By Gambo Dori
THE issue of restructuring of the country brings to mind the parable of the elephant and a group of blind men. It is a parable that readers would be familiar with as it is found in many regions of the world. The story relates to a group of blind men who stumbled on an elephant and tried to understand what it is by feeling parts of its huge body. The blind man who touches the trunk said, it was a snake, while the next who felt the leg asserted that it was a tree trunk. The one whose hand fell on the side of the elephant said it could be a wall. The other blind man who touched the ear was definite that it was a fan, while the next one who held the tail that it couldn’t have been anything but a rope. The last one whose hand felt the tusk was definite that it was a spear. The situation was only saved by one clear-eyed man who looked at the elephant as a whole and explained it away.
I regard Eng. Mohammed Abba Gana as one of those elder statesmen who is clear-eyed about issues surrounding restructuring. Readers might recall him as a former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and later as Special Adviser to the President. Today he is my guest on this page with a paper which he submitted to Northern Leaders and Stakeholders recently. I want to share the contents of the paper with readers because I believe there is a lot of wisdom in it. And when one reads it, one would find a lot that would help to clear the fog and cobwebs over the term restructuring and how it affects each and every one of us. The paper reaches an intriguing conclusion though. Please read on:
Restructuring means different things to different persons, different ethnic groups, different geopolitical zones and different political elites. It is a divisive political jargon which has to be well understood and very carefully handled. Beauty they say is in the eye of the beholder. So restructuring too must be looked at from the perspectives of geopolitical zones, ethnic groups and even political calculations of some candidates and economic considerations like revenue accruing to specific areas and ethnic groups.
Restructuring can also be very disruptive and contentious with numerous unintended/unexpected consequences like the former Head of State, Ironsi’s, Unification Decree of 1966 dissolving the four regions into group of provinces – all in one fell swoop, like overdose of medical drugs which can kill because of severe side effects. So the speed, the safety and destination of the restructuring train needs to be carefully examined.
Restructuring must not look like a zero sum game; the gain of one group or section is the loss of another group or section. Restructuring must result in benefits or good for all concerned and subject to poof, convincing and transparent manner for all to see. It must be accepted ab initio that the articulated positions of the various geopolitical zones may not be acceptable to all the geopolitical zones. As the saying goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. This means a lot of give and take.
Restructuring must take place in accordance with our current laws and within the rules of law. Therefore all the six geopolitical zones must submit their well-articulated positions to their State and National Assembly members. They are our elected representatives for now. Whatever we do must be within the laws of our country. Whatever our representatives agree and accept can be passed as amendment to the constitution.
Restructuring or improvement to our governance structure and processes is not one-generation affair. What we cannot agree on now our grandchildren can agree to it in the year 2050. So let us not cure the disease (in a hurry) and kill the patient in the process.
Matters of fact on restructuring:
ØThe 19 states of the North and FCT occupy about 75% of Nigeria’s landmass.
ØSince amalgamation of 1914 the former Northern Region had always registered about 3-5% more in population than the Southern part of Nigeria in all the censuses.
ØTherefore if subsequently States and Local Governments were created by the military to bring development and government closer to the people, those who live on 25% of the land and are lesser in population should not rationally have equal number of states and local government areas with those who live on 75% of the land and have higher population size.
ØAll over the world large fertile land and reliable fresh water sources are among the most important resources God has given to mankind. The 19 States of the North occupying about 75% of Nigeria’s landmass have more than half of the population and have two large rivers Niger and Benue flowing through them to the sea. But this vast land the people of the North are living on have never been developed with infrastructure. The Gowon regime created River Basin Authorities but successive governments never funded them well. Agriculture, livestock and solid minerals have never gotten reasonable funding and these are the only areas where the North has comparative advantage, for now.
ØRestructuring or improvement to our governance structure and process is never by its very nature one-generation affair. Every generation and every epoch throughout the recorded history of human civilisation had faced and surmounted different kinds of challenges. But there is no generation which can resolve all the challenges of its time. Politics it’s said is art of the possible.
ØSome of the problems and difficulties have to wait for successive generations to resolve. No human organisation is so good that it cannot be improved. So human civilisation progress incrementally as not all the things needed must be done at once. The saying that no force can stop an idea whose time has come is apt. Also it’s said that you strike the iron when it’s hot enough then you can bend it and shape it.
ØWhat we cannot agree on now our grandchildren can easily agree on in year 2050 or later, under different conditions, circumstances and attitudes of their time.
ØSo there is no need for threats, abuses, and overheating the polity and creating unnecessary tension and insecurity. There is a lot of wisdom in the saying that time heals. Both former Premier of Eastern Region, Dr. Azikwe and that of the Northern Region, Ahmadu Bello, rejected creation of states in their two regions but when God’s time came new leaders created the states.
ØSo let us agree on restructuring which is for now possible, generally accepted and not disruptive and leave the others to successive generations with right attitude to politics and governance they might have acquired at that time.
Finally, I may suggest that for fairness sake, let us have national consensus for creating just one and only one more state for the South east geopolitical zone and 100 more local governments to be distributed to deserving states throughout the country in both north and south. This will not be disruptive along with well-debated devolution of power to states and LGAs, local government autonomy and a new revenue allocation formula.
Eng. Mohammed Abba Gana, CON