True Federalism or True Governance?
By Abdulrazaq Hamzat
In 1965, Nigeria was operating regionalism, in which every region was controlling its own resources when the first set of violent agitators picked up arms to express their grievances and confront the state violently. This was before the first military coup that eventually pushed the country into civil war.
While the military boys were scheming to topple the democratically elected government, it turned out that they were not alone. Some young people in Niger Delta were already warming up to confront the state due to what they perceived as marginalization within their own region.
The lost of hope, in the prospect of a better living, especially in the Niger Delta region ravaged by extreme poverty in midst of wealth propelled a young Ijaw activist named Isaac Boro into forming the first militant group to confront what he described as ‘’poor governance and economic deprivation of his people’’.
Niger Delta region at the time agitated for their own separate state without success, yet continued to feel suppressed by the leadership of the region. There was true federalism, without true governance.
In the declaration of what is today known as 7 days war, Boro stated that “Economic development of the area is certainly the most appalling aspect. There is not even a single industry. The only fishery industry which ought to be situated in a properly riverine area is sited about 80 miles inland at Aba. The boatyard at Opobo had its headquarters at Enugu … Personnel in these industries and also in the oil stations are predominantly non-Ijaw,”
He went further to state that, “most of the youths were so frustrated with the general neglect that they were ready for any action led by an outstanding leader to gain liberty…. we were clenched in tyrannical chains and led through a dark alley of perpetual political and social deprivation. Strangers in our own country!
Inevitably, therefore, the day would have to come for us to fight for our long-denied right to self-determination”. He said.
Boro and others recruited young men to their cause under the umbrella of an organisation known as Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF). They eventually set up a military camp at Taylor Creek and on February 23rd 1966, the militants moved out from their Touton Ban camp with Boro, Onwonaru and Dick as their divisional commanders to confront the state.
The above history tells us that going back to the same regional structure or what some people described as true federalism that produced the first set of militant group will not bring forth anything different, if true governance that was missing in the first republic is not incorporated as well.
The aspiration of the Nigerian people across all ethnic and religious background is not tied to the kind of structure we operate; but the kind of governance we deliver.
Whether restructuring or not, regionalism or true federalism, resource control or anything else, what is important is putting food on the peoples table and giving them reason to hope in a better tomorrow.
In recent time, we have seen highly placed individuals backing the call for restructuring.
Just few days ago, some colleagues requested to know my reaction to the call for restructuring by former Lagos Governor and APC national leader, Bola Tinubu.
They had also requested for my view on the same subject when former Vice President Atiku Abubakar declared his support for restructuring and they want to know whether or not, I find Atiku and Tinubu’s argument convincing enough to throw my full weight behind the call.
However, my position remains the same. Restructuring will not put food on the table. It will not stop the corruption; neither will it stop the impunity.
To the best of my understanding, structure is not our major challenge at this time, people’s orientation and attitude to leadership is. Restructuring will not change anything in Nigeria. What will change the situation is being discipline and responsible. Take out discipline and responsibility, restructuring becomes useless.
Restructuring will not prevent Goodluck Jonathan, Rotimi Amaechi, Allisson Madueke and others like them to lead South South cluelessly. The greed in the heart of Kalu, Ngige, Ohakim and their likes would not change in their leadership of South East. Atiku, Alimodu Sheriff, Goje etc would still be selfish leaders in North East. Elrufai, Yerima, Lamido etc would still be the same highhanded leaders of the North West. David Mark, Bukola Saraki, George Akume, Dino and others would still offer their slave and master kind of leadership in North Central, while Tinubu, Aragbesola, Fashola and Fayose would still be the less compassionate leaders in South West. What would change? Nothing.
Restructuring will not stop the monitization of election. They will still be buying and selling elections. It will not stop rigging. It would not stop the corruption, mismanagement of public funds and abuse of offices. Restructuring will not stop tribalism; neither will it stop religious sentiments and nepotism. Additionally, restructuring will not stop agitation; neither will it bring good governance.
Meanwhile, if for any reason, there becomes need to restructure Nigeria. The kind of restructure that may be impactful is a restructuring that will change our bicameral legislature to unicameral, thereby scraping the wasteful senate. This will help reduce cost of governance.
Another impactful restructuring, will be to replace state of origin with state of residence. That will enhance unity and allow people to freely make every part of the country home without any form of hindrances. Then again, we can restructure to give more power to the local government than the state. This will allow rapid development at the local level, thereby reducing over population in the city, since most of the advantages derived in the cities would be available at the local level, with more opportunities.
Provided these are not what advocates of restructuring mean, restructuring don’t worth it
Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is the Executive Director of Foundation for Peace Professionals
Arewa Agenda is a Publication of young writers from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives.