The talk of restructuring has been a longstanding matter of discussion within and outside of political circles for decades. It has been a subject delicately examined at National confabs, conferences, seminars and in public debates. Nevertheless, it always still manages to slip from the hold of the citizenry. Election cycle after election cycle, politicians dig up the topic again and bait the electorate with it. But this unserious and non-pragmatic approach to the issue of restructuring is actually a major setback for the ideal nation we dream of.
It is thus not with surprise that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar brought up the matter again for debate in a medium post where he stressed his commitment to helping the nation to restructure if elected. Atiku has signaled again that Nigeria as a nation cannot have lasting development if it does not put the matter of restructuring in the forefront of discourse. As expected whenever Alhaji Atiku Abubakar speaks on issues of national importance, the presidency through Prof. Yemi Osinbajo fired back at Atiku as championing a vague ideal under the guise of restructuring. He also wrongly criticized Atiku’s piece as campaigning for the creation of more states when current states already have issues with revenue generation.
Yes, restructuring is often employed vaguely and it has to be broken down into relevant constituents if it is to be discussed effectively. However, in a brief stroke of genius, Atiku responded and broke what he meant down into a 6-point highlight: devolution of powers and resources to the states, matching grants to states to shore up their internal revenue, privatization of unviable federal government-owned assets, a true free market economy, replacement of state of origin with state of residence, and passing the petroleum industry bill.
It was not only disingenuous of the Vice President to summarize the whole matter of restructuring as the creation of new states or trying to reduce it ordinarily into redistributing wealth to the lower class in the society, it is also an attempt to ridicule the revisitation of such important matter which would greatly improve governance structures nationwide. For a country as complex as Nigeria, restructuring is much more than what that debate insinuated, even beyond that which Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has indicated in his speeches and writing.
The national situation is even much more critical as many state governors now just sit and wait for their share of the National Wealth, neither making any pragmatic effort to either create new avenues for an internal economy nor generating internal revenue. This is the major reason most of the 36 states in the nation go broke and go months on end without doing the most minimal duty of paying worker’s salaries and pensioner’s emoluments.
On the flip side, one would question the sincerity and commitment of Osinbajo in instituting even the little quota of restructuring which he championed for years fighting for autonomy as the Attorney General of Lagos State. He seemed to have gone down on talks of restructuring now that he has witnessed how instituting such policies would whittle down control of powers and resources by the Federal government which he is actively now a part of.
Some would also say the buck stops on the table of President Buhari who has the powers, if he so wishes, to institute some aspects of restructuring as suggested by the 2014 National Confab with just an Executive Order. It is however sad to note that the President has not said anything quotable of recent about restructuring. That Osinbajo is the one engaging in a debate with Atiku says a lot about Buhari’s disinterest in any further talk of restructuring.
The debate about restructuring should not end within the confines of the media; we should force all those aspiring to the number one position in the country to debate the topic in a widely televised event where positions on the matter will be documented and candidates can as well highlight pathways to the achievement of particular restructuring objectives.
It is high time the citizenry spoke about what they want from politicians as well and not just always being told what the citizenry should have. It is time voters stopped being entrapped in the vain rhetoric of career politicians.
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