Nigeria’s Unity Depends On Restructuring – Lawmaker

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Prince Albert Abiodun Adeogun is a two-time member of the House of Representatives in the National Assembly. The lawmaker representing Ife Federal constituency in Osun State during this interview with MUYIWA OYINLOLA said restructuring is the only panacea for the unity of the country.

As a political scientist and a legal practitioner of over three decades, what exactly does this restructuring connote?

The word ‘’restructure,’’ simple as it seems to be, attracts different definitions from different people, association and even from people from different geo-political zones of the Country.

General Ibrahim Babangida defines “Restructure’’ as “devolution of powers to the extent that more responsibilities be given to States while Federal Government is vested with the responsibility to oversee our foreign policy, defence and economy.”

The former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, on the other hand, perceived “Restructuring’’ as invoked when “we devolve more powers from the Federal Government and de-emphasise Federal Allocations as the source of sustenance of State. We need to start producing again and again and collecting taxes to run our governments in a more sustainable way with greater transparency and accountability.”

Perhaps a more apt definition of “Restructuring’’ is that given by Mr Akin Osuntokun, the Political adviser to the former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in which he says: ‘’Restructure is simply a call for restoration of Federalism as entrenched in the 1960 Independence Constitution.’’

Chief Supo Shonibare, a chieftain of Pan – Yoruba Socio – Political Organization, Afenifere, defined ‘’Restructuring,’’ more adequately with little modification/addition as will unfold in the course of this Article, as ‘’a Federation with independen  t self sustaining Federation Units able to develop infrastructure, critical amenities, undertake other developmental projects, education and health without a central body interfering.’’

Chief Sodipo Shonibare’s definition above is in line with the provisions of the 1963 Republican Constitution which propelled each Region to have access to its resources with each Region contributing its quota to the government at the centre. The resource control by the Regions led to land – mark and remarkable development in all the Regions in terms of political, educational, social and economic advancement during the self government.

 

Do we then say the military men were responsible for the present situation in which we  find ourselves?

Yes. With the taking over of power by Major General Aguyi – Ironsi in 1966 and the promulgation of the Unification Decree No 34 of 1966 the first Republic was truncated with the Republican Constitution of 1963 replaced with Unitary Constitution which led to disintegration, disharmony and marginalization. The Decree was a prelude to the death of Regionalism contrary to the opinion of Major – General Aguyi Ironsi when he said:

It has become apparent to all Nigerians that rigid adherence to Regionalism was the bane of the last Regime and one of the main factors which contributed to its down fall.

Chief Afe Babalola, Chairman of the Restructuring Summit in Ibadan, correctly noted in his key note address which I hold to be the correct position that “What the Military did to those Constitutions (referring to 1954, 1960 and 1963 Constitutions) weaken the component States, destroy or impair their power to develop and sustain themselves.” The legal luminary finally opined as follows: “It is, therefore, correct to state that the military and their civilian apologist, either by design or by accident, have planted the seeds of national disintegration and disharmony”

Since 1966, all the Nigerian Constitutions – 1979 & 1999 -have been enacted by the Military and with Military undertone which have impaired and impeded development in all spheres of life. The absurdity created by the various Constitutions caused each section/tribe in Nigeria to feel marginalized which gave rise to demand for resource control and secession.

On 7th September, 2017, the Yoruba leaders, South West Governors and other State holders held a ‘’Restructuring Summit at Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Adamasingba, Ibadan where far-reaching decisions were arrived at in solving the problems caused the Yoruba race by the Constitution(s) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria since the Military truncated the first Republic.

After going through the well-reasoned highlights of the communiqué of Yoruba leaders, South West Governors and other eminent South Westerners with which South East and South – South Leaders concurred, the Communiqué from Ibadan meeting include:

Maintenance of six geo-political zones with each consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory.

Each State within the geo-political zone shall control its own resources and autonomous in nature with the power to remit any amount to the centre as per the provision of the National Constitution.

Each State shall have its Constitution considering its peculiar circumstance.

Within each State shall be local government areas with the power to make bye – laws and control its resources subject to remittance of agreed percentage to the State purse.

The Federal Government shall make laws in relation to items on the legislative list in the Constitution of the Federation while the States shall make laws enumerated on the exclusive and concurrent legislative lists.

However, the writer is critical of the idea of towing the path of regionalism in the Contemporary view of development and decentralisation.

The demand for States by existing States e.g Oduduwa from Osun State, Ibadan State from Oyo State and Ijebu State from Ogun State are clear indication that people want to have self determination in which they can chart the development programmes of their people without being controlled by their neighbours termed “alien” even if though they speak the same language.

 

Can we talk of other advantages of restructuring for the country?

Each State within the Federating Units shall possess rights and powers under the Nigeria Constitution to have State Police with further powers to be master over the national resources which abound within its domain and pay acceptable percentage of taxes to the FGN so as to have financial resources to carry out functions allocated to it by the Constitutions.

Each Federating unit shall have its own Constitution which shall regulate disbursement of funds which accrue to the State, intrastate commerce, running elections, creating Local Governments and ratifying Constitutional endowments. Furthermore, each State shall have representations in the Federal bicameral legislature consisting of the Senate and House of Representatives. Nigeria shall practise absolute Federalism including fiscal Federalism.

The panacea to the incessant agitation for self determination can only be checked if Nigeria embraces absolute Federalism including fiscal Federalism Beyond this, Federating Units must be master of their God given natural resources.