Restructuring only solution to Nigeria’s problem –Prof. Onwumechili

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Restructuring only solution to Nigeria’s problem –Prof. Onwumechili by : 5:04 am On November 29, 2021

By Sunday Ani

Amidst growing clamour for Nigeria’s breakup by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Yoruba nation self-determination group, an Igbo professor based in the United States of America, Chuka Onwumechili, has said that only a properly restructured Nigeria would assuage the feelings of agitation for a breakup and set Nigeria on the path of rapid growth and development.

Onwumechili, a professor at the Howard University, Washington DC, United States of America, appealed to the Igbo to explore other means of pushing through their demands from the Nigerian government, stressing that as a people who are predominantly businessmen, Nigeria as a corporate entity, would offer a larger market for them to thrive better.

In a zoom interview with select journalists, he talks about the benefits of a restructured Nigeria and the need for the proponents of the country’s breakup to sheathe their swords among others.

The call for restructuring has dominated the political discourse in Nigeria for many years now, creating division between those opposed to it and its proponents. What are your thoughts on restructuring?

I must state clearly that most of the politicians do not mean well for the citizens. They have abandoned a lot of things which they ought to have done because they are busy chasing shadows. To them, the important thing now is the 2023 general elections. Most of them lack a proper understanding of what restructuring is all about.The clamour for devolution of powers, which autonomy will be granted to the federating states has been on for some time now. But, in a truly restructured Nigeria, the government at the centre would be able to provide adequate security for the citizens, because it will be able to engage enough security personnel and adequately take care of their welfare. The states will also be allowed to develop, recruit and empower their police. This will promote a strong tie in the internal security system of the country.

How can Nigeria learn from the federal system of government in other climes?

In the United States of America, the states used to have powers over the American government. America is not just called God’s own country for nothing. It is a country worthy of emulation today because governmental powers are heavily decentralized there, and this has greatly helped America in many ways to achieve her economic, social and political strength. Nigeria generates a lot of revenues, but the imbalanced proportion of revenue sharing has locked up its financial dominance and freedom among the comity of nations. We have a big problem in Nigeria.

There is a big gulf between the haves and the have-nots, and nothing is being done to bridge the gap. Restructuring as it is being practised in Nigeria today cannot resolve the myriads of problems bedevilling the country. A truly restructured Nigeria will ensure that foods and other necessities of life are made cheap and available to the Nigerian masses.

You earlier said that Nigerian politicians have misrepresented the significance of restructuring; what exactly do you mean and what nature of restructuring do you think will work for Nigeria most?

Restructuring of Nigeria will end up with negotiation. Both representatives from the central and the regional states will soon harness their agitations under one umbrella, which is negotiation. If this works, then, we will be talking of having achieved a perfectly restructured Nigeria. The problem is whether the government will be ready to negotiate or the negotiation will not be hijacked. What should form the basis of the negotiation? How are the resources of the nation divided? How are the Nigerian oil reserves or wells shared and managed? Let the region that has more oil benefit appropriately from their natural resources? The same approach should be applied to security. Nigeria should have local security. If the police are localized, Nigeria will be more effective. Why should the decision from the Federal Government over rule that of the federating states all the time? These and many other issues are the things that negotiation will resolve before a true restructuring is seen to have been achieved.

In your opinion, what system of government can move Nigeria forward?

There are different types of democracy. America practises representative democracy and I believe that if Nigeria borrows that system, it will be better for everybody. The 2021 electoral law, which provides for the use of a direct system to select the candidate during primary election, is being sponsored by the legislative representatives of the Nigerian masses at the federal level. This participatory political mechanism will foster progress and development of the political parties if properly maintained.

A convergence of elected political leaders who represent the electorate can also give a direction to the political development of the nation. Notwithstanding, the Nigerian national assembly should be restructured. There is a growing separatist agitation by some Nigerians for the country’s breakup. Will a breakup be a solution to the national issues and the state of the nation? There will not be any breakup. In fact, I do not subscribe to any kind of breakup. I sympathise with my brothers and sisters in the South East, who are pushing for the country’s breakup. I will advise them not to push for a breakup even though they have genuine reasons for their agitation. This is because there are multiple options for them to resolve the issues. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is agitating because the people are glaringly being marginalised in all fronts. There is so much suffering in Nigeria and in the Southeast, but I will say no to a breakup.

Past presidents from different regions have never added any value to the lives of the people in their regions. They have always ended up neglecting their kinsmen in the area of development of their regions. They only enriched themselves without considering their people. Former President Goodluck Jonathan did little or nothing to develop the South-south where he hails from until he was not allowed to return for a second term. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was from the South West, but he neglected the region, including Abeokuta, his home town, for eight years he ruled the country as president. I will only advise the Igbo to find other ways to agitate for their rights.

By 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari, a Northerner, would have completed eight years in office. Ordinarily, a Southerner should take over from him but there is a serious argument around the issue of rotational presidency and if not properly handled, it is capable of throwing the country into a very serious crisis. What is your take on that?

The idea of rotational presidency is not in the constitution. It is a gentleman’s agreement. The decision is determined by those who gain from it as it is being practised in Nigeria today. If you do a critical analysis about this, you will find out that it is only a certain class of people that gain from it and these are the elites. I do not believe in the political parties bothering themselves about who takes over as president or the zone the presidential candidate should come from. The best index to decide who leads Nigeria in 2023 after Buhari should be based on who is most willing and qualified to respond to the question of restructuring and implement it for the general populace and for the confederate states to function well.

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