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Restructuring the polity for political and economic stability

In the last few months, many Nigerians have expressed genuine fears about the future of their country. Considering the perilous political situation of the country, many analysts were not unaware of the threats of eventual break-up of Nigeria.

Apart from those described as ‘prophets of doom‘, there are others, with genuine love for their country, who are not so sure about the future of a united country – peaceful and prosperous.

The dilemma of the 21stcentury world politics is the inability of Nigeria and the Nigerian political stake holders to understand the various problems confronting their country and the painful inability to find answers to their ills.

Europe had been able to come to terms with ethnicity and religion as factors of disunity, and have been able to come to terms with the realities of their situations.

Yugoslavia, after series of political experiments had at last been broken into separate independent states recognized by the United Nations.  This was done after much blood had been shed through genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The mighty Soviet Union (USSR) forcibly made up of European and Asian nations has now disintegrated into several sovereign states. Nigeria is the only country which has withstood disintegration, even when it is generally agreed that the amalgamation of many nations into a single country in 1914 was anomalous.

That the country has remained one after a devastating civil war and subsequent ethnic and religious killings, is a tribute to the resilience of the citizens and the faith in the good fortunes of the people whose first name of their President is, ‘Goodluck‘

At present, it has to be appreciated that the plunge into the civil war was a mistake of the head and not of the mind.  The evolvement of a multi state structure as distinct from the regional setup after the civil war was the ingenious local response to the minority problems of the country, even if it was trivially overdone.

The present 36 states structure has its own problems of homogeneity and economic development.  Some states harbor a domineering majorities and restless minorities.

President Goodluck Jonathan

The states are not evenly and economically endowed.  All the states as at present constituted rely on the sustenance and the support of the Federal Government for a meaningful budget.  Thus, the emergence of Father Christmas in Abuja to dole out gifts every month.  This, many people believe could not reflect salient aspects of true federalism.

Many analysts, therefore, believe that a return to true federalism would be a necessary step towards the achievement of political and economic stability in the country.  This concept could not be properly understood by the states and the local governments that are heavily dependent on the generosity of the federal government for their survival.

In spite of the parrot-like sayings of a return to true federalism, the message is barely understood and wished for in the existing states and local governments.

There lies the dilemma of wishful thinking and reality on the ground. If the present structure does not bring progress and does not give hope for a better future, it is absolutely necessary to assess that structure with the hope of looking for or examining a different structure that would guarantee lasting peace and prosperity.

What then are the realistic options open to us?  It is reasonable to re-examine some valuable suggestions made after series of political or the riots in the past and the unfortunate civil war.

The first suggestion for a change to the existing structure of the country was made in 1953 after the Northern legislators were booed in Lagos following their rejection of the motion on Nigeria’s independence by the late Anthony Enahoro.

‘The North Eight-Point Programs‘  was essentially confederation in nature. It advocated that “Each region shall have complete legislative and executive autonomy with respect to all matters except the following: External Affairs; Defense; Customs and West African Research Institutions”.

Also, “that there should be no Central Legislative body and no Central Executive or Policy making body for the whole of Nigeria”.  It suggests, “All the revenues shall be levied and collected by the Regional Governments except Customs revenue at the ports of discharge by the Central Agency and paid to its Treasury”.

The administration of the Customs shall be so organized as to assure that goods consigned to the region are separately cleared and charged to duty.  Each region shall have a separate Public Service.  From the above, it could be seen that the ‘North Eight-Point Programs‘ tilted towards a strong Region and a weak Centre.

General Gowon, after becoming the Head of State in 1966, addressed the Ad Hoc Constitutional Assembly on 12th September 1967 where he asked Nigerians to form any political associations the country should adopt. As contained in Raph Uwechue‘s  Reflections on The Nigerian Civil War “A Call for Realism”,  General Gowon said, “You will find to analyse, in the light of Nigerian circumstances, all the arguments for and against all the various types of political arrangements”.

Two things for the present exercise I feel should be ruled out, viz: (a) Complete break-up; (b) a Unitary form of
government; I therefore put before you the following forms of Government for consideration:(a)
Federal system with a strong Central Government; (b) Federal system with a weak Central Government; (c) Confederation or (d) an entirely new arrangement which will be peculiar to Nigeria and which has not yet found its way into any political dictionary”.

Unfortunately, the civil war and continuous army rule of the 1970s and 1980s did not allow for the choice to be made.
After the civil war, Raph Uwechue in his book quoted above suggested a six-state structure in a Loose Federation of United States of Nigeria.

Coincidentally, this structure is akin to the six zones principle being operated but not recognized by the 1999 Constitution.

This idea of a Loose Federation – A UNITED STATES OF NIGERIA based with suitable modifications (such as increasing the number of states beyond the original four and making the desired allowance for a civilian instead of a military regime) on the Aburi accord”, according to the author Raph Uwechue, would be ideal for consideration.

Fortunately, both General Gowon (rtd) and the author (who is the President of OHANEZE INDIGBO) are alive to contribute to the restructuring of the present polity, if occasion arises.

The worsening security situation in the country culminating in the ability of the Boko Haram Sect (despite heavy official deployment) to select their victims and places of attack with precision, the growing menace of bank robberies and unabated kidnappings for ransom in the southern parts of the country call for a serious examination of the structure of the country called Nigeria.

The problems are compounded by the inability of the present and previous administrations to provide enough Power to fuel industrial expansion which is necessary for increasing employment and eradication of poverty.  President Goodluck Jonathan, as a statesman should take an urgent and serious note.
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