• Warns that current structure leads to nowhere
By Paul Obi in Abuja
Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, yesterday said Nigeria was failing and warned that the country’s federal structure as currently composed would not help Nigeria to attain nationhood.
The former diplomat, therefore, joined many other Nigerians clamouring for the restructuring of the country along a more flexible fiscal federal state that would replace the present federal structure, which retains more power and resources at the centre.
Speaking in Abuja during the launch of a book, ‘Nigeria: The Forsaken Road to Nationhood and Development’ by Ambassador Humphrey Orjiakor, he argued that for Nigeria to develop and stay united, the country must be restructured.
Anyaoku said because of the dominance of the centre over the constituent states, the country was fast failing to meet the expectations of its founding fathers and admonished those opposed to restructuring to have a rethink.
He said: “I think that the Nigeria we have with 36 federating units now is not working. The country continues to under-perform because of the 36 states we have now. No less than 27 of them can no longer pay the salaries of their workers.
“The planning of economic development is less efficient on the basis of these non-viable states. If we had six federating units, you would have more viable basis for planning economic development and those who fear that it would mean disintegration of the country are wrong, because the country was doing a lot better at the time of its independence.”
Reminding his audience that the country did better when it was governed along four regions, Anyaoku argued that the current structure, which was initiated by the military from 1966 was defective.
“What we are doing now will lead us nowhere in terms of development, and in terms of building nationhood to which Nigerians will be proud of to belong,” he said.
On the opposition against restructuring, Anyaoku said: “We are failing and that is the only argument to present to those who are opposed to restructuring. I think we need to persuade those with hardening positions against restructuring because this country is living in denial of the basic facts of its under-performance.”
He explained that the over-centralisation of power at the centre following the intervention of the military in politics led the country to its present woes.
According to him, “The centre was not that powerful, we have the example of the then leader of the biggest political party in the country, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), Sir Ahmadu Bello, who chose to remain as the Premier of the North and sent his lieutenant to be the prime minister of the federation. That was the reflection of the bonds of power and influence between the centre and the region.
“And the Western Region, the Northern Region, Eastern Region and the Mid-Western Region of the country were developing faster than the states created since the military intervened in governance.”
Former Minister of External Affairs and Under Secretary of the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, who was one of the discussants at the occasion, praised the author of the book for his contribution to knowledge, noting that the publication was timely, coming at a time the nation was facing one of its most difficult challenges.
Saying the author blamed the country’s poor performance on ethnicity, greed and corruption, but explaining that those were the effects rather than the causes of the challenges of nation building. Gambari said Orjiakor’s position still provided food for thought “for Nigeria’s overly exuberant antipodeans”.
The author, Orjiakor, explained that the book was about the need to restructure the country. “My thesis is that if we do not restructure, we could muddle along for another 20 or 50 years. We have been running round and round in a circle,” he said.
He argued: “We have to redesign the structure of our country, make it stronger and then it will take off. It’s not all the answers, Nigeria’s problem is not restructuring but it is the fundamental basis for change.
“As a matter of fact, it’s only a challenge, it’s not a problem because when you have a challenge, you tackle it by going to the source to give them the information they need. Many people are either deliberately or ignorantly misunderstanding the concept of restructuring.
“Restructuring in no way suggests dismembering the country, no. As a matter of fact, it means the opposite, it means strengthening our unity and mutual understanding and giving people the opportunity to pursue their own lives with everything God has given them as talents.
“What we are doing now is suppressing both individual and collective talents by exposing everybody to wait for federal government to bring bread and butter at the end of every month.
“How long is that going to work, especially now that the oil revenue, the oil rent we were all depending on is beginning to deplete? How long can we continue to feed ourselves from one centre? That is what the quest is. So, if we bring the message home to the electorate in every part of this country, I promise you a majority of Nigerians will begin to clamour for restructuring.”