The battle for restructuring can be fought in three ways. The first is to use the outlet of the judiciary. This approach has limitations. But, it is somehow efficacious.
When additional local councils were created in Lagos State, former President Olusegun Obasanjo raised an eyebrow. The battle shifted to the court. The temple of justice affirmed the right of states to create local governments. At the Supreme Court, the jurists clarified that, the processes for creating new councils were inchoate. They have not been listed in the strange 1999 Constitution. But, the process of creation was never invalidated. The onus is on the House of Assembly to create councils in response to the needs and yearnings of the grassroots.
The second method is through constitution amendment by the National Assembly. But, how to arrive at consensus on the contentious issues on the floor is a big challenge. For example, some amendments would require the concurrence of two/third of the 36 Houses of Assembly.
Also, the perception of the national question differs from one region to another. Fiscal federalism or resource control, as perceived by the Southern states, contrasts sharply with the understanding of any proposed redesign or reconfiguration by the Northwest.
While the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Panel on Restructuring has submitted a report, the work of the committee has been in vain.
The third method is through a national conference. This has become a bone of contention between some stakeholders and the National Assembly.
Yet, the imperative of a people’s constitution to restore a true federal principle cannot be ignored at this period of grave national crisis.
Stakeholders, including the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), have warned about the danger of delaying the restructuring of the country to foster true federalism.
The umbrella pro-democracy group said only the representatives of the ethnic nationalities can write a new constitution for Nigeria, and not the National Assembly that is toying with constitution review.
It’s Secretary, Ayo Opadokun, said the organisation has endorsed the Southern Governors’ resolution and resolved to forward a strong letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to reiterate its rejection of the 1999 Constitution that was imposed by the military.
He lamented the lack of justice and fairness in the unitary system, saying that only restructuring can restore true federalism.
A NADECO chieftain, Dr. Fred Agbeyegbe, described successive administrations since 1999 as obstacles to restructuring, warning that only a people’s constitution can reposition the country.
He said: “The idea of having a centralised electoral commission undermines federalism. A centralised electoral commission can be manipulated by the central government.”
Akhaine, Head of Political Science Department, Lagos State University, Ojo, said the wish of the people and constitution framework are the key factors required for the consummation of a federal principle.
He added: “The people must agree before they can be in a federation.”
The university don also said that in federalism, only the central and states or regions are component units, adding that local councils should be the creation of the state.
He emphasised that, in Nigeria, only the federal and states are two tiers of government.
Former NADECO Secretary abroad, Oshun, a Third Republic Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, said the constitution review embarked upon by the National Assembly is a joke.
He added: “The National Assembly cannot write a constitution for Nigeria. We can only have one country if we harken to the wish of Nigerians to put a people’s constitution together to give effect to restructuring and true federalism.”
The puzzle is: can the proposed constitution review lead to the envisaged restructuring?