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Fear-mongering

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  • Restructuring will unite, rather than split Nigeria, as feared in some quarters. American’s rescue by U.S. soldiers speak to the value placed on their nationals

Editorial

Since the rise in calls for restructuring, arguments resurface over the wisdom of returning federal governance to the country. In each instance, major influencers line up behind the imperative of federalism bequeathed first by independence, and the sacredness of unitarism wrought by military dictators.

One recent anti-federalist idea is from the immediate past secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). Anthony Sani warned the country against restructuring. The former ACF secretary argued that any attempt to restructure Nigeria would split it: “Those who insist on restructuring that will allow sections of the country to develop at their own pace are those who ignore the trite that reduction of inequality that comes with balanced development and good governance is not only good economics, but also good politics. Nigeria cannot afford to be a nation where some sections are on the cutting edge while others are on the knife edge of survival.”

Sani’s attitude to calls for return to a federal constitution that provided, between 1955 and 1975, a more effective management of diversity in the country seems defeatist, especially that Sani failed to produce any data to support his claim that “Nigeria cannot afford to be a nation where some sections are on the cutting edge while others are on the knife edge of survival.”

His thesis that replacement of federal with unitary governance in multicultural Nigeria does not seem to have brought the equality and balanced development for which Sani has come to glorify de-federalisation of the republic under military rulers. Neither is there evidence of balanced development between parts of the country nor of balanced development within each of the six regions. Whether it is about school enrollment, income per capita from region to region, human development index, quality of life between regions, etc., there have been, since 1960, variations within and between local governments, states, and regions of the country.

Secondly, there is no evidence of even development in most countries—unitary or federal. For example, the economy of California is much higher than that of any other part of the United States, just as the economy of England is noticeably higher than that of Scotland or Wales, not to talk of adopting comparative advantage as a mode of spreading development in China, from the coastal areas to the interior in the last 10 years. World-wide, the concept of comparative advantage, evident in the economy of most economies, shows better effects than erecting policies that force sections of the country to wait for other sections to develop.

From all evidence, those calling for restructuring are not opposed to planning against inequality and for balanced development as much as is earthly possible. They point at the salutary effects of developing comparative advantage of each region for creating wealth in the context of equitable distribution of national revenue. Federalists argue that sustaining unitary rule in a culturally diverse country takes away from the country’s potential for development than choose to promote the freedom to innovate in a diverse society in polities and societies.

Using fear to discourage review and change may be counterproductive given the recent experience of a critical section of the population to a law enforcement system considered ripe for reform but which another section felt otherwise about. Stifling change via fearmongering has the tendency to develop a slow-release toxin in the bloodstream of citizens at the risk of the health of the state. The commonsensical thing to do, after decades of military re-design of the republic, is to discuss the terms of the union in the era of democratic rule. Otherwise, Nigeria may die, regardless of the wishes of individual citizens or regions of the country.

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