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Published On: Mon, Feb 5th, 2018

North and restructuring debate

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By Dahiru Muhammed Gote

There are few things on the front burner now that are as hot as theissue of restructuring. Though the question of restructuring hasbeen ever present in our political discourse – right from the colonial era – perhaps never before has it sought to impose this pervasive dominance on our polity. Every reasonable discourse today about how to make the country a better place seems to somehow wound up in the ideological box of restructuring. “We either restructure Nigeria or Nigeria will restructure us,” is a catchphrase a friend has frequently used on his status updates.
Because some minds have been conditioned now to assume that restructuring is the greatest thing that can ever happen to the country, once you sidestep postulating this reasoning as a panacea for our numerous politico-economic and social challenges your debater simply hisses and says you are living in the past. The major proponents of the restructuring argument today are amongthe opposition party and some southerners who are pushing the idea with recklessly frenetic insistence.
Expectedly, in the ensuing debate about restructuring, the north is vilified, and viewed as the party most hysterical about itsrealization. The north is seen as incapable of surviving on its own without handouts from the center and thus unwilling to upset the status quo, since the present political structure and configuration assumedly favours it at the expense of the south. The proponents of restructuring also think that the APC led government isworking in the interest of the north by not immediately acceding to their pressure to “restructure”.
Actually, with the manner the issue of restructuring is being drivenlike a blunt knife through the heart of the country, no reasonable government would even give it a tacit support. Yes, because in a way, it is a call for disintegration; and if you don’t know howgovernments usually react to such calls, ask the Spanish government about the Catalans moves for secession, the southernCameroonians and Iraq Kurds bid for secession.
Again, that the agitators had been largely silent for almost 16 years, and have now woken up from their slumber to demand for restructuring naturally sends a suspicious signal to government. The federal government’s skepticism is further aroused by its realization that the restructuring project was on the table of itspredecessor unattended, and now it is being harangued toimplement it the way it was packaged. Government would have liked to know for instance, will the same fervor and emotion be invested in this call, if power suddenly swings to the callers’ side?
To what extent would restructuring even help address the sundryproblems in Nigeria? Much as it would be preposterous to arguethat such calls for restructuring are entirely a useless agitation, it would be damn right self-serving and unrealistic to assume it is the key to all our present problems. Strategically reworking the political and economic structure of a country is important catalyst to development, the nature and personality of those who run the structure matters significantly. In fact, the greatest challenges bedeviling the country is not so much the paucity of resources as it is of the use and application of such resources. When the samefaces of corruption, greed, mismanagement and deceit, surround any structure and high level ego and greed invested in its workings- tendencies that have defied region, religion, and culture, andspread with permeating destructibility- there is very little that can be gained from such make-up.
That said, whichever perspective you look at this term restructuring now, whether from some emotive, narrow prisms from which some politicians and regional jingoists understand it or from altruistic point of view, it will endure for a long time on the political turf gaining some more muscles. Given the insistenceof restructuring on staying on the front burner, the North, seen as a“leech” partner in this marital relationship, would be doing itself a great service if it refuses to shy away from confronting it headlong, refuses to be stampeded and articulating its position. It will not put up this hurried, rushed, emotive and reactionary stand to restructuring which has characterized the approach of the other groups, but come up with a reasoned, calculated and measured one. And this is why it is such a welcome development that some groups are working to prepare good grounds for the north to take such a stand.
Already, the APC led government and traditional institutions are going round the region to sample opinions with regard to its position and have even formed a technical committee to collateviews from across the region to be used as a working document by the technical committee on restructuring.
More important is the research based approach adopted by the Arewa Research Development Project, a northern platform, which has chosen to organize a two- day conference, in Kaduna, to brainstorm about this issue. This conference would help to provide the north a clear headed, strategic response and articulation to the cacophonic sensations and agitations surrounding the issue of restructuring. Topics such as “Examination of the Historicity and the Nature of the Nigerian Federation,” “Myth and Reality on Concerns about Power Sharing, Wealth Sharing, Equity of Political Participation and the Demands for the Restructuring of the Nigerian Federation” “ Examination of the Constitutional Developments and the Search for Viable Political Arrangement inNigeria” “Dangers of War, Dynamics of Peaceful Co-existence and the Challenges of Nation Building” “Land Tenure System and the Land Question” “Agenda for the Strategic Development of the North: An overview of the STAND Document” by egg heads in thenorth such as Professor Awalu Yadudu, Professor Murtala Sabo Sagagi, Dr Chris Kwaja, Dr Kabir Chafe, Dr Yima Sen who would do justice to these issues in their various paper presentations. Hopefully, it would help to add value and direction to this discourse that seem to be pushing the country to the threshold.

Dahiru Muhammed Gote writes from No 45 Lugbe, Federal Housing Estate, Phase One, Abuja.

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