For some time now, Nigerians, the famous and the – not – too famous, have engaged themselves in a seemingly endless argument over the vexed issue of restructuring the country. Some insist that without it, the country will retain its sluggish development strides. Others argue that there is nothing wrong with the country as it is and blames the challenges confronting the nation on poor governance and its twin evil of corruption.
But the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has just added another dimension to the argument. In his opinion, what is needed is not restructuring but an enhanced allocation of funds to the states and local governments. We are wont to point out that what these pontifications have revealed so far is that whether it is called political restructuring or economic and financial restructuring, the bottom line is that those involved in the debate agree that something is fundamentally wrong with the country and needs to be fixed before it is too late.
In our opinion, restructuring is overtly an abused word because of the insincerity of those propounding the thesis. It is obvious that their motive is essentially political, to carve out for themselves spheres of influence. To that extent, at no point will it ever be satisfactory. Increasing the federal structure from three to four regions merely wetted the taste buds of those intent on having a piece of the pie. Confederation was mooted but never actualised. Many believed that a 12- state structure will satisfy everyone but it only heightened the desire for enclaves. Eventually, we arrived at 36 states, yet the call for more has remained strident.
It has not quite mellowed when suddenly we developed nostalgic feelings for the earlier four – region structure most want to be increased to six zones in which the federal government will retain issues like foreign affairs, the military, monetary and fiscal policy in the exclusive list while others will be on the concurrent list with the federating units free to make laws and policies as they see fit. They call it true federalism.
Another group is convinced that fiscal federalism is the answer where states or zones manage resources in their areas of control and merely pay royalty to the federal government. The series of national or constitutional conferences that had been held from Second Republic to date to address these issues have only succeeded in exposing the insincerity of the promoters particularly their ethnic chauvinistic tendencies.
In our view, the ongoing debate by the elite is designed purposely to obfuscate the real issue which is that the political class has failed in providing the desired leadership that can put the nation on a sustained path of growth and development. Corruption, which is eating up the polity, is interpreted as sweet of office and in the process, the leaders are free to use public funds to meet other needs that are not in the public interest.
A look at Nigeria will draw tears from even the hard – hearted. Infrastructure is decaying, school system is collapsing, no hospital worthy of the name, inflation and unemployment are spinning out of control and all our leaders do is engage themselves in turf war.
We are compelled in the prevailing circumstance to aver that for the federal, states and local governments, the problem is not lack of money but the absence of discipline to manage available resources judiciously. Even as these tiers of government complain of insufficient fund, they still reserve a huge chunk of what is available as security votes and for overheads used to attend to their hedonistic proclivities.
We are, also, persuaded to posit that if the political leaders, in or out office still have any decency left in them, they should summon the moral courage to accept that Nigerians are suffering and in dire need of basic necessities of daily life. The argument over restructuring, in all its manifestations, is elitist, persuasively diversionary and nauseating. If the leaders cannot do what they should to assuage the pangs of hunger and want among the people, they should, at least, not add to them.