Right from the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 to its political independence in 1960, and up to the crisis of interests which led to a 3 – year civil war between 1967 and 1970, Nigeria has been traumatized with thorny issues about how to manage its abundant human and material resources, such that no section of the country feels shortchanged or marginalized in the schemes of administration and politics of the land. Specifically, such issues revolve around religion, ethnicity, federal character and fiscal federalism, state structure and local government autonomy, devolution of power, citizenship, as well as derivation and resource control, among others.
As would be expected, the issues have raised sustained agitations, resulting in the emergence of ethnic, religious and regional-based uprising and insurgency organizations which have existed to challenge and put undue pressure on the sovereignty and corporate indivisibility of the nation. Today, we have:
- The Movement for the Actualization of the State of Biafra (MASSOB); and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Ralph Uwazurike, and Nnamdi Kanu respectively in the South East;
- Ooduwa People’s Congress (OPC) led by Dr. Fredrick Fasheun and Adams in the South West;
- The Niger Delta Avengers/Niger Delta Volunteer Force, etc. led by Tompolo, Asari Dokubo and others in the South-South; and
- Boko Haram insurgents led by Field marshal Suleiman Shekarau in the North East.
These “freedom fighters”, among many others fanning the embers of disintegration from across the country, have triggered the new sing-song called restructuring of Nigerian state. The pertinent questions that must be quickly answered however are; why the restructuring? Restructuring along what lines; and what parameter or yardstick should the restructuring exercise adopt? While it could be herculean, if not pyrrhic, to provide satisfactory theorems for the reform initiatives being sought by sections of Nigeria, it would be germane and worthwhile to think of providing a panacea to the lingering agitations on the poles of most modern, although maverick, socio-political, economic and cultural dynamics.
Restructuring the Political Space along Existing 6 Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria
- A panoramic view of the current six (6) geopolitical zones in the country reveals some level of imbalances in the distribution of states, population, political representation and allocation of social, educational and health amenities. For instance, while the South-South, South-West, North Central and North West have seven (7) states, the South East has five (5). The same goes for the population in each of the states in the six geo-political zones where disparities exist to put pressure on the polity with regard to how the national cake should be distributed. To address these loops and to engender harmony in the polity, I propose the restructuring of the political space along the following collegiate.
- Six (6) Premiers, one for each geo-political zone, who should have a Deputy Premier in charge of the home affairs and economic policies of a largely semi autonomous zone.
- One (1) Prime Minister/President, who should be elected from among the six (6) Premiers of the zones for a period of not less than three (3) years on a rotational basis. The Prime Minister/President should have a Deputy/Vice, who should be in charge of the economy of the nation in a loose Westminster model.
The Parliament/National Assembly
There shall be a unicameral legislature at both the National and Zonal Assemblies with members elected on part-time basis. Hence their entitlements and allowances should be computed per sittings and oversights only. This idea is to cut the present level of jumbo pay and allowances to members of the parliament; make the running of government a purely business enterprise where profits are maximized and wastes and redundancies eliminated; hence the resources accruable to the nation are channeled towards providing capital projects and social amenities for the citizenry instead of the present case where over 60 percent of the annual revenues are wasted on overhead and frivolities.
Abolish the Present 36 States Structure
Several reform initiatives resulting in the creation of states and local government councils since 1967, with due cognizance of the need to address the perceived imbalances in the administration of the country have been made by successive administrations in the country. The agitations for fairness have however continued unabated. At the moment, Nigeria is run under a 36-state structure and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. The reform initiatives failed to address the alleged and perceived marginalization, ostensibly because the exercises failed to use empirical data, including landmass, population, geographical congruity, natural resources available to the areas as well as the homogeneity of the religious and ethnic inclinations of the people of the various states and regions; and hence while some states are viable and productive, several of them are toddlers being spoon-fed by the Federal Government Allocations.
Surprisingly, even today, many people across the national divides are asking for more states to be created to correct the injustices and imbalances. The way to go however is to quickly do the following under a dynamically ‘zonalised’ structure;
- Retain the six (6) geo-political zones and make them semi-autonomous
- Abolish the (36) states structure while retaining the 774 Local Government Areas.
- Allocate the LGAs - distributed according to equitable population, landmass, linguistic homogeneity and common culture - to the 6 Premiers of the existing geo-political entities earlier identified, with their Deputies administering home affairs and economic programmes, including mining, exploration and fiscal policies.
As aforementioned, this antidote will reduce the over bloated-ness in the civil service and make available resources that could be used in the provision of roads, electricity, health and other amenities that will further stimulate equitable growth and development of the various zonal entities called Nigeria. Besides, this arrangement will naturally address the agitation for the devolution of power from the centre to the semi-autonomous zones of the federation.
The Parliament under the Semi-autonomous Zonal Structure
A most practical way forward for Nigeria at the moment is to adopt a unicameral legislature at both the centre and the zones, where lawmakers are elected on part-time basis as against equality of states. The entitlements/allowances of members of the parliament of both assemblies should be based on their plenary, oversight and committee engagements while allocations for constituency projects and sundry payments should be expunged to cut out the cost of governance. Similarly, the primary duty of the parliament as a law-making organ of government as opposed to project execution which has crept into the domain of the current legislature should be made a public policy. The system has promoted ostentation and win-by-all-means syndrome in the Nigerian political space at the moment.
Restructure the Civil Service/Proscribe Unionism
The civil service in Nigeria today is over bloated at the federal, state and local government levels with lopsided appointments, unmitigated corruption and ghost-worker syndrome. Under a dynamic, six-zone structure of the federation, every local government should be represented in the recruitment of staff in the various ministries, parastatals and agencies of the federal government while recruitment at the zones and local governments should follow similar, equitable formula in order to forestall agitations over perceived marginalization. Such recruitment should however be done on the basis of professional competence and the heart for national service and patriotism.
However, such civil servants should, under the new structure, should be discouraged from unionism through constitutional amendment. Historically, Nigeria has gone through pains and trauma as a result of sustained industrial actions, most of which are unjustified, unpatriotic and self-serving. For instance, the country has a history of unwarranted deaths as a result of doctors’ strikes, produced half-baked graduates owing to incessant closures of educational institutions and unproductive civil servants owing to unwarranted protests over settlements of allowances, some of which could be resolved through dialogue. Unionism, while not an evil exercise the world over, its use for self-serving aggrandizement makes it an omen that should be avoided, using good governance and proactive incentives in the mould of reward for hard work.
By dictionary definition and practical application, a citizen of a place is one who lives, works and contributes to the welfare and wellbeing of a particular place. In Nigeria, owing to issues revolving around ethnicity and religion, many of our citizens are massacred and maimed at slightest provocation because they speak a different language or practice a different religion other than the ones indigenous to the environment in which they live. For Nigeria to overcome the lingering tensions that arise as a result of this unfortunate scenario, citizenship should be consciously redefined in the constitution to include “anybody living, working and contributing positively in an area where he/she dwells and earns a living, for more than three years”. And such a person should have equal rights with the aborigines of the area. Similarly, such appellations as “state of origin” should be eliminated from our documentation processes because they give the stigma of national identify.
Restructuring of the Nigerian Police Force, Military and Para-military Establishment
The present structure of the Nigerian Police Force should be scrapped. In its place, Local Government Police, Zonal or Regional Police, etc. should be established in line with the peculiarities of the security challenges at the different geo-political zones of the country. However, just like you have the Military Police, Navel Police, etc to serve specific security needs and challenges within the system, there should be the Nigerian Police serving the peculiar needs at the centre, and cooperating with the police of the different regions, zones and LGAs.
Dr Ibrahim Waziri Ningi, an American trained Development Economist, contributed this Memorandum to the World debate on the Restructuring agitations in Nigeria.
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