The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) recent call to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu demanding him to spearhead initiatives to restructure Nigeria to the true federal state it was during the First Republic appears to be a resonating and rational advice. The call from the diverse platform, which includes the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation Afenifere, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, and the Middle Belt Forum, echoes Genuity as the country struggles from the burden of its current ineffective ‘unitary federalism.’
Several significant observations were highlighted by the Forum, but notably, it warned that Nigeria future is bleak without restructuring. That is a thought-provoking and reality observation. The organisation stated the government should enact true federalism, as established in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, and move towards restructuring the country as a matter of urgency and paramount importance. This is the practical option given the country’s diverse population of over 250 major and minor ethnic groups.
Urgent action is needed to establish fiscal federalism.
There is a great deal of animosity, distrust, charges of marginalization, and a pervasive feeling of unfairness among the various ethnic groups today. This, in turn, has sparked widespread anxiety, inertia, and divisive tendencies, along with fears of an approaching implosion. Afe Babalola, an elder statesman who has long advocated for restructuring, perceived that the nation’s deep-seated mistrust, fuelled by a feeling of historical injustice, suppression, and tyranny by the diverse constituent members, will continue to culminate without restructuring.
All this is contributing as a driving force of the country’s growing insecurity, terrorism, and extremism. Thus, Tinubu should immediately heed this advice and utilize the power of his office to help mobilize the country and restructure it into a genuine federation. Urgent action is needed by the President and federal and state legislators to devolve policing, establish fiscal federalism, and scale down the immense powers granted to the federal government by the 1999’s Constitution.
Criminals take advantage of this anomaly to cause instability.
Decentralized policing is a model used by all of the world’s other 24 federal states. Several countries, including the USA, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada, have federal police forces that work in tandem with state and local police. There is only one federal police force in Nigeria, despite the high level of insecurity present in the nation and the fact that the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory all have active military bases. Criminals with different mindsets and actions take advantage of this anomaly to commit crimes and cause instability in the nation.
Lack of fiscal federalism limits production at the subnational level, which is already struggling against severe economic challenges and a severe degree of poverty. Whereas the states and the local governments rely largely on the monthly distribution of cash, largely derived from the oil riches in the Niger Delta. Currently, the Federal Government receives the majority of all revenue. The poor human development indices, such as the 20.2 million out-of-school children figure, the 86 million people who do not have access to electricity, the 70 million people who do not have access to a safe water supply, and the enormous housing deficit estimated to be between 18 and 30 million units, require a shift in this framework.
Restructuring is the only hope for resolving Nigeria problems.
Tinubu had called for restructuring while in opposition and while battling in the trenches with fellow patriots for democracy under the military. His silence now is consequently strange. Restructuring is essential to realizing the states’ enormous potential. Tinubu was charged to lead the effort and get the National Assembly, state assemblies, governors, and other interested parties on board. Tinubu should look into recommendations on federalism provided in the reports from previous constitutional conferences. Restructuring is the only hope for resolving Nigeria problems and the President must not let Nigerians down.