Agitation For The Restructure of Nigerian Federation

A lot of Nigerian from all works of life and ethnicity appears to believe that the current Nigerian federal structure needs restructuring. It is not uncommon to hear that Nigeria will never move forward or develop if restructure of the Nigerian federation do not take place. Some are even saying that breakup of Nigeria is imminent unless restructure takes place. The curious thing about the clamor for restructuring of Nigeria current federal structure is that none of the advocates have clearly detailed what they want to see Nigeria look like. It appears that the latest agitation is another excuse by some Nigerians to blame lack of political, social and economic development of the country on the structure of the nation rather than on their fellow Nigerians and their leaders who have failed the country. How anybody thinks that Nigeria will ever develop with the type of rampant corruption that has permeated all aspects of Nigerian life is beyond me. The man-made rot in all aspect of Nigerian life and society is palpable. Nigeria has one of the best constitution in the world and endowed with abundant natural and human resources but has managed to use these resources in an unproductive manner. The best constitution in the world will not do any good for Nigeria if the people that are supposed to implement it are corrupt and morally bankrupt.

It is frustrating to see how some Nigerians are dwelling on sundry issues which they claim will be the panacea for all Nigeria problems if implemented. Some of their proposal such as returning to regional governments like we had after Independence is not even practical. They are basically saying that we should just collapse the 36-state structure into 3 or 6 regions. A lot of Nigerians fail to realize how deep rooted the current 36 state structure has been internalized by Nigerians. They all have state legislatures who makes law for their states and people from one state do see themselves as different from people from a neighboring state even if they are of same ethnic origin. It is impossible to reverse that mindset. Regional governments such as Eastern, Western, Northern and Mid- Western regions Nigeria had in the past is the primary reason for the deep division in Nigerian society today. You hear Nigerians talk about Yoruba nation, Igbo nation, Hausa nation etc. Such word is the byproduct of regional government established in Nigeria after Independence. Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo and other minorities see themselves as different from non-members of their ethnic group.

Why should Nigeria go back to regional system? What good will that do for Nigeria other than nostalgia. Nigeria was less developed under regional governments than we have now under 36 states structure. I thought the reason why some Nigerians are advocating for the restructure of the country is to decentralize power by moving some responsibilities away from the federal government. I am not in total agreement with the current 36 state structure. I think it is too much for a country of the size and population of Nigeria. 19 to 20 states would have been enough, however, it is a done deal. It is true that some of the states are not economically viable but collapsing them into regions is not going to change the fortune of Nigerians and will amount to nothing but change of boundary. This agitation is like arguing about the shape of the table rather than thinking of more effective ways to develop the country.

What is needed in Nigeria is further devolution of power from the federal level to the local levels. The government that works best is the government closest to the people. State governments and Local Government Areas should have the power to establish state and Local Government Areas police forces. Fourth tier of government which should allow all towns and communities to incorporate and form a functioning government should be added to the constitution. These entities should be allowed to establish their own police force if they want. Any community or town that does not wish to incorporate should remain under the Local Government Area administration. Nigeria cannot solve her security problem with centralized federal controlled police force as currently exists today. People in various towns and communities know the criminals within their boundaries and where they live. These competing powers (federal, state, local and Township governments) will face a lot of challenges in the beginning but things will settle down after couple of years. Local and Township governments can actually sustain themselves through taxation with little help from the federal government. Devolution of power from the federal to the states, Local government Areas and Township level will accelerate development all over the country and help in solving much needed security problem throughout the country. The agitation for restructuring and breakup of the country will greatly diminish if power is decentralized and shifted to the local level.

Decentralization should not include control of the natural resources by different localities. Those resources is basically the only way to fund the government at all levels for now since much needed economic diversification has not taken place. Federal allocations to states and Local governments should be increased and Federal allocation should be decreased. State, Local Government Areas and Township police forces will not turn Nigeria into a war zone. They should be a law that will make it easy for the federal or state authorities to nationalize out of control local police force which should be promptly restored after order is established. Further decentralization of power is urgently needed in Nigeria but the end result should not be to go back to regional structure. State of origin concept should be abolished and replaced with Residence. Any Nigerian who resides in any state continuously for two years should have same right in that state as the so-called indigenes. Federal character commission should be given additional power to monitor the federal government appointments in-order to make sure that any government in power is fair to all ethnic groups in the country.

Local Government and Township government election should be non-partisan. Township government structure is already in place in different towns but they should be given legal power. Traditional leaders in those communities should not engage in partisan politics since they are traditionally regarded as the father of those communities. They should help in settling dispute between warring factions and use their moral authority to make sure that any government in those communities do not misuse their power or loot the treasury. Bringing government to the local level will do wonders for Nigeria because people will have a sense of belonging and will not stay idle-by and watch their money wasted or looted. Concentration of government at the federal and state level causes alienation because people often feel that they do not have control over their destiny. Besides, it will help in reducing unemployment since job will be created at the local level. Collection of taxes will be more effective at the local level since the locals know where the properties are located the net worth of each person in that locality. State, Local government Area, Township/ Communities Local police forces should not be used to enforce any type of religious law since Nigeria is a secular state. Even with above recommended changes, development and advancement of any country requires citizens of those countries to work hard. They need to go to work and do an honest day job for an honest day pay. Hardwork is the common trait all advanced countries share. People work extremely hard in advanced countries and their citizens are less corrupt. Contribution by everybody in any given society is what propels development. A lot of Nigerians believe that wealth can suddenly appear from heaven if they pray hard enough. God rewards people who help themselves and cannot play favorites. Current federal structure needs minor surgery not radical surgery.

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