Much Ado About Change And Restructuring

Clamors and agitations for change - any kind of change - are not done in silence, and in the case of Nigeria, there has been lots of noise in recent times about re-structuring and breakaways.

Why all the noise, and why this level of intensive clamor for change now? Well, for one, the country at its present state is not working. Matter of fact, it has not been working for quite a long time. Specifically, it has not worked for all of the people all of the time, but has worked for some people - regardless of region, zone, or ethnic nationality - some of the times. The Igbos feel perpetually marginalized; the Yorubas, Hausa, Fulani, Berom, Ogoni, Ikwerre, Bini, Efik, Egba, Christians, Muslims, Obas, Obis, Emirs, women, girls, young men, retirees, civil servants, unemployed, graduates, market women, illiterates, and anyone and anything in uniform, all feel at some point or the other marginalized by the "system". Now, with all the diverse ethnic, religious, professional and business, retired politicians, the never-tried, and the tried-and-failed all crying foul at the current system, or structure, why has nothing changed?

One reason is lack of sincerity of purpose. Any and every ethnic group or zone that has been schemed out of the current political system tends to cry "marginalization", and want out of the union until their fortunes turn around in the next dispensation, then the agitation for change dissipates to a bare whisper in very remote circles. Hausas, Fulanis, Igbos, and the Yorubas all play this same game.

The second is lack of clarity on what exactly should be replaced, and with what. Re-structuring is on the table, and so also is breakup; for proponents of re-structuring, what do you want re-structured? The political system, economic system, or social system? In a nation where the majority claimed that no system exists, what system, then, requires re-structuring?

Thirdly, even where there is consensus agreement on re-structuring, there is division on when and how? No one region or ethnic nationality wants to lose what they are currently enjoying for something they have no idea what the benefits will be. Some have called for a return to the 1960s model of regional governance; others have called for retaining the six Geo-political zones and running a provincial system based on these zones, with six provincial parliaments and administrators, and vice-presidents at the center. Others have gone as far as suggesting a tribal system of government, meaning more than 250 tribal administrations like what exist in some places like Afghanistan, etc.

For advocates of a break up of the Nigeria, or secessionists,  their reasoning is that the current united system emasculates their socio-political and economic growth and development opportunities; they believe that if they excise themselves from Nigeria and form a separate independent nation, their fortunes will grow and all the social and political problems that bedevil Nigeria today will stay put in Nigeria. This, at best, is a fairy-tale dream; but, that is not up for discussion here. However, it is impossible to really argue either way on the position of the secessionists, because there is no recent experience in the country to use as a yardstick.

Also, a breakup into ethnic nationalities, as being bandied about by some other groups, will only multiply the existing national problems by either six time (zonal/provincial governments), or 300 times (tribal administrations); because, within these ethnic nationalities exist tremendous discord. The same goes for every other alternative idea being floated out there, and these are some of the main reasons why the loudness of these agitations tend to ebb and flow according to which tribe or ethnic group is in charge at the center, or in line to take the center.

As I mentioned earlier, there are legitimate reasons for these agitations for a change of the current system in Nigeria; unfortunately, these efforts are directed at the wrong place. Agitators should focus their efforts at the local and state governments which directly impact the people much more than the central government. Ignoring the rotten system at the state level presided over by fellow ethnic brothers and sisters while crying foul at the central problem smacks of hypocrisy and tribal protectionism, and this attitude does not address the problem of bad governance.

Just as all politics is local, any change or re-structuring in any systems has to start at the local level. A hen cannot ignore the knife that cut off its head only to bend its neck at the soup pot. When we paper over our tribal/ethnic and state problems and direct our anger and clamor for change at the center, the eventual success achieved at that center will result in failure at the ethnic/state/regional levels.

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Comment by Katherine Mendel on May 15, 2017 at 10:43am

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