To live, is to die. It is an inevitable process. That might have been why William Shakespeare wrote in ‘Julius Caesar‘ that he is amazed why human beings fear death because: “Death is a necessary end, it will come when it will come” Like death, so is it with restructuring which simply means the running of something like an organization, polity or country in an innovative, novel, different or new way. In other words, restructuring is an inevitable part of life. When some politicians got fed up with the then ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) they launched a coalition, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on February 6, 2013 to restructure the country along the path of ‘Change’
Given his antecedents, I do not lose sleep that Professor Ango Abdullahi is opposed to restructuring. His ignoble role in destroying the education of many youths in 1980/81 through vindictive and political mass expulsions, and in the police killing of four students in 1986, do not lend him to be taken serious. But I worry when an elder statesman like Alhaji Salihu Abubakar Tanko Yakasai campaigns against it. He has been active in the progressive politics of change since the 1950s. He fought against the feudal system and for the emancipation of the ‘Talakawa’ (the poor masses) Some nationalists like Alao Aka-Bashorun and Baba Omojola under whose tutelage some of us came, used to tell us that if we need progressive Pan-Nigerians with whom to ally in the North, we should look in the direction of Yakasai.
In 1990 when there was a movement to restructure the country through a National Conference that would consign military rule to the dustbin of history and enthrone a fair federalism, the then dictatorship of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida announced that all those who attended the Conference will be sent to jail for five years. Alhaji Yakasai, a member of the National Consultative Forum (NCF) which organized that National Conference, was one of those who courageously stepped forward to attend the Conference preferring to go to jail in order that our country be restructured.
In his autobiography “The Story of a humble life” the elder statesman confessed he was one of those in the Contact Committee who one Friday in 1966, organized a protest against the Ironsi Unification Decree in Kano. He wrote that: “The whole thing suddenly turned into an orgy of anti-Igbo violence, which degenerated into a major confrontation…Before the police could intervene, the situation was completely out of hand. Many innocent people were killed, maimed or had their property destroyed…On hearing what happened in Kano, other places like Zaria, Kaduna, Jos and Makurdi reacted in similar fashion with grave consequences”
It was this fire, lit in Kano, that like an harmattan fire turned into the huge conflagration known as the progrom that eventually resulted in the Civil War in which over two million people died. I have no doubt that Yakasia regretted the outcome of that protest. Today, at 91 and in the twilight of his life, he can assist the country to move forward by dropping his opposition to restructuring the country based on the progressive principles of his early life.
I admit that at any given time, restructuring cannot be “fair to all concerned” nor ” Will it be beneficial to all concerned” That is the type of illusory code the Rotary Club pushes. In reality, there are those who benefit from the current imbalance and would feel that they would be losing some privileges if there is a change in the system. They should be comforted that restructuring will be based on social justice and that on the long run, all Nigerians shall be winners.
There are also those who realizing that restructuring is an unstoppable train, try to impose conditions such as that it is only the National Assembly (NASS) that can restructure the country. This is illusory. First, if Nigeria were a school and restructuring an examination, the NASS that has carried out a number constitutional amendments to restructure the country and failed, would have been expelled. Secondly, the skewed structure of the NASS is one of the reasons for the restructuring demand for a fundamental devolution of power. Thirdly, there are many who do not think we need twin chambers in the NASS. In other words, they want either the Senate or House of Representatives abolished; preferably, the latter. Fourthly, if constitutionally and universally, sovereignty belongs to the people from whom all power must flow, the people must have a say in the future of their country and not be consigned to the margins because the military-imposed constitution says so. I am not one of those under the illusion that that the NASS can be trusted to preside over the reduction of its powers.
There are also those who rule that the unity of the country is not negotiable. I love the sound of it, but what constitutes unity? This argument reminds me of the Babangida dictatorship which ruled that there can be no alternative to any of its programmmes like its fraudulent ‘Transition Progamme’ So those who voiced alternative programmes, were detained. When it introduced the ruinous ‘Structural Adjustment Programme’ it decreed that to this, ‘There Is No Alternative’ (TINA) But the noted economist, Professor Sam Aluko replied that there is alternative to everything including life, which is death.
The history of Nigeria, is the story of constant restructuring. When colonial Britain tried to save on administrative funds and run its Southern and Northern Protectorates and the Lagos Crown Colony as a single administration unit, it amalgamated them in 1914 and reduced the three capitals to one; Lagos. It created three regions with Divisions as sub units. When the minority agitations in post-colonial Nigeria could no longer be contained, the country was restructured in 1963 into four Regions, and in 1967, into 12 States and further into 19 states before ending in the present 36 States. In 1976, following restructuring, Local Governments were created.
Everywhere you turn, there is restructuring going on; one of the latest being the restructuring of the Ibadan Monarchy from a single king, the Olubadan, to 22 kings.
The 1967 Aburi Accord was about restructuring the country and the military, the failure to implement that Accord was one of the major reasons that led to the Civil War.
In contrast to those opposed to restructuring, those in favour are behaving as if restructuring is like the Kingdom of God which would come in one fell swoop. They are not approaching it as basic socio-economic and political re-engineering designed to address human concerns. More importantly, they neglect the content such as Nigerians right to food, shelter, education, healthcare and good governance; they are rather concerned with the form.
Written by Owei Lakemfa.