The entire country has been clamoring for a restructuring of Nigeria in order to deal with developmental, fiscal and ethno-religious challenges, but President Muhammadu Buhari says he isn’t a big fan of the restructuring concept.
Nigeria currently has six geopolitical zones and runs a federal system of government in which too much power is concentrated in the center—Abuja.
The local governments exist only in name and have to make do with the crumbs falling from the coffers of the State governments.
Even though there is a legislative arm of government in each State and in Abuja, Nigerians have railed against jumbo pay handed to lawmakers across board. Every month, State governments head to Abuja for their share of federal allocation; without which they won’t exist as viable entities.
Civil society organisations, human rights lawyers and political pundits have been calling for restructuring as a panacea to some of the country's problems, but Buhari isn’t impressed with their arguments.
Agenda and restructuring
When traditional rulers and the leadership of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) and members of the Delta State All Progressives Congress (APC) paid him a courtesy visit at the presidential villa on Monday, June 25, 2018, Buhari said even though he had heard their suggestions for a restructuring of the federation, he wasn’t sold on the idea just yet because calls for restructuring have been largely parochial and sectional.
“You mentioned something which is topical these days—the restructuring of Nigeria”, Buhari told his audience gathered inside the Council Chambers of the villa. “Every group calling for restructuring has got its own agenda and I hope that agenda can be accommodated by the constitution.
“I assure you that you are not forgotten and I am pleased you appreciate the appointments by this administration of some citizens of your kingdom”.
Restructuring not a priority for APC
As guest of a TV breakfast program in June of 2017, immediate past Chairman of the governing APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said restructuring wasn’t a priority for Buhari’s government.
"It is complicated, it is contentious and a lot of people talk about it without any commonality. We have stated clearly what we want to do: devolution and true federalism. We really avoided the word restructuring because it means so many things to so many people.
"If you ask a Nigerian youth today, will he say his number one preference is restructuring? Or will he say his number one preference is a job, food on the table, economic prospect and restoration of hope in the future?
"Will restructuring be the panacea that will solve that problem? That is the challenge we are confronted with as the APC", Oyegun said.
However, in July of 2017, the APC set up a 10-member committee to articulate its position on restructuring.
The committee is chaired by Kaduna Governor Nasir El-rufai and has as members Osun Governor Rauf Aregbesola; Kano Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje; Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong; Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun and Oserheimen Osunbor, a former governor of Edo State, among others.
Shortly afterwards, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo gave those clamouring for restructuring a glimmer of hope when he said, “We are looking at all contributions made by Nigerians across the country. Very soon, we will come out with policies to address the call for restructuring of the country”.
In September of 2017, a committee put together by the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) and the Northern Traditional Rulers Council to aggregate the views of northerners on restructuring, held its inaugural meeting in Kaduna.
“We have reaffirmed our commitment to ensuring Nigeria remains a strong, united country. We have also decided to present the case of the north as a single entity desirous of a prosperous country. Today's meeting agreed on the need to hold town hall meetings in all the 19 states to hear the views of our people on the restructuring debate currently going on in the country”, Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal said.
In his independence day address of 2017, Buhari asked groups clamoring for restructuring to go through the legislature.
“Recent calls on re-structuring, quite proper in a legitimate debate, has let in highly irresponsible groups to call for dismemberment of the country. We cannot and we will not allow such advocacy", the president declared.
Nigeria sits on an ethno-religious fault-line; with tempers often flaring between a predominantly Christian South and a predominantly Muslim North.
The oil rich Niger Delta region in the South has often agitated for resource control, a concept the North has not been particularly keen on.