The call for restructuring of Nigeria is not a new thing. Disaffected by the annulment of Abiola’s “June 12” (1993) presidential election and overcome by a sense of siege under the brutal military dictatorship of the late General Abacha, the Yoruba became most vociferous in calling for a reordering of the polity (through the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference – SNC) with a vehemence not seen since the Igbo’s 1967 failed attempt at secession.
The death of Abacha in 1998 only reduced the tempo of the call, but significantly the Yoruba has remained in the vanguard of the call for a national conference (sovereign or not) for a total restructuring of the country and the control of resources by those in whose territory they belong. This, in spite the fact that the Yoruba states is not in the oil rich Niger Delta region.
Of late there’s a resurgence of clamour for “restructuring” Nigeria attaining the level of a mantra in the mouths of its increasing proponents.
But I’m shaking my head, feeling sorry for them and for Nigeria. On the scale of probability I’ll give radical restructuring of the country (the sort that would be needed to truly speed her development) a one-in-ten chance! It just won’t happen.
And what won’t make it happen is the money, ‘free’ lucre that comes from oil – Niger Delta’s oil. Oil has blocked our collective mind and filled the space in our crania meant for grey matter. The country is on the grips of powerful evil men to whom maintaining the status quo is a matter of life and death.
Oil has not been a blessing to Nigeria as it ordinarily should have been. It is a curse. It is easy to look at some structures like the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos and the entirety of the creation of Abuja and its huge development and count them as blessings; that would be a pity for they constitute nothing but physical structures without value content to the technological mind of the citizenry or the country.
In nowhere else in the world has the money accruable from a country’s natural resources been squandered on non-regenerative projects as in Nigeria; in nowhere else in the world has so much been made and yet so little gained in the uplift of the mind of the citizenry; in nowhere else in the world has so much of a country’s resources ended up staggeringly and so fraudulently in the pockets of a few as in Nigeria. Never has so much been given to a people and yet with so little accounted for as in Nigeria!
The latest cries for “restructuring” or “reconstructing” as Prof. Charles Soludo called his own, have come from him and Mr Opeyemi Agbaje; one an economist and former Central Bank Governor, the other a financial and business consultant.
Soludo’s, not surprisingly with his pedigree, is the most eloquent, reasoned, and impassioned. But, aside missing the core issue to my economics-illiterate mind, he’s talking to the deaf; this is a country of the deaf. Agbaje, on the other hand, barely hid his frustration, if not disdain, with a section of the country he considers recalcitrant in obstructing the restructuring imperative, and calls for the big stick if need be, after all, he reasons, when they wanted Sharia, they just went ahead and had it.
The core issue to my mind, why restructuring won’t happen, is represented in the twin premise once credited to some personality from the north that the Niger Delta oil is non-negotiable Nigeria’s and that its discovery and exploitation were made possible by the now disappeared resources of the old North. Such humbug!
But I do sympathise with my northern brethren. The reality is that Niger Delta oil began to be explored and exploited in earnest by and for the Federal Government of Nigeria (even though we didn’t lift a finger nor put much of any money of our own in it) and not by a ‘Niger Delta Region’ as was the case with the produces and resources in the first republic of the more self-governing regional paradigm.
So much singsong has also been made by many “experts” about the “innumerable mineral resources” that abound in the vast expanse of land in the North waiting and crying to be tapped, and which, when tapped, has the capacity to far outstrip the resources from oil! And which, once the constraining hand of the Federal Government is removed and the free money from oil is shunned, will receive the attention due to it under a new, improved, restructured (and reconstructed) polity. O really?
I cannot see any meaningful “reconstruction” of the dysfunctional country carried out under the existing power centers and succession arrangement except through a revolution.
Something tells me we are stuck.
My brother Soludo has described our situation most succinctly, “For fear of death, Nigeria has indeed decided to commit suicide!”
If we have any sense, and if all the claim of other “untapped natural resources” be true, then the best we can do for now is to plough huge ‘Niger Delta oil money’ in exploring and exploiting them now to turn the North into a bigger foreign exchange and GDP earner than the rest of the country, including the Niger Delta. When that is done, let’s see whose voice for “restructuring” and “SNC” will be the loudest.
Until then, we are stuck – and damned!