I have followed the ongoing debate or should I call it the intellectual jousting between the sitting vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and ex-vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The debate, I must say, is an interesting one as both sought to engage each other in a manner that only helped expand the frontiers on the debate for restructuring.
It was Atiku who fired the first salvo, when he attacked what looked like a volte-face on the part of the vice president on the issue of restructuring. Perhaps, attempting to add momentum to his campaign for the office of president, Atiku latched on to comments attributed to the vice president, wherein he stated that the problem with Nigeria, our country, was not only restructuring but prudent management of our national resources and providing for the people properly. Describing Osinbajo’s comments as wrong and lacking appreciation of the core tenets of the concept, Atiku questioned Osinbajo’s alleged reduction of the concept of restructuring to geographic restructuring, evincing the argument that the core of restructuring was not about the re-drawing of state nor geographic boundaries between states and regions but one where every layer of government was challenged to demonstrate capacity to create wealth and jobs for its citizens. Buttressing further, Atiku stated correctly that we presently operate a faulty system of federalism, describing our political and economic structures as defective.
Responding, Osinbajo, a professor of law and fiery academic, portrayed Atiku as a political opportunist. In a riposte, which was published on a number of newspapers and Internet platforms, the sitting Veep, reaffirmed his earlier comments, citing that the creation of more states or the movement of the country’s political structure back to regionalism was faulty as a number of these states were struggling fiscally. Travelling through history, he highlighted instances where he had been an advocate for restructuring as exampled in his days as the Attorney General for Lagos State where the state had taken the Federal Government then to court over matters that bordered on fiscal federalism, a federal government that had Atiku as the nation’s number two man then. He described Atiku’s concept of restructuring as vague before accusing him of being silent on the issues of corruption, which had stymied the nation’s development. Atiku was again to respond but for the problem of space, I shall move on to the more meaty parts of this discourse.
First things first, the vice president was both right and wrong at the same time. True, geographic restructuring will alone not be the panacea to the ills affecting the Nigerian nation entirely, that I agree with and have argued in a number of papers that merely creating states or a reversion to regionalism will never help us rid ourselves of the numerous weights of bad governance. However, the Veep misses the mark when he neglects the fact that geographic restructuring is not segmented alone under the creation of states or regionalism as there are other weightier matters that arise from it. For example, why should a state as hugely populated as Lagos have 20 local governments whereas Kano state as equally populated, as Lagos possesses 44 local government areas? Why should Jigawa with a population slightly higher than Anambra State have 27 Local Government Areas, while the latter has 20? Why should a child in Osun be forced to score 64 in order to secure a placement in a Federal Government College whereas a pupil in Zamfara requires a dismal pass of 14 to secure a placement? Why should each zone within the Federation have six states each with the exceptions of the Northwest with seven and the Southeast with five? Why should the federal government have a huge chunk of the resources in the various states where these resources are found? These are burning issues and they are geographic in nature!
Again, I am forced to see Osinbajo’s view that restructuring will not solve Nigeria’s problems outrightly but again, he may have gotten it wrong by erroneously harping only on prudence and accountability, vital requirements for any society to flourish, yet with deep introspection, it is not far fetched in saying that the present state of our federalism cannot afford prudence and accountability nor encourage such requirements. Professor Osinbajo should kindly note that it is because of the skewed state of our federal structure that our citizenry celebrate mediocre leadership at the levels of states, just because they pay salaries, we really cannot question the development indexes of a number of states as it would be largely unfair to do so with the little resources that trickle to them. A look at the local governments would speak volumes, this is perhaps the closest form of government to the people and yet it is the farthest in terms of its ability to meet the needs of its people, one needs not ask why. All said, restructuring is indeed the key to a greater Nigeria and a part of it is geographical indeed.
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