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Editorial: Restructuring Nigeria

At independence in October 1960, the British handed over to us a three regional structure viz the North, West and Eastern Regions. Later in 1963, the Mid – Western Region was carved out of the West following a referendum.
Following the intervention of the military in 1966, we started the process of states creation. Beginning with a twelve state structure, we today have a thirty six state structure, all created by military fiat. The increase in the number of states has not killed agitation or the clamour for restructuring of Nigeria.
What do people mean when they talk of restructuring of Nigeria? What structure do we really want?
To some advocates of restructuring, Nigeria should simply be dismembered and let every component ethnic unit go its own way. The attempt to restructure Nigeria in this way is not new. In fact an attempt in this direction led to a brutal civil war between 1967 and 1970 in which millions of people died.
We reject this aspect of restructuring in its entirety.
Some people want a federation in which the federating units operate as semi-independent states. This is known as Confederation. This in our view is a veiled form of disintegration. This again is not acceptable to us.
Some people want additional states. In fact the 2014 Constitutional Reforms Conference convened by the government of Goodluck Jonathan recommended the creation of eighteen additional states to make for a fifty four – state structure.
While the report of the conference continues to gather dust, there has been a renewed agitation for the restructuring of Nigeria since the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
For a long time, the agitation for restructuring of Nigeria came mostly from politicians from southern Nigeria. But recently, the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and the former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, both northerners, added their voices to those clamouring for a restructuring of Nigeria. The agitations have thus attained a pan Nigerian status and must therefore be given adequate attention.
In the short run, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari must take immediate steps to re position itself and correct the negative image it has built for itself from the various component parts of Nigeria.
In the long run, there is the need for a body, a panel or a commission, set up by the President to examine the structure of Nigeria. Given the size and complexity of the country, it is our opinion that Nigeria must remain a federation. The unanswered questions are how many federating units should we have and what are the terms on which the units are federated?
We do not share the opinion expressed in some quarters that we should return to the four regional structure that Nigeria had in the first republic. That structure was unbalanced and fundamentally responsible for most of the political problems experienced at the time including the military coups and the civil war.
Similarly, the clamour for additional states is repugnant to us. The federating units in a federation must have some measure of independence. Our present peculiar form of federation in Nigeria is such that almost all the states are dependent on the federal government for their handouts to survive. The creation of additional states will make the states less viable and more dependent on the federal government, thus making us more of a unitary state and a mockery of the principles of federalism.
These and other related issues should be tackled by a body set up by the President. The body in our view, should comprise a few intellectuals, professionals and statesmen. It should not be the kind of huge assembly convoked by former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2014. The Restructuring Committee should then do justice to the recurring issue of restructuring and its submissions be forwarded to the National Assembly for enactment into Law. This way, the country can move forward.

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