The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) recognizes the groundswell of genuine grassroots voices, which have for two decades been calling for the restructuring of Nigeria as a political entity, to ensure good governance, justice, fairness and national stability. Since the dark days of the despotic and sanguinary dictatorships of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, especially after the criminal annulment of the June 12, 1993, Presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola; genuine radical voices have made countless sacrifices in the course of the struggle for a united and prosperous Nigerian polity. It cannot be forgotten that it was at this historic juncture that the long suffering people of Nigeria through the critical voices in civil society began the quest for the restructuring of the Nigerian polity through the well-articulated demand for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). History is also there to validate the heroic struggles of pro-people cadres, activists, students, artisans, and market women who valiantly withstood the jack boots, bullets, barrels of guns and the vicious armored tanks of ruthless military despots, to ensure Nigeria was returned to a democratic path.
Although the democratic process towards 1999 was eventually hijacked, subverted and derailed to serve the interest of a few elitist civilian political predators, who have now made the country a wasteland of corruption and mass misery, history will not forget the real avatars on whose sweat and blood the current democracy took roots. There is no mistaken the fact that what would have been the triumph of the long suffering ordinary people of Nigeria was serially hijacked and mortgaged first in 1993 by the civilian friends of the Philistine elements in the Babangida-Abacha military axis, and later in 1999 by the same elements, which mutated to take control of State power. Sadly, this axis of evil, which is responsible for the sorry state of the Nigerian situation, as at today, has regrouped again to hijack the genuine agitation of the ordinary people of this country for a far-reaching re-ordering and restructuring of the Nigerian polity. We make no mistake about the fact that the restructuring of Nigeria is long overdue. However, we have serious doubts about the real motives of some of the voices, which are now selfishly using the mantra of restructuring as a basis for political posturing and for blackmail ahead of the 2019 general elections. While it is granted that every interest, political or otherwise, is entitled to its opinion on the state of the nation, we call on Nigerians to meticulously interrogate the various positions, especially in the light of the sordid experience of the past. Nigerians cannot afford to forget how their interests were shoved aside by failed politicians in 1999, to the extent that today, democracy in the Nigerian context has come to mean using national resources to service the gluttony and greed of the political elites.
It is clear to us that many of the latter day converts of restructuring, including a perennial Presidential aspirant, are carrying on as if they were never part of the political or governance system of Nigeria. Nothing can be more hypocritical and disingenuous. For instance, a rich and powerful political gladiator, who had the opportunity to serve as number two citizen in this country for eight good years, who did not see the historic need to put restructuring on the agenda, while in the corridors of power, but suddenly gets converted because he now wants to run for the highest office in the land, cannot be considered a genuine voice for the kind of restructuring that will benefit the long suffering people of this country. This case alone suggests that among the political gladiators, the discussion on restructuring is akin to playing a game of ping pong with the genuine interest and destiny of Nigerians. This subterfuge may also be gleaned from the attitude of many of the chieftains of the current ruling APC, who were die-hard advocates of restructuring before winning political power at the federal level. Ironically, the moment they got access to federal power, the idea of restructuring Nigeria was no longer attractive; their silence over the issue has since become too deafening for comfort.
Similarly, a coterie of characters from a past regime, who are searching frantically for relevance using restructuring as a smokescreen, must have their real motives scrutinized by the people of Nigeria. These were backers of a government that spent billions of Naira to organize a National Conference, which recommendation the convener could not muster the resolve to implement. When people like these, who did not have the moral fiber to take up responsibility after dissipating national resources and energies on a talk shop they organized, turn around to start screaming restructuring, the citizens must seek to understand what ails them. Is it amnesia or sheer mischief? Nonetheless, Nigerians hope that their unorthodox idea of restructuring does not foreclose the right of the sitting government to recover the hefty loots members of that regime made away with in those years of the locust. We must add to this, the need to interrogate the recent antics of some of the partisan and sectional champions, who are already issuing veiled threats, with the implication that “no restructuring, no 2019 elections.” The fundamental question to ask is: do these people have a clear democratic mandate from the constituencies they claim to be speaking for? Have these people made the efforts to carry out painstaking consultations with the people at the grassroots, who they claim to be speaking for, or are they just issuing these loud statements from the air-conditioned confines of hurriedly hired hotel rooms, as part of the gamesmanship ahead of the next general elections? These critical questions must be asked because at the heart of the failures of 2005 National Political Reform Conference and the National Conference of 2014, is the same elite hijack of genuine grassroots agitations for remodeling of the structure of Nigeria, such that the ordinary citizen can have a sense of belonging to the space he/she calls their country. At what point in history have those, who perpetually arrogated leadership of their ethnic constituencies to themselves, be it AREWA, AFENIFERE or OHANEZE, conducted a regional referendum in which sovereignty of their people were freely given to them? Where lies their mandate?
Subsequently, the clever-by-half position of the latter day converts of restructuring would be easily seen in their subtle silence on the economic question. Our new apostles of restructuring who dubiously acquired part of our national patrimony, either in the guise of shady arrangements like privatization or concession, are curiously not talking about how to restructure the ownership of those assets to make them democratic and beneficial to Nigerians as a whole. As such, those who grabbed a disproportionate share of control of our ports, the oil blocks, power sector, telecoms, etc are not talking about how to end the exploitation of Nigerians through the restructuring of these assets. What this demonstrates is that the emphasis of the elite-hijackers on restructuring Nigeria, in terms of its form, rather than its content, comes from the desire to continuously manipulate the polity for primitive acquisition and private gain. It is clear from their rhetoric that their idea of restructuring is not for the entrenchment of good governance, as exemplified in the need to innovatively provide proper services in health, education, infrastructure, and employment for the mass of unemployed young people of Nigeria. Their restructuring is totally at variance with the restructuring the ordinary citizens of this country need.
In view of the above, CHRICED calls on Nigerians at the grassroots, who have borne the brunt of bad governance to pick up the gauntlet by working to ensure a restructuring, which addresses their historic interests and concerns. We call on students, artisans, market women, the unemployed, and all other marginalized groups to brace up for the task ahead, which is to ensure that the outcome of the debate on restructuring is not determined by the interests of a few political and economic parasites who have for long milked the nation towards its death bed. We must insist on restructuring, which takes care of not just the form, but also the content, which is simply the need for good governance and the welfare of the people of Nigeria. As such, any idea of restructuring that does not guarantee the provision of social goods; roads, schools, electricity, hospitals and decent jobs, must be labeled for what it is: a smokescreen for the political predators to continue their mindless plunder of our national resources.