By Odurombi Onabanjo
I was at the newspaper stand opposite the University of Ibadan school gate, some days ago to read the day’s news reports. Th ough I get to read many newspapers online, I always fi nd the arguments and heated debates at the newspaper stand both intellectually stimulating and mentally enriching. So, as a ritual, I stop there every day to read newspapers and learn from the ‘analysts’. On the front page of all the dailies that day was the call for the restructuring of Nigeria made by former self-styled military president, Ibrahim Babaginda, in his Ramadan message to Nigerians.
After reading through the reports and listening to the ‘analysts’, I could not help but wonder why hitherto silent persons on the restructuring of Nigeria have suddenly found their voices, while well-known advocates for a restructured Nigeria have gone painfully silent. During my ill-fated time in a tertiary institution in Osun State, I attended two lectures in which Dr Kayode Fayemi, then Ekiti State governor, was the guest speaker. On both occasions, he spoke with so much persuasion on the urgent need to restructure Nigeria.
He spoke of how his state, Ekiti State, would have been a viable state if Nigeria was practising true federalism—a thing many believe can only be achieved through restructuring the country. But today, Dr Fayemi is a minister in the ruling government and has kept sealed lips on the issue of restructuring Nigeria. Also, many of Fayemi’s political friends, including his political benefactor, Bola Tinubu, once made spirited calls for a restructured Nigeria. But all have become silent since their party, the All Progressives Congress, came into offi ce.
Th is goes to show that people like Fayemi only had an axe to grind in their call for a restructured Nigeria—they were never altruistic about it. Th erefore, among the cacophony of voices calling for a restructured Nigeria, one must pick out the voices of those making the call in good faith, and be wary of some latter day restructuring converts. Th is is not implying that Babaginda has an ulterior motive for lending his voice to the growing call for a restructured Nigeria; I am only surprised that he could jump on the bandwagon despite his infamous role in the nation’s woes.
If one can take an indulgent view of Babaginda’s call as an act of selfcontrition, the same cannot be said of some siren voices calling for a restructured Nigeria, who are only doing so as an act of political correctness. A former vice-president in this country and ceaseless aspirant for the highest offi ce in the land leads this pack.
He has begun to sing the restructuring song to any listening ear but acute political observers know his true intentions—he has his eyes fi rmly fi xed on the presidential seat and has latched on to this latest fad to warm his way into the hearts of the electorate. Aside the sly politicians hoping to harvest some political gains by supporting the call for the restructuring of Nigeria, some ethnic bodies have also become overnight restructuring crusaders, asking that the recommendations of the 2014 National Confab be implemented.
Th e curious question that comes to an objective mind is why such call was not made when former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power. True, governance is a continuum, but if Jonathan had convoked the National Conference in his fi rst or second year in offi ce, he would have had enough time to implement its recommendations. But he waited till the 2015 presidential elections drew close, as he needed the Confab recommendations as a campaign tool, before he convened the conference. Yet some people want the Buhari government to implement the recommendations of a conference that was convoked in bad faith.
I am sure if the Buhari government, which has turned a deaf ear to the calls for the restructuring of Nigeria, suddenly decides to convene a National Conference at the tail end of its time in offi ce; the government that will succeed it will simply put such conference recommendations in the archive. Th e reason is simple: four years is enough to convene and implement the recommendations of a National Conference. So, those calling for the implementations of the 2014 National Confab are simply mischievous. Many may be tempted to label me anti-restructuring, but I am not. I have nothing against the calls for the restructuring of the country. I am only skeptical about the intentions of some of the callers bearing in mind that the 2019 presidential race, though two years away, has begun. Also, I have seen Nigerian politicians make shocking volte face on issues one thought they could give their life for. So, for me, caution is the watchword. Onbabanjo writes from Lagos