Attahiru Jega: Let’s Have Short-term Restructuring Before 2023 Election

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The immediate past National Chairman of the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru
Jega, has advocated a short-term restructuring before
the next general election to address myriads of
challenges confronting the country.

Jega, however, accused the executive and legislative
arms of the Federal Government of treating the
restructuring issue with levity.

He said that both arms of the Federal government “were
not serious in making the restructuring a reality as the two
arms of the government had been treating the
restructuring with levity.

The former university Don said this at the 2021 Public
Lecture of the Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State.
The lecture was entitled, ‘Towards stabilizing the Nigeria
Federation.’

Jega said that “there seem to be lack of political will on
the part of those who are at the helm of affairs in the
nation’s executive and legislative arms of government.

“In the present circumstances, as necessary and desirable
as restructuring is, a number of challenges would have to
be overcome to successfully bring it about.
“First, passion has been inflamed and allowed to
circumscribe the discourses of restructuring, resulting in
the emergence of hardened antagonistic positions, which
if allowed to persist, would make reconciliation and
consensus building very difficult indeed, if not impossible.

“The perceptions of exclusion, marginalization and
exploitation are so deep-seated that they nurture and
deepen divisions, polarisation and illogical if not irrational
agitations by
extremist groups.

“In the circumstances, conversation, debate and dialogue
are, if at all, conducted at cross purposes, obstructive of
accommodation of differing opinions and the pursuit of a
rational and logical process of consensus-building and
bringing about desirable restructuring of the Nigerian
federation.

“Second, in the governance sphere, at both the federal
executive and legislative levels, the political will and
competence seem lacking for the pursuit of credible and
popularly acceptable procedures and processes of
bringing about appropriate and desirable restructuring.

“The executive seems to take a back seat in the belief that
restructuring is purely a legislative matter, into which it
should not dabble, thereby failing to provide the requisite,
proactive leadership for driving the agenda and process of
restructuring.

“On its part, the legislature seems to take an overly
legalistic posture, impatient with, and indifferent to, calls
for transparent, inclusive and people-oriented strategies
for achieving
popularly acceptable restructuring.

“A broadly participatory, inclusive and responsive process
would lend greater legitimacy to the end product of any
restructuring and constitutional amendment processes.
“Regrettably, members of the National Assembly have
failed to recognize the desirability of doing this.

“Third, rather than prioritizing restructuring and focusing
on addressing the key discernible challenges to power-
sharing and resources distribution/allocation amongst the
subnational, federating units, the legislature pursues a
comprehensive/ wholesale constitutional amendment
process, with many contentious issues taken on board
simultaneously.

“This makes the process time consuming, overly
contentious and controversial, and susceptible to
filibuster, and likely derailment of the entire undertaking.

“Fourth, leaving the very important business of
restructuring until very close to the next general elections
has its own challenges, given that Nigerian politicians
tend to shy away from taking tough decisions in the
national interest, especial on seemingly controversial
issues, too close to general elections.”
Jega, however, expressed optimism that restructuring
could be achieved if the stakeholders could do the
needful, advocating a short-term restructuring before the
2023 general election.

“In spite of the challenges, the prospects of restructuring
are not as hopeless as some would assume them to be.
“Nigeria needs stability and increased legitimacy for
elected officials in governance; needs good governance,
better nurtured and deepened democratic development;
and needs economic growth and socio-economic
development.

“For all these, better management of ethnoreligious
diversity on the basis of rule of law, justice, equity and
equality of opportunity, is a necessary precondition.
“That is what a federal arrangement is meant to ensure,
but it is not, if truth is to be told, what the current federal
structure and practice of federalism in Nigeria provide.

“Rather, it ensures an asymmetrical and unequal
distribution of power and allocation of resources between
the national government and the subnational units, the
states.
“Therefore, some form of restructuring in the short-term,
before the next general elections in 2023 to reverse the
trend and reposition Nigeria as a viable and effective
federation, is necessary.

“One can say without any fear of contradiction that there
is at least an elite consensus on the fact that the current
Nigerian federal arrangement isn’t optimally working; that
indeed it is dysfunctional and needs improvement.

“Where consensus seems lacking is on the nature and
extent of restructuring to be undertaken before the next
general elections in 2023.

“If only our elected leaders would try harder, with courage
and strong political will, consensus can and should
emerge on the thorny issues about the nature and extent
of restructuring.
Jega noted that “It may be difficult but it would not be
impossible to commence, and achieve some form of
desirable restructuring of the Nigerian federation before
the 2023 general elections.”