By RICHARD MAMMAH
By the day, the clamour for its actualization is becoming increasingly louder. From the likes of former Presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo and on now to the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, there is now no let in the discussion. But what exactly is restructuring and how practically can it be achieved? Contributing Editor, Richard Mammah, who has a soon to be published book on the subject, intervenes.
Restructuring means many things to many people and more so in the current Nigerian situation where many a noble concept soon finds itself muddied.
However, it is not an arcane and completely indescribable practice. And to help us here, we will go to somewhere where the practice of restructuring takes place quite naturally, namely, the world of business.
According to scholars, the corporate restructuring process that takes place in business organizations usually involves a number of variables.
First there is the point of determining what areas of the business and its operations need to be restructured.
This in itself is predicated on an evaluation exercise to investigate and confirm observed areas of weakness and unflattering performance. It is after this has been done, that short, medium and long-term restructuring plans are then drawn up, their resource requirements noted, and beginning from the more immediate, short term plans, the needed adjustments are then introduced in their respective phases for implementation.
Still on the corporate turf, restructuring ordinarily involves a re-ordering and re-arrangement of relations between respective players in the business chain. These include workers, managers, vendors, consumers, stockholders, bankers, supervisors, suppliers, contractors, distributors and marketers.
Ample care is usually taken to ensure that all the changes that are required to keep the organization productive and viable going forward are not only addressed but also wholesomely communicated down the line.
More often than not, two issues are involved in taking the decision to restructure: saving the business or strategically repositioning for the future
At this point, it is important to note that restructuring advisers say it is most important that organizations do not wait until crisis has manifested before they commence the search for models and outlines that they would work with. This is because, now being under pressure they would no longer have the luxury and span to embrace and introduce free-wheeling innovative approaches and strategies and processes needed to more seamlessly integrate their value chains for maximum advantage.
Another reason why it is advised to be upfront and proactive in taking the restructuring step is because; it helps in the critical area of costs management.
And when we talk of political restructuring, some of the costs could indeed be most expensive and burdensome.
Take the crisis in Somalia for example. When cracks began to appear in the fabric of that nation in the 1960s and 1970s, the Nimiery regime thought the answer was to brutally repress the people to submission. Many professionals in the country who could not take it moved into exile and over time the Horn of Africa nation became something between a concrete jungle and a wasteland. It has spent the past few decades trying to reinvent itself and frankly not much progress has been achieved.
Has Nigeria been restructured before?
The geographical space of Nigeria that we see presently has not always been in its current form and shape. Indeed, like many other countries the world over, the process of nation building takes, has taken and continues to take adjustments along the line and in accordance with extant political realities.
In a quite lengthy Facebook post, the economist and political player, Tope Fasua traces some of this evolution. Suffice it however to note that rather than what was to become the latter practice where the whole drove the parts, in the beginning it was not so.
In the beginning, there were communities, people groups and empires that made up and even extended the current geographical construct of a united Nigeria. The British signed individual treaties with them at the onset.
Later they began the process of welding them into protectorates and colonies. And subsequently welded them into a unified country in 1914.
Even at that further restructuring continued. From the original Northern and Southern Nigeria sub-divisions was later to come the Eastern, Western and Northern Regions.
Nigeria, even after Independence, continued with the tinkering process. The excision of the Cameroons territories was for example carried out and the Mid Western region was to be equally introduced.
As part of the Civil War rigmarole, the 12 state structure came in 1967, followed by the 19 state structure in 1976 and then 24, and now 36.
Even in the current republic further efforts at tinkering have continued, including the establishment of local council development areas by Lagos and several other states.
The current restructuring move
The current restructuring being canvassed has a number of ingredients. Dele Farotimi calls it a move towards equalization, where the different peoples of the country would be equitably treated, irrespective of where they come from.
But it is one that has also come to attract the need for somewhat more precise definition given the imperative of not letting the subject become another unbridled stream of arguments that lead to nowhere.
In this wise, one of the first points that is noted is the need to carefully work out the physical format of the restructuring package. While some go to the self-governance and immediate post-Independence structure of three and later four regions, others make the point for adopting the six geo-political zones arrangement proposed by former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and others during the National Constitutional Conference of the Abacha era. The idea here is to group the current 36 states within their geographical blocs and make the six zones the federating units which may then work out additional administrative arrangements (states and local government areas for example) as they deem fit. Another document that is severally being mentioned as a principal source material is the proceedings and resolutions of the National Conference convened by the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
On this, there is also some back and forth. But very broadly, the kernel of discussions here is to encourage a fiscal structure that ensures that the federating units are not just political and administrative constructs but that they are also kitted to be maximally fiscally independent and viable. Even at that, there are also considerations of the need to balance resource control within the ambit of the federating units and federal support for all parts of the nation to some extent. While the fine outline of this is still under debate across board, the dominant view among restructuring proponents is that not less than 50 percent of resources should be retained by the deriving federating units.
There are also issues of law-making, legislation and constitutionalism on the one hand and the definition of roles and duties to be borne by the central federation and those to be borne by the federating units. This involves a reworking of the current legislative lists structure to transfer more roles to the federating units and a rework of the revenue allocation formula.
Perspectives and resolutions
But there are hurdles on the way.
For the Abuja based activist, Chido Onumah, the greatest challenge on the path of introducing one more bout of restructuring into the Nigerian political space today may reside in the plain fact that there is poor understanding of the meaning of restructuring and what it should entail.
And the antidote for him is that mass political education would need to be carried out so as to get the people to fully internalize the discussion and thereafter take the positions on it.
Tony Opara on his part locates the challenge in the lack of political will by those who dominate the polity today to proceed with the loosening of the space that is being advocated.
Paradoxically, he says that this is even becoming late in the day because even with this opposition, necessity and realpolitik have begun to push states to move towards the implementation of policies to protect their interests, including the recent agreement by the governors of the South West geo-political zone to introduce the regionally cross-cutting Amotekun security formation. His view is that going forward; there would be more and more of such expressions, which then underscores the need for the wielders of power in the land today to more critically begin to participate in the now clearly inevitable process of restructuring the country.
But part of the challenge to this as Ovie Igbu sees it lies in the orientation of the political elite:
‘They are fixated on power at the centre and are used to surviving on that. It is hard for them to conceptualise life outside of that bubble. They see political office as self-enrichment opportunity and not a mandate to work for the people. For any real move to take place there will have to be the expansion of voices of dissent even within the political class.’
Or could it come from outside the class? We wait.
Extracted from the forthcoming book: The case for restructuring Nigeria