From time immemorial, word has passed that Nigeria runs a federal system of government. This is easily seen by the chants of many when a new government comes in and the members of the Federal Executive Council are being chosen; chants that echo the idea that these members should be chosen on the basis of ‘federal character’ which means each state of the country must be represented in the cabinet. However, a critical look at the way the country is run in recent time shows that Nigeria has deviated from the operation of a true federal system of government – that is if a time one was ever practised in the first place.
For the sake of clarity, it is pertinent to explain some salient terms; one, the federal system of government. A federal system of government entails that the individual states that make up the country are independent entities on their own; they determine some certain laws that would hold in their individual locations; they are responsible for generating the fund; they require and take charge of certain sectors of the economy such as education and agriculture. The federal system of government also provides for the autonomy of the local governments, whose actions have the most direct impact on the lives of the citizens.
Because of the way Nigeria is run, the term ‘restructuring’ comes into play. It simply means a return to the operation of true federal system of government. It involves devolution of powers and it would require the amendment of certain provisions of the constitution currently being practised. Without doubt, it must be understood that although for a good number of years, a mutant form of the federal system is being used, it is necessary for Nigeria to look into restructuring as it is a soothing balm to the nation’s woes.
Firstly, it is no secret that when it comes to election time, it is usually a ‘do-or-die’ affair only becoming a little better in recent times particularly the presidential elections. The highest seat of government is usually extremely attractive to a lot of people because of the enormous power it holds. The President is more or less in charge of allocations to the state government for instance, and if he so wishes, he could withhold the allocation of fund to a state whose governor does not seem to want to pander to his wishes. This was reported to have been expressed by the interaction between former President Obasanjo and former Governor of Lagos state, Bola Tinubu, which saw the delay in the state’s allocation for many months. This is just one of the many cases that show that the central government is too powerful. Another of such cases is the refusal of state governors to conduct elections for the heads of local government councils and appointing their own people as caretaker chairmen of these councils, invariably exercising overall control of these councils. This is not supposed to be and restructuring cuts down the legs of imperial emperors. Restructuring puts in place proper devolution and sharing of powers such that each person is put in his place and not allowed to exceed his bounds. Restructuring would therefore, reduce the impunity with which the leaders rule over the masses by reducing the power they wield.
Furthermore, the current system has made the state governors lazy, so they are placing too much responsibility on the federal government. Since the state governors are sure of their ‘monthly bread’ – the allocation from the federal government – they believe that their only tasks are just to sit in offices looking dapper in their agbadas and pay the salaries of their employees. Only few states like Lagos state have risen up to the tasks of generating enough funds to cater for themselves in a situation where there is no allocation. The state government practically leaves the job of governance to the federal government. This provides the reason why the common man on the street would shout ‘Buhari’ when lamenting about his inability to obtain breakfast, failing to remember his state governor whose actions have more direct impact on his condition. Restructuring would place state governors with the responsibility of generating their own fund and actually bettering the lives of their people. It also relieves the federal government of the enormous task it is unfairly laden with. It will help improve governance in the nation as it will be clear to see the leaders who are succeeding and those failing in their responsibilities.
It has become clear and will only become clearer that nation requires restructuring as much as man requires water. The present government may be busy fighting the recession battle now but once they succeed, they must look into restructuring.