“Do I think Nigeria can continue as one? Not if it continues this way, not if it fails to decentralise; some people call it restructuring, others use whatever word. But if Nigeria fails to decentralise, as fast as possible, manifestly and not rhetoric, then Nigeria cannot stay together.Wole Soyinka
The chances that the debate on need for a brand new constitution or a thorough amendment of the 1999 Constitution would fade away soon are currently slim.
With daily reports of insurgency, kidnappings, banditry, and attack by herders across the country dominating headlines, calls for local policing initiatives have been proffered as solutions to majority of these challenges. One clear point in all of these however, is that without a legal or constitutional backing to such initiatives, the country will continue to experience bloodshed and anarchy may set in as citizens continue to defend themselves.
On the economic front, many states are unable to pay salaries and embark on real developmental projects due to dwindling revenue and high overheads; partly occasioned by the ravaging coronavirus pandemic which hit the world by storm in 2020.
At the heart of these conversations is the urgent need to ‘restructure’ the Nigerian state in a manner that it truly operates based on the universal principles of federalism. In a bid to either convince or confuse others, many have given it several names – devolution of powers, fiscal federalism or decentralisation. But it is clear that action has to be taken.
And so, with Professor Wole Soyinka, stressing that Nigeria may not see another democracy day, and may not also remain as one nation if it fails to operate a decentralised system of government, it is yet again a sad reminder that time is running out on us.
The Nobel laureate who was speaking on Monday, during an interview with Arise News also described the country as a plane that is on a suicide slide, and that the citizens have the right to exit the plane before it nosedives.
As he rightly puts it: “Ex-heads of state have said it, politicians, Generals, analysts, economists, others have all said it. When sectional leaders cannot answer the people’s existential yearnings, don’t be surprised if the people start saying we want Tiv nation, we want Kanuri nation, we want Biafra nation, we want Yoruba nation, don’t be surprised to hear it. It’s because you are not being taken seriously.”
In a similar interview with President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces had indirectly opined that restructuring isn’t Nigeria’s problem at this time, stressing that if the current three-tier structure is truly adhered to, there won’t be issues. He also noted that it is within the purview of the National Assembly to amend the constitution not the executive arm.
Both houses of the National Assembly have conducted zonal public hearings across the country to receive the input of citizens towards the forthcoming amendment and hopes are high that they would manage the mountain-top expectations of Nigerians all over.
While there are worries about the fate of such process considering the constitutional role of the President to bring it to live via his assent or even political influence on an APC-dominated parliament many have described as ‘rubber-stamp,’ Nigerians must hold the lawmakers accountable to ensure that the country’s destiny is salvaged.
Time is ticking and the ball in the court of the National Assembly must be properly handled; else the prophecy comes to pass.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.