By Olukayode Ajulo
When, lately, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, slammed former President Olusegun Obasanjo for trivialising the agitations of Nigeria’s constituents for restructuring of the country, it only shows the extent of the reach of the clamour for the nation’s reorganisation, and the volume the call has gathered. In Soyinka’s words, for instance, he said Nigeria was long overdue for reconfiguring, and noted that only dishonest citizens of the country would shy away from the need to decentralise the country.
Although there are those who attribute the reaction from the Nobel Laureate to the age-long rift between him and the former President, yet, to a preponderance of Nigerian citizenry, the stance Obasanjo gave on the Channels television that rather than the country’s restructuring, Nigerians need to restructure their mentality, mind, and understanding of the country instead, and the blunt declaration that he cannot be part of it didn’t go down well with most Nigerians.
I was no surprise that Soyinka was raged by the standpoint of former President Obasanjo as he said he finds his stance very dishonest and cheap trivialising an issue of such great consequence. For Wole Soyinka, it is about ‘the protocols of association of the constitutive parts of a nation’. In his words, Nigeria is over-centralised.
Soyinka is not alone on this. Many Nigerians across the ethnic divides are. The agitation continues to sprout shades of issues and discusses that raise fundamental questions. There is the question of what exactly is the meaning and essence of restructuring?
For the purpose of this treatise, we provide Wikipedia’s interpretation: Restructuring is the corporate management term for the act of reorganizing the legal, ownership, operational, or other structures of a company for the purpose of making it more profitable, or better organized for its present needs.
Other reasons for restructuring include a change of ownership or ownership structure, demerger, or a response to a crisis or major change in the business such as bankruptcy, repositioning, or buyout.
There are striking take-home from the foregoing definition of restructuring. Of particular interest is the fact that restructuring is essentially neccesitated by the purpose of making a structure more profitable or better organized for its present needs. Who then dare says the present political configuration of Nigeria isn’t an albatross on her neck. Not even the ruling All Progressives Congress dare denies it. As a matter of fact, the party has reorganisation of the country as part of its manifestos, only unfortunate that it had to wait for this long until the call for it reaches an ugly crescendo.
Now the APC has been constrained by the forceful and sweeping agitations arising from the need to restructure to constitute a panel and saddled with the charge to look into the agitation by making arrangements for public hearing on the theme which slated for September 18, 2017, what it should have done much more earlier. The party named the panel ‘Committee on True Federalism’, and it has been announced that the committee will hold public hearing in the six geopolitical zones of the country, starting from Benin, the Edo State capital in the South South zone. On this, we think it’s better late than never.
It is good and propitious, except for pretenders who are out to cheapen the need for the all-important reorganisation. There are burning issues about creation/merger of states, derivation principle, devolution of powers, federating units, fiscal federalism and revenue allocation and form of government.
There are also other issues as independent candidacy, land tenure system, local government autonomy, power sharing and rotation, resource control and type of legislature, all of which threatens the feet of the country if something urgent is not done. The reports of the various political conferences show that these issues are dire, consequential and urgent.
The Gov. El-Ruffai committee which has been commissioned to deliver on the need for restructuring must be definite about it. There is the unspoken, yet palpable fear in the faces of Nigerians that the plan to tour the constituent geographical zones and allied decisions may end up the way of its kind – to have a report that will be swept under the carpet after a whole lot of time and tax-payers money must have been lavishly expended on the effort.
Embarking on states tour to collate people’s opinions is key, yes, but Nigerians are virtually cynical about it because it’s a familiar bait. We fear that it appears what the ruling party itches to do is not only to mess it kill the 2014 confab resolutions, but to also look for a way to waste Nigerians’ time and resources, only to do away with the restructuring in the end.
I salute and agree with the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III and Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II CON , who have canvassed that some parts of the 2014 Confab report should be looked into as a way to settle the restructuring agitation.
Every Nigerian must rise to this occasion by keeping watch on the panel and it’s activities to ensure that the nation is not rubbed the usual way. The committee on the other hand must be seen to be doing the purpose for which it is commissioned. It must do only which the people of Nigeria yearns for and which is in the nation’s best interest, not the bidding of an ephemeral political grouping.
Dr. Ajulo is the Principal Partner, Kayode Ajulo & Co. Castle of Law, Abuja, Executive Director, Egalitarian Mission for Africa and former National Secretary, Labour Party.