Two inconsistent positions, one opposing the call for restructuring of the country and another advocating the introduction of state police, recently made public in quick succession by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, have come to reiterate the import of policy uniformity by governmental authorities and the grave socio-political effect which misrepresented policy statements can have on the populace.
What became ‘heavy’ statements attracting reactions from eminent persons and influential groups in the country, were made partly during a question-and-answer session, after Prof. Osinbajo had delivered a lecture titled, “The Future is Here Earlier Than We Thought”, at the Second Foundation Lecture of the Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State. At that gathering of students and faculty, Osinbajo was alleged to have remarked that “restructuring debate should go deeper than what we see on newspapers headline…”. He was also quoted to have argued: “Even if states are given half of the resources of the Federal Government, the situation will not change. The only change is to diversify the economy.”
On the other hand, Osinbajo’s advocacy for the introduction of state police came through his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, clarifying the vice president’s position and that he was wholly in support of the establishment of state police across the country.
In support of the vice president, eminent Nigerians of northern extraction, under the aegis of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), have faulted the call for restructuring. Of all the reasons adduced by the ACF against the call for restructuring, one that stands out is the manner in which the call has been made. True, there is an absence of decorum and civility in the way some groups have agitated for restructuring. The immature posturing and irreverent vituperation of some of these groups indeed, smack of juvenile rascality.
Also true is the ACF’s remark that: “restructuring a complex, big and diverse country as Nigeria is a serious business that must take account of the views of all its citizens and not just of those that shout the loudest or issue threat, intimidation and blackmail.” That our present democratic structure, as verily observed by the ACF, “provides ample opportunity for groups and individuals to present their agitation through their representatives in the national and state assemblies,” is also not in contention.
In other words, the ACF did not come out categorically to denounce the call for restructuring. All it did was to criticise the manner the call is being made and also point out the channel through which such call may be made. By implication, therefore, the ACF indirectly recognises the right to call for restructuring.
In the light of this development, it is, once again, an expression of ignorance to assert that Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable. Such an assertion is a hang-over from the Lugardian syndrome – the thinking that the different peoples who make up Nigeria are condemned to the European geo-political creation as amalgamated by Sir Frederick Lugard. In an age of awareness, when lopsided global relationships are causing nations to revisit and rethink their political history, Nigeria should not shy away from doing same. That Nigeria’s different nationalities form one country called Nigeria does not mean they were created to be so. Even if they are, by any streak of a priori supernatural machination, destined to be so, human faculties of reason and freedom demand that all should negotiate the togetherness. In the parlance of political philosophy and science, it is called a social contract.
The point missed by restructure phobics is that fundamentally, every political association or relationship is a social contract. It is not for nothing that man is endowed with reason and freedom and that he has a natural inclination to live in society. So, any genuine call for restructuring is consistent with this natural inclination. Opinion shapers in this country, irrespective of their affinities, are unanimous that we must respect Nigeria’s diversity, we must recognise the individuality of each people and then forge a unity. These are indeed profound statements. Yet, we cannot respect our diversities, or recognise the peculiarities, or forge a unity, if we do not understand such diversities and peculiarities and then work out modalities to deal with them. That is the point of the social contract missed by those contemptuous of, and in denial of restructuring.
Whilst the vice president opposed restructuring, he went to emphasise the diverse and peculiar natures of law enforcement and security management by supporting the establishment of state police. The call for state police is recognition that certain cultural undertones, religious sentiments and traditional political structuring affect the way the different peoples of Nigeria view law enforcement and crime management. This recognition is not peculiar to Nigeria. Police science recognises these facts of social security; which is why well run countries have different classifications of the police. The United Kingdom has 46 semi-autonomous categories of police. Canada and the United States of America, among others have such classification. If the call for state police is recognition of these differences, how can we bring it to light without restructuring?
This same argument holds for Osinbajo’s bold preference for diversification. According to him, “We are not earning enough from oil and taxes anymore. The nation is blessed, every state can feed itself and also export if we engage in agriculture.” Indeed, any country desirous of growth and progress should be ready to open up other areas of revenue generation and economic empowerment of its people. However, where the structures that should promote diversification are centrally controlled, the needed competition that galvanises growth would be absent. Restructuring should precede diversification because the federal economic structure cannot work without restructuring. The denial of restructuring is also an indication of the government’s unitarist stranglehold on the economy.
Despite the clarification of the vice president’s interpretation of restructuring, his shifting thoughts and the hurried attempt at damage control advertise his loud inconsistency. Whilst such inconsistent positions reveal an administration unsure of what it has to offer the polity and put such administration under unwarranted pressure to redeem itself from national pretences and denials, they also garb its representatives in an apparel of mendacity. If such does not become an indictment on that administration, it would be a personal embarrassment to any leader of integrity whose official position has compelled him to make public statements tongue in cheek.