Concerned citizens have been clamoring for a change in the structure of the Nigerian government. There has been renewed interest in the clamoring for the adoption of regional governments such that each of the geopolitical zones in the country would have its head with its adequate power and they all defer to the Federal Government in certain mainstream matters. Although Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom on October 1, 1960, it retained the British monarch, Elizabeth II, as its titular head of state until the adoption of a new constitution in 1963 declaring the nation a republic.
Thus, the Westminster system of government was retained, and thus the President’s powers were generally ceremonial. The powers as head of government rested with the prime minister. Wùnmi Bewaji, former Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and senior lawyer, spoke to the media on Nigeria 63rd independence anniversary, what needs to be done to deepen democracy in Nigeria, among other issues. Assessing the 63-year journey, Bewaji said that while Nigeria is definitely not where it should be, the people have definitely done well for itself as a nation.
The country has done well for itself so far in many areas.
One of the first highlights of his remarks was the more-than-two-decades democracy streak that Nigeria has had. He said that this makes it 25 years of uninterrupted democracy. “I never thought in my lifetime we could see this; anybody who was old enough to live under the tyranny of military rule in this country would appreciate this thing I’m saying,” he noted. He said that Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, the largest market in Africa, and the biggest democracy in Africa. According to him, when these are put side by side, Nigeria has every course to celebrate.
When asked if it was time to look into the concept of restructuring, especially since notable Nigerians including regional groups have canvassed for restructuring in recent years, he acknowledged that Nigeria must restructure its government. He believes that if Nigeria does not restructure, the country cannot have a solution to its very many problems. He cited the days of Obafemi Awolowo, who commissioned Western Nigeria television, which is now NTA. “It got to a point in this country that the budget of western region was more than the budget of Nigeria,” he said.
Restructuring goes beyond any political party, the lawmaker says.
Now that the realization that the current structure is unsustainable is apparent, he said that what the country needs is to restructure the country so that local government areas that are being called state would be abolished. This is because they have become personal money-making instruments in the hands of the governors as they know that people would not hold them accountable. The governors can always blame allocation coming from the federal government as the reason why they are not able to do certain things. The way to go, he said, is to abolish this gloried local government and let it have viable structures that can stand on their own.
On the fact that the All Progressive Congress (APC) has failed to restructure the country as promised, Bewaji argued that the idea of restructuring transcends any political party. It is an idea that should be pursued by regional organisations because nobody who already has an advantage wants to trade that off. He raised pertinent questions that Nigerians have to answer if the idea would be possible. For example, would any of the governors want to leave office if about five states are to be put together? Definitely, it would deprive some people of political power and those people are definitely going to work against it.
Everyone in a country cannot have a review roundtable for constitution.
Finally, the former lawmaker also commented on the those who say that what the country needs is a constitutional review instead of restructuring. To them, the present constitution is part of the problem the country has. He said that he dissociates himself from some who say that the constitution has lied against itself. “Because the constitution says; we the people,” he said. He also noted that there is nowhere the entire people in a country can sit down in a room and draft a constitution even if a review would take place. According to him, even the American constitution was drafted by about five people.