A former Governor of the old Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, harps on restructuring Nigeria and says that there is hope for the country amid its woes.
How important do you think restructuring is?
There is a nuance to it that I must emphasise. Restructuring is basic to Nigeria’s survival. You know that in the early 60s, the World Bank stated that parts of Nigeria were growing faster than the rest of the world. Recently, there was another major statement; this time, from (British Prime Minister) Theresa May that Nigeria was fast becoming the poverty capital of the world. Can we think about why?
In the days when the World Bank said we were growing fastest, we had a structure of governance which was based on true federalism with regions as federating units. Awo (Obafemi Awolowo), Ahmadu Bello, Michael Okpara and Zik (Nnamdi Azikiwe) were able to lead a country and make the country grow at the paces of the various regions. Put together, they were growing very well.
We know what happened. The coup came, then the war, and the Nigerian military decided to win the war fast and they thought the best way to do it was to isolate the Igbo from the rest of the East, so that (Chukwuemeka) Ojukwu’s orders, which were obeyed only by the Igbo, were not to be obeyed. That was the origin of the 12 states created and those 12 states created were the origin of departing from the agreed federal structure of true federalism based on regions as federating units. After the war, instead of going back to what worked, we didn’t. Today, we have 36 states and 774 local governments. Neither states nor local governments were created with an eye on justice or fairness.
So, when we talk about restructuring, we are talking about getting back to what can make us grow. But an element which some, especially the northern people, are emphasising is called resource control. Many people from the North think that if we face restructuring and accomplish it in one night, the next morning, no oil revenue should go to any state that is not producing oil. That is wrong. It has to be a process. We must agree first of all that every region or even state must increase the power to generate internal revenue and it is not the regions alone left to do it. It is a federal responsibility to develop systems and activities that will enable every region to support itself and the revenue from federal sources cannot be cut off until maybe five years.
Some people, who feel that without resource control, they are left out of money, I think that if they understand this, they will no longer oppose restructuring. Restructuring is overdue. We can see how we are going. Look at your Federal Government. Is it not a unitary government we are running now? Restructuring includes true federalism, fiscal federalism and other aspects, but none of them will be imposed overnight.
Do you think the politicians have a stake in the restructuring agenda?
Every Nigerian has a stake in the restructuring agenda. Those who are running to rule us have even more of a stake. When we restructure, we will pull together the number of states into one region and that is very important because we are talking about economies of scale – the larger the space, the lower the cost of production of certain things. For example, while a small state cannot give itself electricity, a region can give itself electricity. These are the things we are talking about. I don’t believe that anybody, who really understands what is going on, would be unconcerned about restructuring, least of all the people who are going for office. They should all be concerned about restructuring, development, progress and employment.
Many are of the view that the political class has too much to benefit from the current centralised form of government. Do you think the ruling class has the political will to restructure the nation?
They have no choice, unless they want the country to break up completely. If you were to restructure and Oduduwa people, Igbo, Hausa and the rest of Nigeria were all growing at their individual paces, why should they want to break up? Why should the Indigenous People of Biafra want Biafra out of Nigeria? Why should the Oduduwa people want to opt out of Nigeria if restructuring can be done effectively? That is the name of the game. I saw what (Vice-President) Atiku (Abubakar) and the Vice-President (Yemi Osinbajo) were saying. I think Atiku was right; he seems to have given thought to restructuring. While the Vice President was talking about geography; I think he really didn’t understand the ABC of restructuring. I think he shouldn’t be talking about it. Or if he wants to talk about it, he should go to Afenifere and find out what we are talking about when we talk about restructuring.
Do you think President Muhammadu Buhari and Osinbajo have failed Nigerians in the area of restructuring?
Are we talking about the All Progressives Congress government of Buhari? Failure is failure and comprehensive failure is comprehensive failure. I think we should stop complaining too much about it; it is a matter of fact. No matter where you come from, you know that this government has failed comprehensively. No matter where you come from, you know that you give to God the right to give us a government and therefore, if it is God’s will, Buhari will come back for a second term. But we are praying he doesn’t come back. We are praying to God to change Buhari’s mind against contesting a second term. We are praying to God to lift Nigeria up and not let it go into extinction.
Is there any reason to believe there is hope for Nigeria?
I don’t say something without reason. After watching the Peoples Democratic Party convention in Port Harcourt and also listening to Atiku’s acceptance statement, I was struck and I said to myself, ‘Those who are singing doom cannot be singing it for Nigeria’. There is still hope that we may survive and not only survive, but thrive. God works in mysterious ways. I think as long as we know what to do, we abandon failure and pursue success. You see the way everything went in Port Harcourt.
We were thinking that after the PDP primary, the party would implode and that it would be ‘to your tent, o Israel’. But because of the fairness, openness and the integrity of the process and everything that went about it and then the margin of victory by Atiku, nobody is now talking about the party imploding. Now, they have started to share the work, making sure that virtually everybody gets something reasonable to do. I think there is hope for Nigeria. I think Nigeria will survive. I think all Nigerians should go on their knees and thank God for what He has done in Port Harcourt and pray hard for him (Atiku) to live long and transform Nigeria into its new status because we must have a new Nigeria. – Culled from Punch.