By: Andy Akporugo Jr
NIGERIA AND THE RESTRUCTURE DEBATE
A few days ago, I disclosed here that I hoped we could all together look at the current rage of the issues of restructure, apparently from certain sections of the country, my framing of which earned me quick reprimand for its suggestion that the need for restructure was a foregone conclusion. My hope today, then is that we look here at the, for me, current uncertain demands of restructure and consider whether it is in fact an absolute imperative for good governance for each individual Nigerian, which in truth, ought to be the object of any type or system of government.
Perhaps the best place to begin this discourse is from the questions which should be settled one way or another, at the end of it:
1. Are the current demands for a ‘‘restructure’’ of Nigeria simply ones for the convening of yet another town hall meeting in which issues of the structure of governance of Nigeria will be determined? Is the decision of this meeting to be determined by majority vote, and if the perceived current majority do not agree with the terms of a proposed restructure, what happens?
And then, small but equally fundamental questions: Shall we first question the parametres by which attendees to these town halls are elected which tend to predetermine issues on account of primordial majority affiliations, even before they are engaged, and by what means? In any case, if restructure carries a minority vote, do we simply progress to yet another clamour for restructure or force it by some specific or yet indeterminate methods? OR,
2. Are the demands only, in fact, for the implementation of a specific structural design which has already been determined by resolution of the representatives of the Nigerian peoples whether regionally or nationally – for example, the leftovers from the report of the 1994/1995 Abacha Confab or the report of the 2005 Obasanjo National Political Reform Conference or the recommendations of Jonathan 2014 Confab? OR,
3. Is it a combination i.e. an implementation of the specific recommendations of earlier town halls, along with a continuation of the discussion? OR
4. On the other end, is the current structure adequate and in fact required for the dispensation of the best governance to the ordinary Nigerian wherever from, taking into cognisance the peculiarities of our “evolvement” and the prescriptions of our historical and relational experiences, advantages and handicaps?
5. Are matters of restructure better determined not by one ‘clean and jeck’ conference or event as the clamour now seems to demand, but by a creative relational engagement of the current constitution through for example the medium of legislative activity or of judicial review, away from the prescriptions of a forced even if skewed political reality which makes the concept of ‘majority’, itself questionable and tentatively unjust?
But first, perhaps some interesting facts/considerations:
i. Nigeria keeps the trophy of the country with the most constitutions ever! Is this evidence of repeated inequities which each time we are unable to remedy on account of some handicap, or of serial impatience, incompetence or even rascality?
ii. The phrase, ‘‘the mistake of 1914’’ is buzzword that testifies to the fact that the amalgamation was coerced by the colonialists, is not representative of the views of the people and is in deep need for remedy by a restructure that re-engages the question through true representatives, whether we should be together in the first place. But was the ‘mistake’ if ever there was one, not remedied by the nationalistic actions of the latter true representatives of the people [the ilk of Awo/Zik and Tafawa Balewa] who through repeated consensus at several constitutional conferences effectively ratified the oneness of Nigeria claimed by its amalgamation? Or was the “1914 mistake” eternally incapable of remedy except by us, today?
iii. Is the 1999 constitution wrong by itself simply because it was handed outside the resolve of the generality of the people i.e. away from ‘‘We the people’’ which it falsely claims are its makers or is it patently unjust simply by its provisions, such that even if we had in agreement enacted it, it would still not be right?
iv. If the 1999 constitution is wrong mainly by the absence of the consensus of the constituents of Nigeria, by what parametres then do the same people who make this claim, also demand a return to the 1963 constitution, seeing that it, as was the 1960 constitution was similarly made by a very few ‘sovereigns’, and at best by act of parliament, away from the people? Truly is the 1999 constitution any less autocratic than the 1960 or 1963 constitutions or is the 1963 constitution even anywhere as representative as the now much loathed, 1979 constitution?
v. The constitutional conferences of 1994/1995, 2005 and 2014 have perhaps been more representative of the people in the art of constitution making so far than that of 1963 by which the Constitution was simply enacted by the extant parliament, as would an ordinary law. Does it matter that none of the recommendations of these representatives constitutional conferences in fact deals with the matter of resource control in the same manner as the main agitators of restructure now seem to demand, or in particular, i.e that none of the constitutional conferences has recommended a return to the 1963 derivative formula of resource allocation or that in fact, the 2014 Confab chose to leave the matter, on account of being too technical for the Confab, for the Federal Government which it recommended to appoint a technical committee not by means of any notions of popular representation, for its advice?
vi. Does it matter now that many of the people now shouting a return to the 1963 derivation formula were, as repeated popular representatives of the people, members of the previous conferences which declined/failed to recommend it then, and in fact, conceded ownership and control of all mineral resources to the Federal Government – even as recent as 3 years ago?
vii. Did the 1963 constitution really bring justice to the people? Did it protect the people from widespread poverty, corruption, insecurity and bad governance – the very reasons which today provide, in the main, impetus for the current demands for restructure? Was it not really from it that we were baptised into a seeming eternal life of public officers cornering the people’s wealth? True Kaduna Nzeogwu, Emmanual Ifeajuna and their fellow travellers were impatient, blood-loving ‘supplanters’ of our constitution but when they claimed that the government was irredeemably corrupt were they also drunk? Did the ordinary citizen in any of the regions truly have a better deal than the current constitution ordinarily offers him?
viii. What is the existing structure of Nigeria, what is wrong with it by itself, and upon what substructural values is a judgement on it based – Are the considerations for example, based on the best interests of the individual Nigerian citizen or ethnic or regional groupings and why?
Questions; many, many questions, and yet more, as we consider the whole matter of restructuring and the imperatives before Nigeria!