I start this column today with a heavy heart and great pity for both Nigeria and those armed to the teeth to bring her down. In the past couple of weeks I wrote about the thirteen threats to Nigeria’s survival and the need for the Federal Government to bend a little to stop Nigeria from breaking up.
But the threat last Monday by the latest Militants in the Niger Delta to collapse Nigeria with their missiles [apparently purchased with the humongous amount dashed to them under the Amnesty Project] has warranted a second look at the whole developing scenario.
I am compelled to issue a warning here. Even if the Militants believe they have the strongest army in the world, they should do a rethink. One can only boast about the outbreak of a war; no one can categorically predict its end. The Militants should sheath their swords and call for dialogue instead of threatening to destroy Nigeria without giving a thought to the credible possibility of also getting themselves and the region they claim to be fighting for burnt in the inferno.
Nowhere in the world has any militant group waging a war of self determination or secession succeeded in destroying the whole country. PKK in Turkey and Tamil Tigers in Sri-Lanka are ready examples. Tamil Tigers campaign lasted for over 40 years and in the end they had to settle for dialogue. PKK is still at it and Turkey is still waxing stronger by the day.
Nigeria survived without oil in the 50s and 60s and prosecuted a gruesome, albeit needless war without oil and without borrowing a Kobo from the outside world. Nigeria can call the bluff of the oil producing region and operate on Zero oil revenue. She will fall on her knees but sooner or later will gather her senses and bounce back!
Having said this, I think it is high time the Federal Government began the process of quick and inevitable restructuring of the polity. Whoever or whatever group that is standing against restructuring does not wish this bleeding country well. It is gratifying that the likes of Atiku Abubakar have joined the chorus of what people have been clamouring for in the last 60 years. The ferocious campaigns of JS Tarka, JS Olawoyin and Adaka Boro were all inspired by the burning desire to have Nigeria restructured.
Without restructuring the polity as it currently stands and without a truly peoples’ Constitution we are merely postponing the evil day. And as we can see that doomsday is staring all of us in the face.
President Muhammadu Buhari should as a matter of urgency assemble the leaders of thought across the country and get legal experts to submit to the National Assembly a Bill that will spell out the process and procedure for restructuring. Every country responds to its own crisis in its own peculiar way giving cognisance to the special circumstances and norms of the community.
Nigeria must right away collapse the already collapsed states. Government should not wait till October when it is certain that only Lagos state may be in position to pay workers salaries and all other governors stand the risk of being stoned wherever they go. We have said it a million times that our great Sir Ahmadu Bello governed the whole of the old Northern Region with less than 50 aides inclusive of his Ministers. The same region now has 19 states, with each state being run with over 300 aides at least. No country can survive with that kind of reckless load. We all know what the states have cost us in terms of emoluments alone.
Let us operate a six zone structure based on the geopolitical arrangement perfected by late Sani Abacha before his untimely death. Each region may then decide how many states [which would function as local governments] it may require.
Let each region control its resources as it is done in Canada and the US and let the regions give to the Federal Government certain percentages of their internally generated revenue as may be mutually agreed. Nigeria does not need the Senate and the House of Representatives is very unwieldy.
There is no hard science about devising how a couple can live together in a marriage once boundaries are sketched out. The Nigerian union that will emerge from needed restructuring may be a Federal or Co-federal state. In my heart of hearts, the best option for Nigeria is a robust Confederation.
There was a National Conference which recently drew up essential points for a workable federation. The Report of the Conference is with the Federal Government, and it will be in the best interest of this country if the recommendations in that Report are implemented, may be with minor amendments here and there after exhaustive debates by the public.
Let Nigerians know that Government is taking steps at restructuring to douse the fire on the mountain. We cannot pretend that all is well. And if care is not taken Nigeria may be fractured beyond redemption if we fail to willingly and courageously restructure the country.
One may ask, in whose interest is this delay in restructuring? Who is the person blocking the restructuring that well meaning Nigerians have been agitating and fighting for these past 60 years?
For now all the militants agitating for violent break up of the country should tarry a little. It is not only the Joint Militants or the MASSOB or the Fulani herdsmen terrorists or the Boko Haramites who are displeased with Nigeria and are dead on finding or creating a New Order. Virtually every nationality in Nigeria is fed up with lopsided nature of the country’s polity and would readily opt out of the Union whenever the opportunity arises.
The heavy responsibility of restructuring rests squarely on the shoulders of President Muhammadu Buhari. He should take the bull by the horn and restructure this country. It is his lot. And it may well be the reason the Gods allowed him to record a win after four rigorous attempts.
History beckons. Restructure or Fracture!