APOLOGIES and ACKNOWLEDGMENT: In writing this article, I trawled through the social media seeking the comments, reactions, ideas, etc. of my people, Nigerians. I took the liberty of using some of their opinions, ideas and reactions freely without making their names public.
Hence if you feel you have read this or that sentence before, and you think that somebody else wrote or said it, that is the reason. My own contribution to the article, however, is about 75%. Thank you. So, after much talk and thoughtful resolutions the power structures of Nigeria are rethinking about how to restructure Nigeria? Even APC Party, the PDP party, the Afenifere (both old and new), the Redeemed Christian Church of God, and Kanu of Biafra separationist group, etc are not left out.
What then is the meaning of restructuring for Nigeria? ls it economic, or political, or fiscal, sociological or these or some? We are yet to see. Governance has been one of our major setbacks as a nation, so to whose benefit will Restructuring be – the Federal Government, the states or the proposed regions, the ethnic components, the politicians or the 170 million Nigerians? It is instructive the political leaders of the first Republic spent a lot of time deliberating on the type of structures that Nigeria deserved before agreeing on a Federation based on Parliament and Regional government. The military leaders post Nigerian civil war as complainants and judges dictatorially and unilaterally bequeathed to us an American system, which, with the benefit of hindsight, is completely at variance with our economic ability, history, and culture. The Constitution of Nigeria, as we currently operate it, is even at variance with the American Constitution from an economic and political view point. So what kind of restructuring do we need to give more economic latitude to the Regions or is it the States? To healthily compete once again as they did between 1955 and 1966.
How can restructuring, whether of structure, resources or functions guarantee transparency and assure good governance? As usual Nigerians are looking at ideas, rather than hard work, to get them out of self-induced trouble. It's never worked and never will!! I believe in a well-conceived, well-debated, well-structured, well-articulated and well-implemented Restructuring (i.e. a kind of reformation or re-arrangement) be it of structures or of function, but such cannot exclude hard work, sincerity of purpose, a truly and sincerely patriotic set of motivational and inspiring leaders and good governance. Again, there won't be so much clamour for restructuring in the first place if the system we have on ground now delivers good governance imbued in the rule of law. Any structure that we are going to re-erect should internalise transparency and accountability which will engender integrity and all those things that set a country apart as pursuing the right vision within the comity of nations. We absolutely need “mental restructuring” in that to a high degree of rewiring our mentality in the way we see religion, ethnicity, wealth without hard work, looting, disrespect for one another, disrespect for people in work seen by society as menial; all those effects that interfere with our progress as a nation. When the mantra on every mouth in Nigeria was that all that we needed to make public sector industry work was to privatise it. So, we privatised NEPA; but has it worked? Our problems of constant electricity deepened and got worse.
Chief Awolowo excelled when we had regions. He excelled when he served in a Federal structure. And if Nigerians had had the common-sense of giving the late sage the mantle of leadership at the centre, I have no doubt that he would excel. Eventually, we may fiddle with the Constitution and “restructure”, and when the problems persist, since Nigerians will not restructure their heads, I wonder what else we will start shouting as panacea and silver bullet to lance all ills. The word Restructuring has become a mere sloganeering by the very vocal but partisan Nigerian political jobbers. Ask the proponents of restructuring to articulate their slogan, and confusion of multiples of irreconcilable definitions will pervade our atmosphere.
Change begins with me; Change begins with you, from individuals to family and socio-cultural levels. The Bible says, as you think in your heart, so are you. (Prov. 23:7). Nigerians aren't going to see change as a country externally until individual segments of our society change internally. People typically respond to tough circumstances and situations by blaming someone or something else. It's the colour of my skin, it's because l am a Southerner. It's the Hausa-Fulani mistreating or marginalising us etc. It's always someone else's fault. Lagos has demonstrated and keep demonstrating how to start changing things internally and translate it into external change. The effective tax regime in Lagos has now become a template for tax policy at the Federal level. Today, the managers and operators of tax reform in Lagos State are now hired to reform and operate the Federal tax policies. Did Lagos call it restructuring? No!! They’ve never even heard the word. Whatever is growing in the garden of our life is what we have planted or allowed to be planted in our heart. Same in the life of a nation. Before we can really see change as a nation and as a region we must abandon giving excuses and blaming anybody and everybody else for what is wrong in our life as a nation. Asiwaju Tinubu, no matter the way we look at him, took the bull by the horn and was not giving excuses but confronted the Federal Government (then of Obasanjo) headlong with all legal power mixed with ingenuity in governance and pulled Lagos State out of economic strangulation devised by the Federal Government.
Experience have shown that the difference between the poor and rich nations is not the age of the nation. This can be demonstrated by countries like India and Egypt, which are more than 2000 years old and are still poor countries. On the other hand, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, which 150 years back were insignificant, today are developed and rich countries. The difference between the poor and rich nation does not also depend on the available natural resources but on their "attitude, education and culture". Nigeria can proudly compete well and above its peers in the education sector given the numbers of educated and educationists in her area; but could we claim same on our attitude and culture? Japan has limited territory, 80% mountainous, unsuitable for agriculture or farming, but it is the third in the World’s economy. The country is like an immense floating factory, importing raw materials from the whole world and exporting manufactured products. Another example is Switzerland, it does not grow cocoa but produces the best chocolates in the world. In her small territory, she rears animals and cultivates the land only for four months in a year, nevertheless manufactures the best milk products. A small country which is an image of security which has made it the strongest world bank.
The racial or colour factors also do not exhibit any importance: migrants heavy in laziness in their countries of origin are forcefully productive in rich European countries, in adaptation to the host country’s attitude and culture. We see it every day on the streets of New York and London and Paris, where highly educated Africans do not mind sweeping the streets or working in an abattoir in exchange for good income and a better life from whence they originated. What then is the difference? The difference is the *attitude* of the people, moulded for many years by *education and culture*.
When the conduct of the people from the rich and developed countries is analysed, it is observed that a majority abide by the following principles of life:
1. Ethics, as basic principles.
4. The respect for Laws and Order, Rule of Law, and if you permit me to say, Constituted Authority, etc.
5. The respect from and for ALL citizens by right.
6. The love for work, honest hard toil.
7. The effort to save and invest.
8. The will to be productive.
9. Reliability, and lastly
10. Good governance.
Of course, the list above is by no means exhaustive. In the poor countries, it is observed that only a small minority follow these basic principles in their daily life. We are not poor because we lack natural resources or because nature was cruel towards us. We are poor because we lack attitude; we lack the will to follow and teach these principles of working of rich and developed societies. WE are in this state because we want to take advantage over everything and over everyone. WE are in this state because we see something done wrong and refuse to ask questions, we usually say – “LET IT BE”. We should have a spirited memory and develop positive attitude. Yes, there is a great need for Restructuring in Nigeria: political, regional, moral, economic, cultural, fiscal, call it what you will. But the problem is: How can we restructure the Mind when the system that corrupts and aberrates our Mind is there and fully ensconced in power and authority? Corrupt and morally bankrupt political and government leaders? A thoroughly crooked and lazy, unmotivated civil service? Compromised traditional rulers? Corrupt and unashamed parents? Dishonest youth and student leaders? Clueless and easily-corrupted labour leaders? Unscrupulous business leaders?
I am waiting for that Miracle!!!!” Restructuring is not about reckless access to regional or state wealth. It's not about balkanisation; restructuring should means accountability – more responsibility for states, more responsibility for local governments, more responsibility for state governors and for local council chairmen, and less responsibility for the Federal Government and less control of governance and government. Now are we (both the rulers and the governed) all ready for the additional responsibilities? Of state police, federal roads passed to state control? Some federal prisons passed on to state control? Some federal parastatals decentralized and passed on to state control? Federal hospitals passed on to state control? And funds generated on each state being used solely by that state but with federal tax being paid at source and unfailingly? Are we ready for restructuring and for the responsibility? Are we really? After Lagos State, is there any other state in Nigeria that is ready for this restructuring?
Finally, and I must quote my brother, Eric Ayoola “We should approach restructuring with an open and diverse mind. It is necessary in as much as change is necessary but it is not and will never be that panacea for all the evils and problems of the country as some people so naively believe. So, as I stated earlier, we should expect less centralisation by and in Abuja and more responsibility to be held by states. We would want to see more control of state resources by states but with that comes greater responsibility of ensuring remittance either by way of direct taxation or actual transfer of funds to the centre.
And above all, comes the hard part: behaving responsibly and managing responsibly by those in power and positions of authority at state and local level. Some people seem to believe, quite childishly, that "Restructuring " will simply materialise and create responsible leadership amongst people where such attribute has been in such short supply. Such tomfoolery I have never seen in my life”. I have no doubt that, as it is, considering the fractious situation that we are in, the way forward for any meaningful development requires some form of restructuring. My doubt is the motive, the agenda and altruism of some of the people screaming for it, from all sides of the fence. My reservation is also that of those that may be put in charge or involved in this very delicate political design and implementation. Is it the current crop of politicians who have been misleading for the past five decades that we will entrust with this operational adjustment and hence the future of the country and our unborn generation?
Tell the Truth Always!!!!