Between January 4 and 5, 1967, Nigerian military leaders who had not held any full meeting since May 1966 as a result of the crisis which had engulfed the country and which had led to the gruesome murder of over 30,000 Easterners, met at the small town of Aburi, in Ghana, under the auspices of the then Ghanaian head of state, Lieutenant General Joseph Ankrah. Their aim was to find solution to the intractable problems that had befallen the country.
The atmosphere at the meeting was said to be very cordial as the military leaders freely exchanged banters and frankly bared their minds on how best to solve Nigeria’s problems. Later, they came up with the agreement that it was better for each of the then existing four regions to shift a little bit backwards and given more responsibilities, than concentrate all the powers at the centre. Some people had interpreted this to mean a confederal system of government.
Unfortunately, as soon as the military leaders returned to Nigeria, different interpretations were given to what transpired in Ghana, and the Aburi Accord was jettisoned. The result was the Nigerian civil war which lasted for thirty months, and where over two million people lost their lives and valuable properties destroyed.
Since after the failure of the Aburi Accord and the subsequent civil war, Nigeria was reduced to virtually a unitary state as successive administrations have continued to run the country in a military style of command control, by increasingly concentrating all powers of government at the centre, while reducing the constituent units almost to mere appendages.
Before the military intervention in January 1966, residual powers had been with the regional governments, each of which had its own constitution, though subservient to the federal constitution. The regions then retained revenues derived from resources from their areas, but paid certain percentages of such revenues to the coffers of the federal government. Then, there was drive by the constituent units. There was also competition as the regions struggled to outshine the others.
That was when the Eastern Region built the University of Nigeria in 1960. The Western Region built the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University a year later, while the Northern Region followed suit and built the Ahmadu Bello University. All these universities were built with internally generated revenues by the regional governments, in addition to many other development projects that were going on in these regions.
It was only later, in 1962, that the Nigerian federal government established the University of Lagos. The University College Ibadan was only a campus of the University of London. These were the only five universities that existed in the country before the Nigerian civil war in 1967.
Now, everything has changed. The centre has taken the shine. The centre has become so powerful as to almost eclipse the constituent units. All the collectable revenues in the country are now paid into the coffers of the federal government, while the constituent units are left with nothing. The states have been weakened and can no longer stand on their own. They now look at the centre for almost everything they need, or to chart their own course of existence.
Within these constituent units or states, there is no more drive, there is no more competition. The states have become lazy and complacent. Every month they must travel to Abuja, the nation’s capital, cap in hand, to beg for crumbs that fall from the master’s table. Whatever they are told is the money that accrued, they must take it. Any time they are told that there is no money to share they will become handicapped, unable to do anything. Everything will be at a standstill – no money to buy even office stationeries, no money to pay workers’ salaries, no money to execute even the minutest project, etc.
Meanwhile, the man at the centre, the President, has all the powers on earth. He can do and undo. Everybody must pay obeisance, or worship him, failing which such recalcitrant fellow is doomed for life or reduced to nothing.
In the United States of America where we copied our constitution, the man living in Chicago has no need to genuflect or to worship President Donald Trump before he can have his existence or pursue his daily activities, in the same way as the Governor of the State of Illinois or West Virginia does not need to travel to Washington D C, every month, cap in hand, to beg for revenue allocation.
Even the United Kingdom, our former colonial masters, she equally acknowledges the differences between the people of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, which make up that country, and accords them respect as people of different nationalities. It is on that score that the United Kingdom now parades four teams in the World Cup – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the International Fideration of Football Association (FIFA), accords them recognition accordingly. I do not think that Nigeria will collapse if the Igbo Team, the Yoruba Team, the Hausa/Fulani Team, the Ijaw Team, etc. also featured in the World Cup.
It still baffles the mind why any sensible Nigerian, and the ruling APC in particular, should be reluctant to embrace the restructuring of Nigeria, other than enlightened self interest. That Mr. A and Mr. B did not carry out restructuring when they were in power did not make sense. It only begs the question.
It is regrettable that a respected academic like the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, would be arguing that Nigeria’s problem is not restructuring, but good management. You then begin to ask, why has good management eluded Nigeria? In other words why has Nigeria not been able to produce good leaders who could effectively manage the country, Vice President Osinbajo inclusive?
I do not know why any Nigerian should be afraid of restructuring. There is no section of the country that does not have some viable resources to showcase, and which could be harnessed or exploited to keep it afloat. It is only when one is challenged that his potentials will begin to manifest.
For instance, if there was no war situation and no economic blockade, Biafran scientists under the aegis of Research And Production (RAP), wouldn’t have put on their thinking caps to produce the ingenuities that kept Biafra aflot for the three years that the war raged.
On the whole, leaving Nigeria as she is presently constituted without tinkering portends very grave danger. It is suffocating, which could blow up any time so soon.