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Mr Vice President, on restructuring we stand – by Obi Onochie

The earlier those standing in opposition to restructuring realize that there is no going back on it, the better. Restructuring can actually save Nigeria

On 24 May 1966, a foundation of what would become a major problem to today’s Nigeria was naively and innocently laid by Major General Thomas Johnson Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi through decree 34. 

Decree 34 was also known as unification decree by the Aguiyi Ironsi’s regime. 

According to the provisions of decree 34, “Nigeria shall on 24th May 1966 (in this decree referred to as ‘the appointed day’) cease to be a Federation and shall accordingly as from that day be a Republic, by the name of the Republic of Nigeria, consisting of the whole of the territory which immediately before that day was comprised in the Federation”. 

This decree made Nigeria a unitary state and removed its federal structures believing that would bring unity but uniformity is no guarantee for unity. 

For the benefit of expanded understanding, a unitary system is one level centralized government without any semi-autonomous component units. 

This means that there is no state or regional government under unitary system. 

Any branch of government below the government at the center is an extension of government at the center without any form of freedom to act without central government approvals. 

This denotes that every aspect of government including political and fiscal structures of governance is under one centralized government. 

Some of the countries using this system are but not limited to Ghana, United Kingdom, France, Japan, etc.  

After Ironsi was removed and killed through highly bloody coup led by Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria was reversed to federal system only politically without its fiscal structures. 

Even the political stricture was a limited version of what it used to be. 

Prior to Ironsi’s regime, every region was run like a semi-autonomous component of a greater Nigeria. 

Regions controlled their resources and some percentage due to the government at the center was appropriately remitted. 

Development was faster because every region understood that their destiny lies within. 

We had the era Pyramid was built with groundnut, we were world largest exporter of cocoa and palm oil, coal was equally exported and so many other minerals. 

That was how Awolowo’s government could grant and sustain free education for western region but today even with our so called petro dollar, no state can grant and sustain free education. 

Governor Okorocha of Imo state tried it and failed woefully and Imo state is yet to recover from that venture.  

Few weeks ago, our vice president Prof. Yemi Osinbajo cannily and subtly withdrew his previous stance on Nigeria going back to true fiscal federation. 

He gave his reason to be that regionalism will promote ethnic bigotry and division. 

This action alone can be titled or captioned “the legendary ideology turn coat of the century”. 

The major discussion is not the type of federating structure or component units that will come with the restructuring but the fiscal ambiance of the federation which many call “resource control”. 

If Mr. Vice president is afraid of Lagos political gang losing control of Lagos state to greater western region, the states structures can remain but resource control must be reintroduced. 

Mr. Vice president favours the introduction of state police, and my question is: if 29 states can’t pay current civil servants’ salaries with our present system, how can they accommodate policemen and women in their payroll? 

Everybody knows Mr. Vice President’s standing today on restructuring (which could change tomorrow as it fluctuates) is more popular in the north than south. 

That he is a Vice president does not mean he must agree with Mr. President in all things. 

His resignation is not expected before his disagreement as we do not have Parliamentary system of government which demands that. 

He is also an elected political officer of the government and not appointed. He has a lot in his favour to speak his mind and stand by it. So why sudden change of coat? 

It will be very bad to start playing man Friday to President Buhari in a matter of repositioning Nigeria for greater success. 

Gowon regime was responsible to reverting Nigeria back to federal system but kept Nigeria centralized fiscally. 

Anyways, Gowon has no power or authority to change many mistakes of his regime but he could lend his voice as influence for restructuring which he did recently. 

The six geopolitical zones we have can be activated and be called regions, states, parishes, cantons, districts or provinces whatever name we care but let the main content of restructuring reflect fiscally. 

The issue of concurrent list should be eliminated and a sharp demarcation of duties and powers between federal government and the component units be clearly spelt out. 

Monetary, defense, foreign policies should be kept exclusively for federal government. 

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