The recent renewed call for the restructuring of Nigeria’s body polity requires to be profoundly interrogated, to understand the motivations and core purpose of the seemingly justified call. Circumspection on all the labyrinths of issues over the National question is very imperative, so as not to fall into the pitfalls of the past.
Without any iota of doubt, Nigeria as a country remains a geographical expression like Chief Obafemi Awolowo posited and its faulty foundations remain shaky owing to the historical reality that Nigeria and Africa in general were indeed partitioned at the bayoneting ends of the guns of colonizers, for the convenience of their exploitation and subjugation of the people.
Again without any iota of doubt, the call to restructure Nigeria is neither the exclusive preserve of the ruling class in their intra-class factional struggles, nor is it a new call. It is a call, a demand, a bargaining weapon of choice, in their now covert, now overt intra-class skirmishes.
The truth is that no matter how Nigeria is restructured, the fundamental issue will remain about the social emancipation of the vast majority of the people. Any form of restructuring that is not achieved side by side with the social emancipation of the component units of Nigeria will amount to naught. Such achievement will make no significant difference in National life and the lives of majority of the people who would still remain oppressed and exploited in any arrangement that emerges from ‘restructuring’ designed and controlled by the present ruling class i.e. the representatives of the political and economic status quo.
It is important to learn from the history of Nigeria’s several attempts at addressing the National question, either initiated by the Government or by the people (Civil society). From the Obasanjo staged managed National Conference to the last National Confab organized by the Jonathan Goodluck-led government, it is explicit that the call for restructuring and addressing the National question is beyond what the status quo will organize for obvious reasons.
No genuine National Conference, if organized by the people like the attempt of the National Consultative Forum (NCF) under the leadership of Mr. Alao Aka-Bashorun in 1990, National Conference of Ethnic Nationalities organized under the leadership of Drs Beko Ransome-Kuti and Fredrick Fasehun at the Century Hotel Okota around 1995, and the Pro-National Conference Organization (PRONACO) led by Pa Anthony Enahoro will not turn the table around in favour of the vast majority of Nigerians and against the subsisting status quo.
Flowing from this background, unless and until when the oppressed people of the different component units of Nigeria unite against their oppressors in their various units in a popular process that will put the destinies of the vast majority in their hands regardless of the unit/s they come from, the National question may permanently become a permanent question.
The pre-independence constitutional conferences, as well as the post-independence constitutional reform processes have all been at heart about restructuring Nigeria, as has been the numerous state agitation/state creation processes and the many constitutional and political conferences.
The call to restructure Nigeria, it must be affirmed has also periodically found resonance among ordinary Nigerian citizens like NCF and PRONACO which gained traction particularly in times of deepening economic and political crisis. The more debilitating the economic crisis, the greater the instability in the polity, the more strident the calls for restructuring get.
It is therefore important to handle the recent strident calls shielded in ‘Nationalism’ from members of the ruling class with ‘a pinch of salt’. This is because the ruling class factions and fractions who lost out or are losing out in the jostle for control of and access to state power at central and sub national levels proceed to mobilize existing grievances along the lines of existing cleavages, as well as co-opt existing and incipient resistance struggles of impoverished and oppressed citizens against declining living conditions and intensifying economic hardships.
A Sovereign National Conference organized by the people themselves is the one and only way to resolve the National question that continues to linger and rears its disturbing head almost at all facets of our National life. This was what the original Campaign for Democracy (CD) focused its attention on since early 90s but never achieved because of intrinsic but unwarranted fear by the successive government that they would lose power of governing to the Conference!
We believe that an SNC is the beginning of true nationhood; the alternative is to keep an unstable geographical expression pretentiously described as country but lacks the socio-moral and political capacity to run under a common constitution since it was ab initio constituted under defective, thus illegitimate arrangement. To achieve an SNC requires a people in defiance and willing to overhaul the system politically and economically in the equation called ‘Nigeria’ which has persistently been described as a ‘lopsided’ arrangement and ‘marriage of convenience’ in some quarters.
It is true that a major contributory factor to why we are where we are today is the fact that states, which are supposed to be the federating units have become too small and too stripped of the powers and the capacity to generate and collect revenue to be fiscally autonomous of the federal government at the centre.
Of course compounding this basic structural defect have been the congenital greed, the inherent incompetence and ineptitude, and the crass opportunism of the ruling class.
These has helped to create an enabling environment unbridled treasury looting in the race for competitive primitive accumulation by the ruling elites, with the result that public wealth and public resources have been plundered and the state rendered incapable of provisioning the basic needs of citizens.
The point being made is that although a defective structure cripples the ability and capacity of the state to be utilized as the instrument of radical social transformation, of the type that enables equitable access to resources, opportunities and wealth of the society; thus enabling an all-round and more socially just human and societal development; nevertheless the structure of the polity alone without a corresponding socio-economic structure that is equitable and justice will not address the problem of deepening and intensifying inequality and widening gap between rich and poor.
Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL
July 8, 2016
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