leadership of the country at any point in time and justifiably too. With a profligate national assembly that is only interested in legislating for its own selfish interest rather than the interest of the larger Nigerian society, it is difficult to entrust such a life time changing restructuring assignment to a select few of individuals, whose integrity cannot be vouched for. If indeed therefore, the Nigerian people who are the custodians of the sovereignty of the Nigerian State decides to talk and agree on the parameters under which they should co-exist, no Government should stop them from doing so.

Most of the 36 States that make up the Nigerian Federation such as we have presently are not viable in any sense of the word. Some have become essentially conduit pipes through which Politicians and other vested interests siphon money to their various foreign accounts while the greater majority of the people live in squalor and perpetual servitude. It is those politicians who are afraid of upsetting the status-quo in which they have become stupendously wealthy, that are vehemently opposed to a restructuring of the Nigerian State.

The prevailing insecurity in the country can be traceable to a poverty of leadership.

Some politicians who are bent on maintaining a stranglehold on power had at one point or the other recruited thugs and other criminal elements to help their ascendancy to power and those thugs have eventually grown to become a thorn in the flesh of the entire Nigerian State.

Perhaps now more than ever before, it has become absolutely imperative to urgently sit down at a conference that will sincerely restructure Nigeria into a truly Federal State which will ensure due process, accountability and the rule of law, devise an acceptable derivation formula that will give each ethnic nationality a sense of belonging and dignity, devolve powers to each federating units and allow a truly regional integration that can whittle down the prevailing imbalances in our national structure.

Each State or region as the case may be and as may be agreed at the conference must be encouraged to develop its own natural resource and embark on far reaching economic and agricultural framework, that can activate growth and engender development and all the regions will then be obliged to pay certain amount of tax to the central Government, to enable it carry out its statutory responsibility as provided in the exclusive legislative list

The uncertainty that the country faces presently arising from pockets of violence and agitations, reinforces the need for the people of Nigeria to sit down to try to re-establish a constitutional framework that will give every individual and group sufficient space for actualization of their of dreams, so that we can re-create a nation-State out of the diverse ethnic configuration that is presently Nigeria.

The result is that all the federating units will then be in a better position to develop at their own pace and in competition with other States or region such as existed in the 1960;s when Nigeria had only 3 regions. All the units will then contribute equally to a pool of national account and thereby, giving every State or every federating unit an opportunity to enjoy and contribute to the commonwealth of the nation.

It follows therefore, that all the regional powers and their leaders will be held accountable for their performance or ill performance and the recurring issue of all sorts of agitation will be drastically minimized.

A situation where States that are supposed to contribute to the Federal purse by developing the resources available in their respective communities, prefer rather to run to the Federal capital at the end of every month to collect allocation contributed from other States and then distribute same to party colleagues and shared among politicians and their cronies can no longer be allowed to thrive. Nigerians must fashion out a truly peoples constitution that will address the myriads of problems facing the nation, so that we can join the comity of nations in enjoying an era of peace, unity and progress.

Corruption is at the root of our under development and only visionary and farsighted leadership can address this canker worm. No matter how perfect a constitution is, it needs visionary, purposeful and patriotic individuals to drive and implement the letters and spirit of that constitution. Nigerians must sit down to discuss their future and set politics aside. We are a blessed nation both in human and natural resources.

The resources must not be cornered by a select few across the political spectrum while majority wallow in poverty and deprivation. There must be equal and even distribution of our national wealth, so that every ethnic nationality can contribute equally to the commonwealth and feel a sense of belonging.

A future well discussed and articulated is a future well assured.

Written by Comrade Peter Nwokolo, a public affairs analyst & National Co-ordinator, Citizens Rights & Leadership Awareness Initiative

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