By Yinka Odumakin
ANY honest observer, who has seen how Nigeria has steadily and systematically moved from being a country of great promise to a country of great problems; anyone who knows that you have to look back to the past, instead of look forward, to see this country’s best years of national and regional progress, its years of great public and missionary schools and great education, of proud infrastructural achievements and the best life experiences – any such honest observer? can easily list more than a hundred reasons why Nigeria needs restructuring to stop the drift towards the development abyss.
I have elected to cite but just 10 of the many reasons why Nigeria needs to be structurally reconfigured for economic progress, social equity and sustainable development.
1.A Nigeria earnestly restructured, is a Nigeria positively restored: a country restored to a previously-travelled path of developmental progress, rapid educational advancement, robust and committed Public Service, which genuinely and competently served the Nigerian public – both at Federal and regional levels.. Restructuring will bring back THE CONDITIONS for a return to that golden era of public service and effective governance, regionally and at the Centre.
Our demand is therefore NOT for a previously unknown Nigeria; We only demand a return to a Nigeria that worked for human progress and development – across the entire country, before young and in-experienced military boys truncated the evolution of Nigeria’s democracy in January 15, 1966. Of course, pre-1966 was not a perfect period; it had its peculiar problems of political and democratic evolution. But however one looks at Nigeria today, it is unarguably in a much worse and more dangerous shape, compared to the strongly-federalist process and era of democratic learning that the military boys suddenly destroyed in 1966.
- A Nigeria restructured is a Nigeria with enhanced leadership-building culture, where a truly-federal system allows each region to locally identify leadership for public governance, nurture and closely monitor such leaders for hard work and spirit of public service, focussed on the development of each region, at a pace and a rate that reflect the quantum of each region’s effort and efficient use of local resources; indeed, the rivalry-for-regional-success resulting from a truly-federating Nigeria, will boost sustainable development across all zones of the country.
We propose that every region, within its smaller, manageable-governance-space and enlarged policy possibilities, should anchor in its constitution, unambiguous clauses and provisions that are weighted in favour of the citizenry; clauses that make public office less attractive, except to those who seek office to ‘do something’ societally positive, rather than to ‘become somebody’ without contributing; clauses which allow for statutory and legally-prescribed citizens action, to challenge unjustified ostentation, self-indulgent benefits, sundry abuses of public- office privileges, etc – by both elected and appointed officials.
Because more public appointments and elected offices may likely be needed within the federating Regions, with relatively less at the Centre, a Nigeria re-structured will be one where the process of recruitment into public leadership could be better subjected to closer local scrutiny for reputation, character and track record, as against the current practice where persons with dubious reputations and questionable bona fides among their own people, are chosen into high national office as leaders – presumably on behalf of their regions or localities – by a distant Central government, which often knows relatively little (or,sometimes cares little) about the poor and low-character reputation of such appointees among their own people.
- A Nigeria restructured is a Nigeria where the Central Government, along with its lower-level Federating Constituents, will, and must, be strong!! We seek a Nigeria where every level of government is strong; BUT each level must be strong for the right reasons, and in the right areas of responsibility. We all need a Central government to be strong in the defence of our nation, in immigration and global diplomacy, and in other areas where a strong and competent Central Government is in our collective national interest. But a restructured Nigeria does not need, for example, a Federal Fire Service!! Fire? incidents occur at a very local level – on streets, in neighbourhood and at community levels. Still on the Fire Service example, a restructured Nigeria will ensure that appropriate state and local governance units are capable and strong to respond adequately and promptly to fire incidents wherever they occur.
Every time we witness a house, or a factory, or a whole street being burnt to the ground, while the Federal Fire Service arrives late, or looks on helplessly – sometimes with excuse that they have not received the necessary resources from Abuja, the case for restructuring is made more evident, albeit at a tragic cost to individuals, families, businesses or even places of worship. Therefore, ALL Nigerians, regardless of region or ethnicity, need a restructured Nigeria where every level of government is strong in the appropriate areas of governance, and for the appropriate reasons.
- A Nigeria restructured is a Nigeria enhanced by the removal of the current PERVERSE-INCENTIVES SYSTEM, where many people seek elected and appointive government positions, not to develop the God-given resources of their local areas and local lands, or add to the wealth of their communities, but instead to feed on, and loot the un-earned monthly allocations from the centre; a restructured Nigeria will reduce the current mentality and room-for-maneouvre by elected and appointed leaders to treat the Abuja monthly allocations, as part of Nigeria’s current ‘Awoof-Economy of un-earned monthly allocations’ – to quote the common-parlance reference by a distinguished Yoruba development scientist and thinker, the Emeritus Professor Akin Mabogunje; a restructured Nigeria will be a Nigeria in which the Central Government will no longer be able to automatically pool funds un-evenly from different parts of Nigeria, while re-distributing the same funds unfairly and inequitably (at the expense of the larger contributors) among the various states and local governments – regardless of the quality of policy choices and good-governance efforts by state and LG leaders.
- A Nigeria restructured is a Nigeria where every area, region or zone of the country will be able to devote more thinking time, conceptualisation, research, exploration and analysis to its mineral and agricultural resources, with a view to developing an economic value-chain from them, which is the first serious step towards the development of a manufacturing capacity across the country.
When governments and private investors in every part of the country, are challenged to look for sources of wealth-creation PRIMARILY within their own region, and to work with international investors to transform these natural endowments into real economic empowerment for millions of their people, then we know restructuring is at work.
System of forced equalization
The current system, where our government leaders – from almost all zones – look MAINLY to monthly allocations from Abuja (some more than 90% of their financial needs!!) gives NO INCENTIVE to government leaders to improve their inward-looking effort to explore? locally for wealth. A restructured Nigeria will make every region of the country an Economic-Growth and Wealth-Creating Zone, which will make us the true economic giant that God has destined this country to be.
- A restructured Nigeria is a Nigeria where we would no longer practise the current system of FORCED EQUALIZATION of ‘ever-downwards’ educational opportunities across the country, just to ensure federal character; a restructured governance structure will force or ensure investment of extra efforts and programmes to bring low-performing students in the Northern parts of Nigeria, up to the level of better-performing students elsewhere in the country.
It’s a cruel, future-damaging false help to the people of northern Nigerian states, for the Central Government to continuously lower pass-grades and qualification standards for children of the poor in that zone!! Nigeria’s people of power everywhere, including in the north, where the elite repeatedly push achievements standards lower and lower for children of the poor, – these elite policy makers and politicians DO NOT ask colleges and Universities overseas to lower admission standards to enable their own children to be enrolled.
Instead, the northern elite and politicians invest money into extra coaching, encouragement, monitoring and similar efforts to ensure that their own children meet and even surpass the academic-entry requirements into the best schools overseas.
Why not the same for children of the poor back home? What quality of graduate will a student be, who was admitted to university with a 20/400 pass mark? Is this good for human-asset development in Nigeria, as the world gets incredibly more knowledge-competitive, and while the 4th Industrial Revolution beckons? Why the double standards by the Central Education authorities? So, even the poor majority of the north (and of Nigeria, generally) NEED to be rescued from cruelly-unjust double-standards through restructuring.
- In a truly-restructured Nigeria, the negative effects of lowering academic and examination standards will very quickly become obvious and untenable among the people in the states and regions practising this immorality, which offends the best of Islamic, Christian and indigenous ethics of justice, equality of opportunity and fairness. Restructuring will therefore bring EDUCATIONAL LIBERATION to the millions of poor children in the North – and everywhere – who are funded by the Central government to wallow in under-achievement. In Yorubaland, even the poorest persons strive to provide extra-teaching and learning support to improve their children’s education. We advocate that a restructured Nigeria should aim for this type of effort to promote achievement among all of Nigeria’s children, regardless of socio-economic status.
Leaders in poor-educational states (overwhelmingly in the North) will be forced to work hard to raise internal revenues and spend money prudently, so that they can allocate more funds to improve education for children in their own States, once automatic central funding is no longer assured.
Restructuring will thus bring healthy rivalry in educational achievement to ALL children of Nigeria and help us EQUALISE EDUCATIONAL SUCCESS, instead of failure. Current access to easy central funds, regardless of local or state leadership performance, only encourages policies and practices that artificially and irresponsibly impose a centrally-funded equalisation of low-performance for the children of the poor.Fiscal Restructuring will end the current government-funded race to the bottom for all Nigerian children!!