Who’s afraid of restructuring?

No Nigerian who truly wants this country to be great and prosperous should be afraid of restructuring. It is about a country serving the interests of the majority

Eric Osagie

Restructuring has become a word to love or loathe, depending on which part of the divide you stand in the ongoing heated debate about our nation and its future.

As typically Nigerian, there are powerful protagonists and antagonists, offering powerful views on the desirability or otherwise of a restructured country.

But is it a word to be scared of? Should Nigerians split hairs over it? Who’s afraid of restructuring? Should anyone truly be afraid of restructuring?

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What does restructuring even mean?

Wikipedia defines it thus: “Restructuring is the corporate management term for the act of reorganising the legal, ownership, operational, or other structures of a company for the purpose of making it more profitable or better organised for its present needs.”

My view: No Nigerian who truly wants this country to be great and prosperous should be afraid of restructuring. It is about a country serving the interests of the majority, rather than a few fat cats in the corridors of power, anytime and everytime a new government is in power!

Only those benefiting from the present lopsided arrangement, where the poor are getting poorer, in spite of our rich material resources, should be angry and afraid of restructuring. In my view, it is not a North, South, West, East tangle. It is not an ethnic or religious strife. Restructuring is about putting right structures in place to enhance efficiency of our system.

For example, are Nigerians happy with the centralisation of power in one big Federal Government, acting the Big Brother and deciding who gets what, when? Could the police not function better if decentralised? What about fiscal federalism? Why should states not generate their resources and develop at their pace, paying some royalties to the centre?

Why can’t we discuss how we want to live, how we want to relate with component states of the federation? What is there to be afraid of, if we can all sit at the table of brotherhood and have frank discourse and understanding?

Of course, restructuring will not be ‘the end all’ of our problems. If we have a restructured country without the right leadership, we may well be on a circus. Restructuring must go hand in hand with focused leadership, leadership that delivers for the people.

Restructuring should build for us a strong union, anchored on justice, equity and fairness. These, I believe, are the key issues confronting our nation.

That’s the reason we are a federation of the angry. Nigerians need to honestly engage themselves and find ways to resolve the issues confronting them.

To confront these challenges, we need to go to the drawing board and examine how our country can begin to work for citizens, irrespective of tribe, region, religion or any other primordial sentiments.

Many Nigerians, if truth be told, are angry and dissatisfied with the way things are at the moment. We have become a federation of the angry.

Many are scared things could go wrong with the way politicians are heating up the polity. You would think Armageddon may well be nigh. You would believe that the cataclysm prophesied by the Americans is about to happen. And if you were the fearful or lily-livered, you would fear and tremble at some of the volcanic eruptions emitting from the mouths of some of our brothers in the name of politics and politicking.

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Every election and electioneering period simply reinforces the imperative of restructuring.

We just can’t continue to sweep the issues that challenge our nationhood under the carpet. We can’t continue to pretend that all is well, when all is far from being well. We can’t continue to patch things up, hoping that, by pretending and hoping, our troubles will be over. By so doing, we would only be postponing doomsday.

What am I getting at? There’s too much anger and division in our land today. The bile and altercation clearly shows the misgivings, suspicion and mistrust that have characterised the relationships among Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities, especially the major tribes in the country.

For far too long, these sentiments (suspicion and mistrust) have been suppressed, instead of being confronted. For too long, we have had parts of the country in muffled grumblings, sometimes loud, but oftentimes ignored and shoved aside as inconsequential rantings. However, problems, as experience tells us, are not wished away but solved.

Truth be told, Nigeria’s successive leaderships have continued to play the ostrich. They talk soothingly about the indissolubility and sovereignty of Nigeria not being negotiable; that we must continue to live as one nation. But their governance and leadership style often promote factors that question the same sovereignty they claim to champion. When leaders champion ethnicity, tribalism and cronyism at federal or state levels, are they promoting the concept of one, indivisible country?

What point am I making? Nigeria is going through this terrible pass because we have blatantly refused to confront three key issues that strangulate and divide us: Equity, justice and fair play. No nation can have peace or make progress without fair play, without equity, without justice, no matter how far she pretends to go.

Every part of the country believes it is being short-changed. The Niger-Delta that produces the largest chunk of the wealth of the nation can’t seem to reconcile its squalid condition to the amazing wealth that has been taken from its soil; the South-East can’t understand the reason it continues to be treated like second class citizens in the allocation of the nation’s resources and political positions; the South-West demands each region gets a commensurate allocation of what it contributes to the national till; and the North is aggrieved that other parts of the country continue to deride it as parasitic, when it believes it had in the past also chipped in its wealth to national growth.

So, what we have had since 1960 is a federation of the angry. Every part is aggrieved. Every part is feeling cheated and short-changed. That’s the reason when a leader or president gets to power from a section of the country, he tries to satisfy his people because their turn to chop has come. And the other sections feel left out. And agitation kickstarts. And the cycle continues.

Indeed, in the real sense, what we have had are tribal and regional leaders posturing as national leaders. The bitter truth is that we have Nigeria without Nigerians. That is the stark reality facing us. That is the reason ethnic tensions are easy to ignite once some rabble-rouser or ethnic jingoist in the East or North or West, lights the flame.

The way out of this malady, this insanity creeping in to eclipse our tottering nation, is simple: Call a frank and urgent discussion of the federating parts of the union. And as I have argued here in the past, “If we must talk, let’s talk seriously, we must be free to talk all the talk. No area must be designated ‘no go.’ Let the talk centre on the totality of our being, our nationhood. There should be no hypocrisy or pretences. Of course, I want to be part of one, big, united family. But in a union of perpetual acrimony and mutual distrust, we must be free to discuss our nationhood and terms of our union. You may be shocked to find that many of the delegates will vote to remain one united and indivisible country. But, talk we must.” Restructuring is about doing the right thing by our country.

READ ALSO: Democracy and nationhood

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