I have carefully followed the discussion on restructuring/2014 Confab as it has unfolded here. My take is segmented into a few parts. First, while the APC officially boycotted the 2014 Confab, it is on record that every one of the States it controlled sent in its five delegates; and they all fully and robustly participated in the proceedings. In the light of this, whether that ‘boycott’ was a boycott indeed, or just some smart political calculation on the part of party, is left to the reader to decide.
Secondly, it may not be too far from the truth to say that APC included restructuring, by whichever name called, in its manifesto in 2015, as a vote-catching device. Evidence: the president, and leader of the party made it clear in his 2018 New Year broadcast that for him, the challenge before Nigeria was about her processes rather than structure. One of the most cerebral elements in the party and governor of Kaduna state, not only disparaged the restructuring idea in his Chatham House lecture, he indeed had been at his most vitriolic condemning advocates of restructuring.
Indeed, it is safe to conjecture that he was tapped to head the APC committee to conceptualise restructuring, in the first instance, because of his well-known opposition to same. What is more, the more progressive wing of the party, represented by Lagos, had virtually kept mute on restructuring soon after the election. If the ruling party then comes up with a contraption of restructuring a few days after OBJ’s bombshell of a letter excoriating PMB, those who suggest that the new APC document is a reaction to that letter may not be too off the mark after all.
Thirdly, those who seek to prioritise what they call ‘our attitude,’ over the imperative of restructuring, continue to miss a critical point. It is the prevailing warped governance structure that has ensured that Nigeria has not functioned, and will not function. While restructuring is, therefore, not a cure all therapy, the truth is that for as long as we keep this dysfunctional structure in place, for so long shall it continue to reproduce conflict, alienation, instability, corruption, and mass poverty. Its logic will also make it practically impossible to get visionary, and serious-minded people of demonstrable capacity elected at all, or on a sustained basis. An elected official outside of the presidency can only do so much in the context of a warped structure of governance that is skewed against a huge percentage of the citizenry, while placing all, yes, all the powers in a barracuda of a central government. You cannot even accomplish the much advertised task of diversifying the economy under a so-called federal constitution that puts all of 68 items on the exclusive legislative list!
Fourthly, the booby trap in the el-Rufai report (the highlights of which I have only read) is the support for LG autonomy – a contradiction in terms in a federal system. Pray, how do you make LGAs a federating unit in a federal system? Does it not seem clear to advocates of LG autonomy that it is the straightest path to further centralization of an already over-centralized structure? To suggest that a central INEC should conduct elections into 774 LGAs is clear inanity. By the way, what happens to the fact that LGAs were created in the first instance without any reasonable objective set of criteria in mind? How do you justify the fact that Lagos and Kano States, with roughly the same population, started out with 20 LGAs each, and now Kano (minus Jigawa that was created out of it), has 44, while Lagos still has 20? How do you in good conscience justify that Lagos State, with almost ten times the population of Osun State, has only 20 LGAs, while Osun has 30? Yet, LGA constitutes a core element in sharing money from the Federation Account. So, when people claim they do not understand what the restructuring argument is all about, it smacks of plain mischief.
Restructuring is to correct these anomalies. It is to allow all ethnic nationalities have a sense of belonging, and set at the task of development at their own pace, and with a good chunk of their own resources. It is an acknowledgment of the fact that every segment of the country has the requisite wherewithal to develop, if we all get weaned off this lazy voodoo economic(?) enterprise of merely sharing oil rents every month. This is the philosophy the 2014 Confab Report is anchored on. It is one compelling document, the product of intense and patriotic engagement by more than 400 Nigerians from compelling backgrounds, that speaks to all the critical issues that have made our country lie prostate these past years. Sadly enough, several of the contradictions are now spiralling out of control. The Report is not to be trivialized by trying to reduce it to regionalism, or state creation. It is indeed a sad commentary on the nature and quality of our governance enterprise that we shy away from working through the document, even at this most critical point of our tortured evolution.
Professor Mimiko, a former Vice Chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo state, was a delegate to the 2014 National Conference