Restructuring is a new swan song of the Nigerian elites–Yusuf Ali (SAN)

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Nigeria has not been lucky with good leaders who will instill good governance. All the indices of good governance are lacking in Nigeria. The kind of leadership a country has is certainly a reflection of its people……  You cannot give what you don’t have. A leader who is corrupt cannot lead the country into a corrupt free nation, while a leader who loves violence and militancy cannot take us to a violence-free Nigeria.




Justice Akanbi (right) presenting a plaque to the guest speaker mallam Yusuf Ali (left),  assisted by the Dean, Faculty of Law University of Ilorin, Dr. Kayode Adam shortly after the lecture

1.0  INTRODUCTION                  

In recent times, restructuring has assumed a household name in Nigeria. The concept has continued to gain currency especially in the current political era. It has become a Swan-Song of the Nigerian elites. Opinions have remained divided on what the word restructure really connotes. However,  restructuring has been used on many occasions in Nigeria to imply divesting the Central/Federal government of certain powers it wields and therefore limiting its powers and influence in such areas such as fiscal, military, defence, Immigration, Foreign Policy and many more.[1]

The various agitations for restructuring imply that there are some imperfections in the Federal system we operate which came about as a result of marginalisation, bad governance, inequitable distribution of resources, nepotism, corruption, lack of national ethics, militancy, insecurity, lack of national rallying point among others. Before I go into a deep discussion of and the A-Z of restructuring, it will be necessary to examine the brief historical background of the Pre- and Post Independence Constitutional development in the country called Nigeria.

2.0  Constitutional Development in Nigeria

Nigeria grew into an internationally recognised independent nation, in October 1960, after a period of colonialism under the British, which spanned a century beginning with the formal annexation of Lagos in 1861. Nigeria’s constitutional development history can be divided into two epochs or periods: the colonial or pre-independence epoch –which covers 6 constitutional instruments (1914, 1922, 1946, 1951, 1954 and 1960) and the post-independence constitutional epochs (encompassing 3 instruments – 1963, 1979 and 1999). While each successive pre-independence constitutional instrument was enacted through an order-in-council of the British monarch, their post-independence counterparts were enacted in two ways: an Act of parliament (1963 Constitution) and military decree (1979 and 1999).

The one ‘Nigeria’ story began in 1914 with the Frederick Lugard ”Constitution”. The 1914 ”Constitution” amalgamated the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria under the colonial authority of the British Monarch. The emergent entity was administered under the authority of the British monarch through her appointed agent: a Governor-General. Lord Frederick Lugard who became the 1st Governor-General of amalgamated Nigeria. The 1914 Constitution created a Legislative Council of the Colony which was however restricted to making laws for the Colony of Lagos alone, whilst the Governor General made laws for the rest of the country.

Eight years later, the 1914 Constitution was replaced by the 1922 Sir Clifford Constitution. Notably, the latter Constitution established a 46 member Legislative Council which was given lawmaking responsibilities for the Colony of Lagos and the southern provinces. The Council had 27 members including the Governor, the Lieutenant-Governors, other elected and nominated members including three representing Lagos as the administrative and commercial capital and one representing Calabar as a big commercial centre. Notably, the 1922 Constitution introduced, for the first time in any British African territory, the elective principle with Lagos and Calabar being granted the franchise to elect their representatives to the Legislative Council.

1946 saw the adoption of the Arthur Richard Constitution which defined Nigeria, for the first time, in terms of regions – thus dividing the still colonised country into three main regions: the Northern, Western and Eastern regions. This constitution came into effect after the Second World War – an event which had a significant effect on constitutional reforms relating to the governance of colonial Nigeria, and indeed Africa as a whole, as returning African heroes of the war who were conscripted to fight on the side of the British returned with a deeper understanding of national freedom and sovereignty. In addition, the charter of the United Nations which was adopted after the war made strong reference to the freedom of colonised peoples under the principle of respect for self-determination.

  • The chain of events culminated in the formation of the National Council for Nigeria and Cameroons,[2] which later became the National council of Nigerian Citizens, (N.C.N.C), an organization which engaged in the active mobilization of the indigenous peoples of Nigeria to harness the global tide in favour of self-determination and political independence from the shackles of colonialism. The 1946 Constitution was thus a compromise instrument on the part of the British colonialist designed to establish a constitutional framework in which all sections of Nigeria could be represented on the Legislative Council and which guarantees an unofficial majority both in the House of Assembly and in the legislative council for indigenous Nigerians.Five years later, the 1946 Richards Constitution was again ditched in favour of the 1951 Sir John Macpherson Constitution. Whereas its successor suffered from the charge of being an imposition of the British colonialists without any input from the indigenous people of Nigeria, the 1951 Macpherson Constitution came into being after an unprecedented process of consultation with the peoples of Nigeria. According to Dikemgba[3] “no other constitution so widely reached out to the people than the Macpherson constitution of 1951”. Instructively, meetings and consultations leading down to its making were held at 5 levels – Village, District, Divisional, Provincial and Regional levels – before the national conference. The regional conferences were held at Ibadan, Enugu, and Kaduna, respectively and produced a general consensus in favour of a federal system of government with a few differences as to its format. The emergent Constitution represented a major advancement on the old constitutional order by introducing African elected majorities in the Central Legislature and in the Regional Houses of Assembly; endowing the legislative houses with independent legislative power in many areas of state activity; and establishing a federal system for Nigeria for the first time.

Nonetheless, within three years of its operation, it soon became clear that the expansion of the political space and regional identities fostered by the 1951 Constitution were not backed up by the requisite institutional framework or insightful national leadership for the management of inherent and other tensions or conflict, at the national and regional levels, which followed its enactment. In the wake of reports of violent eruptions in the northern city of Kano which pitched northerners against southerners leading to massive loss of lives and property, the then British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Oliver Lyttleton stepped in by inviting the leaders of various political parties in Nigeria to attend a conference in London, in 1953. The outcome of that conference and another cycle of conference and consultations which followed was the 1954 Lyttleton Constitution.

The 1954 Constitution, among others, made regional governments independent of the central government in respect of subjects and legislative powers allocated to them. It also established a unicameral legislature for the federal government and each of the 3 regional governments. In addition, Lagos was taken out of the control of any regional government and made the Federal Capital Territory; regional public services were established for each of the 3 regions; the judiciary was reorganised so as to establish regional judiciaries while autonomy was granted to the Southern Cameroons which was up till that time part of a larger Nigeria and Northern Cameroons. Specifically, for the first time, Ministers were given specific portfolios. Thus, the Lyttleton Constitution could best be described as the transition instrument towards Nigeria’s independence in 1960 under a federal structure with democratically elected federal and regional legislature.

In 1960, Nigeria was granted political independence as a sovereign state under the 1960 Constitution which provided for a parliamentary system of government, 3 regions (Northern, Eastern and Western Regions), a bicameral legislative framework at the federal (Senate and House of Representatives) and regional levels (House of Assembly and House of Chiefs) with the legislative powers of government delineated into three categories or lists – exclusive, concurrent and residual. The parliamentary system designed under the 1960 constitution recognized the British monarch as the Head of State with powers to appoint a resident agent- the Governor-General- to exercise executive powers on her behalf while a Prime Minister elected by the federal parliament acted as the Head of the Federal Executive Council. The Constitution also took steps to define ‘Nigerian citizenship’ while outlining constitutionally protected rights for citizens and persons in Nigeria.

However, by designating the Governor-General as a representative and agent of the British Queen or Monarch – instead of the People of the independent and sovereign state of Nigeria, the effect was to render Nigeria a dominion territory – a status which contradicted the very nature and basis of the independence claimed in 1960. In addition, the 1960 Constitution denied Nigeria an effective dominion over its judicial powers as it gave final appellate authority over Nigeria to the Privy Council established by the British Queen instead of the Federal Supreme Court and its judges. Those fundamental derogations from Nigeria’s sovereignty and other observed challenges in implementing the Independence Constitution led to the enactment of the 1963 Constitution.

Thus, the key features of the 1963 Constitution included the establishment of Nigeria’s 1st republic under a parliamentary system of government by replacing the Governor-General appointed by the British monarch with a President elected directly by members of the Nigerian federal legislature. In addition, in place of the Privy Council, the Federal Supreme Court became designated as the final appellate judicial authority over any person or matter in Nigeria while steps were taken to strengthen the independence of the judiciary even further.

In 1963, the Mid-West was carved out of the Western region as the fourth region. Each of these regions had a written constitution, emblem and an official representation in London. They had significant powers and were authorized to raise the revenues needed to fund themselves and contribute to the central government.


The political gains made the old regions to compete to do their best for their respective peoples: the Western region launched the first public television service in Africa, a few years after adopting a free education policy that consolidated its head start in Western education by extending universal access to the masses. Each of the three original regions founded its own university,[4] built industrial estates, and developed hospitality businesses; and they tried to build the physical infrastructure needed for a modern economy.

Some of the most enduring institutions in Nigeria were built by these regional governments, hence the understandable nostalgia in some quarters for the currently-dysfunctional federal structure of Nigeria to revert to the regions of old.

In 1966, that Constitution was, however, set aside by a violent military coup d’etat which supplanted the 1st Republic with military dictatorship. However, after the “Five Majors” struck in 1966, and assassinated virtually all the elected political leaders of the Northern and Western Regions, a unitarist tendency gained influence in General Aguiyi Ironsi’s government, and a unification decree was enacted in May 1966, unifying the public service across the country. This attempt at a unitary form of government was met with near nation wide antagonism, especially from the Northern Region. Although a counter-coup in July 1966 sounded the death knell for the unification decree, the remnants of unitarism remained, enabled without doubt by the centralized structure of the military which inexorably further distorted our post-independence federalism. The counter-coup was followed by widespread violence in the North, the creation of 12 states out of the four defunct regions, threats of secession and a civil war. It was the then General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military administration that ushered in the 2nd Republic with the promulgation of a new Constitution in 1979.

The 1979 Constitution set up Nigeria under a presidential system of government with a federal government, 19 state governments, a federal capital territory, 3 arms and 3 levels of government. Like the 1963 Constitution, the life-span of the 1979 constitution was abruptly terminated on 31st December 1983 when the civilian administration of President Shehu Shagari and Vice President Alex Ekwueme was toppled and replaced by the military dictatorship of Generals Muhammad Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon. That regime was succeeded by three  other extra-constitutional regimes – the General Ibrahim Babangida military dictatorship (1985-1993), Mr. Ernest Shonekan interim civilian-led regime, General Sani Abacha military dictatorship (1993-1998) and General Abdulsalami Abubakar military administration which successfully ushered in the 3rd Republic on the 27th of May, 1999 with the introduction of the 1999 Constitution.

This second coming of the military lasted until 1999. In those sixteen years, the unitarist takeover was completed. A new generation of citizens grew up knowing only the command-and-control system of the soldiers. A psychological distortion made political deformation even worse. More powers had been concentrated at the center, the federal bureaucracy had ballooned and there were now many states (from 12 to 36) whose evident limitations proved insufficient to discourage the demand for yet more states.

As states became many, smaller and less fiscally-independent, a powerful center, manifested in a federal government that assumed ever more powers and responsibilities, took the biggest chunk of national revenues (now about 53%) but did very little.  This is a brief summary of our national journey to dysfunction!

Our national psyche has since then been focused on the distribution of easy oil rents from the central government to the states. Thus, after 57 years of independence, it is not unusual to see official government forms that ask for one’s state of origin, ethnicity, and, religion, rather than the state of residence, and what taxes one paid last year. These unitarist and distributive impulses did not accelerate the evolution of national unity and productive endeavour.[5] Rather, it created a rentier economic structure and preserved the colonial stratagem of divide and rule using ethnic, religious and geographic identities.

There have been two national conferences in the Fourth Republic, convened by sitting presidents, but both were trailed by suspicions that they were arranged to advance some kind of personal or sectional political agenda. The conferences instituted by Presidents Obasanjo (2005) and Goodluck Jonathan (2014) did not lead to the restoration of federalism or advance democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

3.0 Why the Call for Restructuring?

The call for restructuring in Nigeria came as a direct result of problems and imperfections in the way and manner in which federalism is being practiced. Different groups, governmental and non-governmental organisations have advanced several reasons for their call for restructuring. Some of these reasons are discussed hereunder as follows:

cross section of audience during the lecture


  • Imbalances in the Federal Structure:

The philosophical foundation that underpinned federalism is the share of governmental powers among components federating units. Federalism can therefore be defined as a system of government whereby governmental powers and economic structures of a country are shared between central government and component federating units.

In recent times, outside insecurity, the problem of governance has become the greatest challenge starting at Nigeria. It has become clear that the political woes that characterized the Nigerian political atmosphere since independence in 1960 cannot be disassociated from the imbalances in the structure of Nigeria federalism inherited from the colonial authorities.[6] The military incursion into governance and politics, distorted the practice of decentralization for centralization.[7] About two decades of continued civil rule in Nigeria, politicians are yet to restructure the damage caused by military in the Nigeria federal structure.


  • Imposition of the constitution:

Apart from the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions which were true reflections of the aspirations of the Nigerian people, the 1979 and the 1999 Constitutions were imposed through promulgation by the Military through Decrees. The 1999 Constitution which was drafted by just a 50- man Committee Chaired by Hon. Justice Niki Tobi told a blatant lie about itself in the preamble thus ‘’ We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having solemnly resolve…..’’ It is important to state clearly here that the committee was appointed by the military junta headed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar (Rtd) to give to the Nigerian people a constitution. The 1999 Constitution was a document imposed on Nigerians and was never a true reflection of the wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian people.

  • Over centralisation of power & authority;

Under the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Government controls 68 legislative items under the Exclusive list and shares 24 with state governments on the concurrent list. Apart from the fact that the long legislative list raises issues of effectiveness at the federal level, given the expansive nature of the country, many of the items could be better executed by the states and even the Local Governments.  Such matters include education, health, and even provision of public infrastructure within the states and the Local Governments Also, the lopsided revenue allocation formula, through which the Federal Government takes 52.8 % of all federally-collected revenue, the 36 states and the 774 local councils share 26.72 % and 20 % respectively is also a major issue that is causing clamouring for restructuring . Imagine that under the 1999 Constitution, pedestrian issues such as weights and measures[8] as well as formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than that contracted under Islamic and Customary Marriages[9] are still contained in the Exclusive Legislative Lists.

There is over-concentration of authorities and powers at the centre which is one of the reasons why Nigerians are clamouring for restructuring.

  • Economic hardship and Poverty in the Country;

In Nigeria, between 50 and 90 million people out of a population of about 180 Million live on less than one US Dollar or N310 per day, despite the huge human and material resources the country is blessed with. High inflation, cash crunch, double taxation and amongst others have heightened the level of hardship in the country. Poverty remains significant at 33.1% in Africa’s biggest economy. For a country with massive wealth and a huge population to support commerce, a well-developed economy, and plenty of natural resources such as oil, the level of poverty remains unacceptable.The economic miasma has in turn led to massive unemployment and under employment. The range of criminal activities which now dominate our daily lives from insurgency, militancy, kidnapping, robberies etc attest to the level of high unemployment plaguing our dear nation.

  • Corruption & Mismanagement

Like a plague, corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society and has caused untold hardship to the common man who seems to bear the brunt of this “rotten” environment alone.  Corruption pervades all levels of government and even transcends to include a more informal setting such as the family, peer group and religious places of worship.[10]   Where the syndrome of “nothing goes for nothing” obtains.  Poverty and income inequalities are tied to corruption. Corruption can only strive in a poverty-ridden society where build up of frustration seems to be the order of the day.

It is important to mention that even our security agencies have been crippled by corruption. It is no longer a tale that the twenty-naira syndrome commonly associated with policemen in Nigeria has dented the image of the force in the eyes of the public.  Recounting the number of innocent life’s that have been lost through the bullets of trigger-happy police-men for refusal to bulge into corrupt practices may be unnecessary.  However, the fact cannot be ignored.  In fact, the security agencies in Nigeria is acclaimed to be the most corrupt government establishment in recent times. Recently, Nigeria Police has been ranked as the worst in the world.[11]  Even military men that are supposed to be disciplined and upright in their approach to work have also been inflicted by the disease of corruption.  In Nigeria, everything is possible with a little spice of bribe to act as motivation and encouragement. The rampaging influence of corruption has afflicted the professions, the places of worship, the temple of justice, the press, our institutions of learning from kindergarten to tertiary, health institutions and facilities, the list are endless.

Mallam Ali standing while his citation was being read before the lecture

Bad governance, bad leadership, and bad followership

Nigeria has not been lucky with good leaders who will instil good governance. All the indices of good governance are lacking in Nigeria. The kind of leadership a country has is certainly a reflection of its people. The questions Nigerians should ask is what kind of country do we aspire to have? Is it a country that is free from corruption? Then what kind of leadership do we create to achieve a corrupt free Nigeria? If it is a country that is free from violence, insurgency and militancy, then what kind of leadership are we as Nigerians creating to ensure a violent free Nigeria? The law is Nemodat Quod Non-habeat. You cannot give what you don’t have. A leader who is corrupt cannot lead the country into a corrupt free nation, while a leader who loves violence and militancy cannot take us to a violence-free Nigeria.The old saying that a people get the type of leaders they deserve rings very true in our country. The mass of the generality of the people determines the direction of the leaders. Nigerians either directly or otherwise encourage all the negative activities of the leaders. We sell our votes at primary elections to elect patries flag bearers at general elections, we make unconscionable material demands on elected leaders, we encourage cryonism, tribalism, nepotism, favoritism, eye service, religious bigotry, and other negative tendencies that has brought our country to this sorry pass.


  • Strong Individuals with Weak Public Institutions

Pathetically, we are a nation of strong and powerful individuals with weak and fragile institutions in a broken society. When we talk about strong institutions building, as being fundamental in ridding  our society of the lawlessness that has crippled it and brought it down to its knees, we aren`t kidding about it. Nigeria has men who are stronger than the institutions themselves. When public institutions are weak, actions and reactions are centred around ethnic. or religious or political affiliations. Every side of the divide defends its own and draw a comparison with a previous occurrence that was either overlooked or upturned or manoeuvred. In any society, weak institutions make corruption thrives. The persons that get appointed to head governmental institutions owe allegiance to the appointees not the nation or state. The temporary holders of governmental powers are edified. The king can not do wrong syndrome is promoted to a ridiculous level. Once a leader satisfies his tribal or ethnic or religious community, as far as the group is concerned, he has done well even if what he did is illegal or criminal.

Tribalism and Ethnicity

Tribalism and ethnicity have penetrated deeply into the fabrics of the Nigerian nation and have distracted many, especially the youth who claim to be leaders of tomorrow. These two are enemies of the Nigerian state and have deprived Nigeria its rightful position in the world’s stage. Nigeria might be considered as a developing country by the international community, but  Nigerians themselves know that the country is far from that. In short, if there is any qualification below underdeveloped, Nigeria will be glad to embrace this status. Nigeria emerged after independence in the 1960s as one of the major powers on the African continent and even dominated the political, economic and social arenas in Africa especially with its roles in the founding of the Organization of African Unity (now AU) in 1963 and subsequently, its relentless fight against white rule in Africa. Further, in 1975, Nigeria also played a very important role in ensuring that an economic body called the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was founded in order to foster trade relations and cooperation amongst the countries of the Western part of Africa.

Nigeria was Africa’s voice on the international scene. Nigeria possessed both human and material resources that other African countries lacked and this was why some smaller countries such as Gabon and Ivory Coast decided to work towards its bifurcation by pitching their tents along with the French in support of the Biafrans against her during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970; a war that had its root in Tribalism and Ethnicity![12] Nigeria was the dream of many foreigners and tourists destination because of its beautiful climate and resources. At this period, many Nigerians were proud of their roots and the Nigerian passport was cherished like gold, silver and diamond. Nigerians stayed in their country, went about their businesses, had access to the best of academic materials and qualified teachers and professors that were competing on the international arena then, and many Nigerians would dare to say ‘to hell with foreign countries and their passports’ because Nigeria was even a model to some so-called developed countries today!
But where are all these values, pride and comfort today? The answer is that they have been buried in the womb of tribalism and ethnicity. Or better still, consumed by these long-standing enemies of the Nigerian state. These two have long been harmonized to determine the course of events in the political, economic and social relations amongst Nigerians.

  • Lack of patriotism

Lack of patriotism in the country is the show of lack of respect for the National Anthem and other National symbols. Lack of patriotism leads to selfishness. All these came to play as a result of corruption by leaders of this nation. The common man must show patriotism and commitment to things that affect us as a nation no matter the challenges. It is only when we show patriotism that we would be consolidating as a nation. Today we still think and act as Yoruba, Ibo, Efik, Ibiobio, Hausa/Fulani rather than as Nigerians. Our first allegiance is to our tribe or ethnic groups. How many Nigerians are ready to pay the supreme price for the sake of the country. Trump essentially won the American presidential election by his appeal to resurgent American nationalism of “America first”. I ask you, who can win a presidential election in our country by the cliche of “Nigeria first”?

Poor Investment in Human Capital Development

No country has achieved sustained economic, scientific and technological development without substantial investment in human capital. The role and importance of human capital in propelling the pace of economic growth cannot be overemphasized. The development of human capital has been recognized by economists to be a key prerequisite for a country’s socioeconomic and political transformation. Therefore, human capital is considered as the most valuable asset and needs to be mobilized, developed and empowered to participate fully in all socio-economic activities. To do this, it is first of all required that the stock and mix of human capital in the country be assessed based on the outcome of this assessment, plans are put in place to develop the required manpower to fill the existing gaps while provisions are made for future needs.

According to a World Bank Report of 2012 titled, “Nigeria, poverty in the midst of plenty”[13] Nigeria presents a paradox, the nation itself is rich but is inhabited by poor people. Human condition in Nigeria have greatly deteriorated, resulting to large scale poverty as population growth has outstripped the rate of food production. The existing social services, the quality of nutrition, education and health services have deteriorated. The challenge for Nigeria is not one of improving one sector, but to adopt growth and social services oriented programme or policies that will enable all its inhabitants to improve their welfare, such policies would switch public expenditure towards those that emphasize the development of human ccapital, such policies could result in rapid development of social indicators and under pin the formulation of necessary policies for rapid and sustained growth. This implies the development of her human resources which invariably is human capital development.

4.0  The Hubris around Restructuring:

The word ‘restructuring’ means different things to different parties and ethnic nationalities. There is no unanimity as to what restructuring means in Nigeria. The question we need to ask is What then does restructure mean? Chambers 21st Century Dictionary (Revised Edition) which prides itself as the Authority on English  says of structure as the way in which the parts of a thing are arranged or organised. It also says of the verb form of it: to put into an organised form or arrangement. The dictionary reminds us that the word has its origin in Latin, ‘structura’ from ‘struece.’

In the context of a nation, restructuring logically means to arrange. It means ‘’devolving more powers to the federating units with the accompanying resources. It means greater control by the federating units of the resources in their areas. It would mean by implication the reduction of the powers and roles of the federal government so that it would concentrate only on those matters best handled by the centre such as defence, foreign policy, monetary and fiscal policies, immigration, customs and excise, aviation as well as setting and enforcing national standards on such matters as education, health and safety… Using the zones would ensure financial viability of the states and also address the concerns of minorities about domination by our three major ethnic groups.”[14]

To the South-South people of Nigeria, restructuring simply means resource control. The aggressive campaigns by the then president of the Movement for Survival of Ogoni people (mosop), late Ken Saro-Wiwa to halt  the problem associated with the irrational exploration of crude oil in the Niger Delta area. Ken-Saro-Wiwa was martyred for his Mosop’s leadership for resource control. It is adequate to say that the agitation for resource control by the south-south is aimed at appropriating resource located within their region. The advocates of resource control argued from the point of view of underdevelopment of the Niger Delta area by successive government in spite of the bulk of wealth gotten from the Niger Delta area to sustain the whole country come from the area. It is therefore, the argument of resources control advocates that despite the irrational exploitation of crude oil in the Niger Delta  there is nothing to show for it in terms of development, whether infrastructuree or human.


To our brothers in the South East, restructuring connotes self determination or Secession. Prominent Igbo sons and daughters have advised that for there to be avoidable bloodshed in the country, the Federal Government should conduct a referendum among the Igbos both in Nigeria and Diaspora over their demand for self determination . They posited that in 1973, Northern Ireland voted in referendum either to be part of United Kingdom or not and the citizens voted against it.  Scotland equally conducted referendum in 2014 to break away from UK but the people also voted against it. Just recently, in June 2016 United Kingdom conducted a referendum on either to stay in European Union or not and they voted in favour of it. Such experiment should also be emulated in the case of the Igbos.[15]

Yorubas are clamouring for Confederation[16] on the basis of the 1963 Constitution. They want each region to have certain degree of independence as was the case under the 1963 constitution.

To the people at the helms of affairs in this country, Constitutional amendment as the need arises is part of the typical dynamism of constitutional order to meet the aspirations of a federation. They believe that for Nigeria to be restructured, the necessary procedures of amending the constitution has to be followed. To them, any other means of achieving this is unconstitutional.In a nutshell there is no agreement among the components of the groups that make up Nigeria as to what restructure means or represents. It is like the classical biblical voice of Babel’s. So far there is no unanimity or concurrence as to what we want to restructure or how to go about it or the items that will be tabled for same. This is a big dilemma.


5.0  Are there Points of Agreement?

From all the various views expressed by various ethnic nationalities and officials of government, there appears to be  unanimity on the fact that the country is not working as it should be working; that most institutions of government have become inefficient and personalised; that some individuals are more powerful than government and its institutions; that poverty and want are rampant; that corruption has become endemic and is having negative impacts on the country; that insurgency and militancy are by products of inequality; that patriotism is at its lowest ebb; that larger percentage of our graduates from universities and other higher institutions remain unemployed; that critical infrastructure that can drive the nation’s economy such as power, roads, water and sanitation are almost non-existent; and that bad leadership and poor governance remain a big challenge to us as a nation. We cannot exhaust all the points in this discourse. There are lots and lots more.


6.0  The Way to go

Having identified some of the problems bedevilling Nigeria as a nation, it is pertinent for us as a nation to address all the negative issues that led to these agitations.  The suggested solutions are by no means exhaustive or talismanic. However if some or all are implemented we may achieve some concesus on the way our nation should go to regain its lost illustrious past and potential. I therefore prefer the following:

6.1 Amendment of the Constitution

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended) should be reworked. The Constitution has clearly laid down the procedure for its amendment. This amendment should be carried out as soon as possible to reflect the followings amongs others:

6.2 Devolution of more powers to States and LGs

It appears the Federal Government is overwhelmed with the wide powers given to it under the Constitution. The Constitution should  shed some powers to the states and Local Governments. There are some functions that can be performed better by the states and the Local Governments because they are closer to the people. Allowing states to handle functions like stamp duties, Primary Health care, railway construction and investment, for instance, would bring to bear the benefits of devolution.

It is rather unfortunate that the national Assembly has recently voted against devolution of powers in the country.[17] While it is recognised that one cannot bully our legislators to vote one way or the other, it is suggested that Nigerians and most importantly the legislators should be properly enlightened to appreciate the benefits of devolution rather than the sentiments being built around the matter. It is my hope that the bill will be represented before the national assembly for proper consideration.


The global trend towards democratization has one common objective: the delivery of welfare and development to citizens. These benefits are realized through erecting institutions or restructuring of systems. The local government system has been one of the veritable organs used to achieve this goal. But it is unfortunate that in Nigerian, the local government system has been treated with disdain and thus incapacitated in delivering welfare to the people.

The system has witnessed abuse and non-compliance with relevant constitutional provisions that guide the operations of the State joint Local Government Account (JAC); and the illegal and sundry deductions from local government funds through the Joint state Local Government Account by the State Governments.

There have been cases of imposition of caretaker and interim management administrations rather than democratically elected representatives as provided in Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution. It is crucial to note that as at today, more than 20 out of the 36 States of the federation are under Interim Management or Caretaker committees.

The system has witnessed the introduction of spurious State/Local Government joint project to siphon Local Government resources in addition to taking over the statutory functions of local government and handing them over to cronies and consultants.

These man-made challenges can be eliminated if the Local Government Councils are granted autonomy. The autonomy will further strengthen democratic decentralization of power and putting power in the hands of citizens at the grassroots level, in addition to delivering development to Nigerians who, in any case, reside in these local councils.

The Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahamd (right) exchanging pleasantries with Justice M.M.A. Akanbi (rtd) during the event


Section 17(1) (e) of the Constitution provides that the independence, impartiality and integrity of courts of law and easy accessibility shall be secured and guaranteed. For the judiciary to perform to its optimal, it should have some modicum of independence. It is rather unfortunate that this provision is under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, whose provisions by virture of S.6 (6) ( C) of the Constitution are not justiceable. It is therefore manifest that the constitution itself after providing for the independence of the judicial arm renders such independence unenforceable.[18] This consequently poses a major challenge to the judicial arm as to whether it is truly independent.

There are certain legal and constitutional safeguards which must be present in any democratic country before it can be said that the judiciary is independent. Their absence will generally indicate absence of independence. First, because of the general belief that there is a fundamental relations between the quality of judges and the administration of justice, the selection and appointment to a judicial office should be in the hands of those that can be relied upon to base their choice on qualities which make for judicial fitness.[19]

Second, the governmental system must be such that it is practically difficult or impossible for the executive to interfere with the judiciary in the discharge of their day-to-day functions. Lastly, judges should have guaranteed security of tenure. This last point means that subject to good conduct and behaviour plus efficiency, judges should have a permanent appointment up to the stipulated time of retirement.    A judiciary that goes cap in hand to meet the basic needs of the materials for its adjudicatory work cannot be said to be free. A judiciary that does not control its capital project votes can’t be free. A judiciary that depends on the goodwill or kind heartedness of the president or governor to survive is not an independent judiciary.

6.5  Independence of the Press

The role of the press in a democracy cannot be over-emphasized. First, the Press is needed for continued process of education and enlightenment of the citizens. A scholar once stated that without an informed citizenry, democracy is a mere farce.[20] It is the duty of the Press to ensure that voters are well informed and capable of participating actively in public life.

Second, it is the duty of the Press to subject politicians and governments to scrutiny and evaluation.

Third, it is also the duty of the Press to express public feelings and provide a platform for exchange and dissemination of ideas. The former US Secretary of State, Ms Condeleza Rice once stated there is no more important pillar of democracy than a free and active press. Without a free and active press, democracy cannot thrive because people will not be certain that their views would be known to their leaders and they would not be sure that that their leaders’ views would be known to them.

While acknowledging the role of the Press in sustaining democracy, the former US President, Thomas Jefferson said: “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.’’[21]

The Nigerian press will however has to earn the independence, because to whom much is given, much is expected. The current state of who pays the piper dictates the tune has to be addressed. The press should serve the larger interest of the society. Without a society there cannot be a press. Sabre rattling should be discouraged, sensationalism, promotion of corruption, celebration of impunity , encouragement of negative morality should not find place in the press. In short those who live in glass houses should be wary of throwing stones.

6.6  Institutions of government should be insulated from the vageries of politics

Agencies of governments should be insulated from politics. Institutions especially those that regulate the selection and promotion of bureaucrats should be insulated from politics. Institutions like educational institutions, Federal and State examination bodies, Civil and Teaching Service Commissions should all hinder political involvement with the declared aim of maximizing bureaucratic competence. Same thing apply to our financial institutions. More than any other institutions , the security agencies must, should and perforce be totally insulated from the whims of all temporary holders of the levers of government .


6.7  Equity, justice and fairness should be enthroned

It does not need a soothsayer to determine that the reason for agitations across the country is because of real, imagined or perceived marginalisation in the nation. At this critical point in our political history and democratic evolution, it has become apposite and auspicious to begin a process of ensuring equity and fairness in all our dealings especially in the sharing of state resources including distribution of political offices. Equity, fairness and justice are indeed a sine qua non for peace and unity to continue to reign in the country.

It is the most critical ingredient in the distribution and sharing of offices and democratic dividends. This principle is recommended nationally and in all the states of the federation as a way of enthroning lasting peace and stability in the polity. No nation that tramples on equity, justice and fairness ever made it on all the scales of measurement of progress. Lack of patriotism in our nation is a direct result of the lack of fairness, equity and justice in the way privileges and resources are allocated. The do and die fight for political offices has its root in the lack of equity, fairness and justice in our nation. If resources and projects are equitable shared, the average Nigerian will care less who and where  the president or governor comes from.

6.8  Justiceability of the provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution.

It is noteworthy that chapter II of the CFRN contains the economic and social rights as provided in the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights otherwise called the ECOSOC rights which forms part of the international Bill of rights.[22] Thus the ECOSOC rights are part of human rights. Even when such rights are not made fundamental as provided in chapter IV of the CFRN 1999. Making such rights constitutional provisions make the rights worthy of being challenged in the Courts of Law to encourage good governance and accountability to the citizens as legal obligations. It is now proper for Chapter II of the CFRN 1999 to be guaranteed as fundamental as demonstrated in the South African (SA 1995) and Uganda (Uganda 1995) Constitutions. It presupposes that questions must be asked on the provisions of chapter II and the Courts must interpret it to meet the justice of any situation.

The inaugural address position of the former Chief Judge of India (Blagnati 1988) at all judges colloquium held in Bangalore becomes very instructive as he opined thus:[23]

…human rights depend fundamentally on right to life and personal liberty which is a core human right. The right to life is now confined merely to physical existence but it includes also the right to live with basic human dignity, with the basic necessities of life such as food, health, education shelter etc…

These human rights fall within the category of social and economic rights and they can be realized only by affirmative action on the part of the state and if the state fails to carry out its constitutional or legal obligations in enforcement of these human rights, it may have to be compelled to do so by an activist judiciary as demonstrated in Bharati v state of Kerala (1973) 4 SCC 225 and Education of Uunikrish J.P. v State of Andnra Pradesh (1992) SC AIR.

South Africa and India are typical examples of countries that have judicially made the provisions relating to the fundamental objectives and directive principles for State Policies justiciable. Nigerian judiciary is also encouraged to adopt the  same stance.  The Nigerian judiciary will have to cloth the bones of chapter ii with the flesh of progressive interpretation.

6.9  Increase in Derivation to 35%

Revenue allocation in Nigeria has been one of the most intractable and controversial issues. Particularly, the `principle of derivation’ has been highly contentious in the country’s fiscal federalism since oil discovery in 1958.[24] Since the introduction of the principle by the then colonial administration, the formula underlying it has undergone numerous retrogressive alterations, following a pattern that has concentrated revenues with the center, (federal) government. The percentage revenue due to producing states has declined from the initial 50% share to 1% in the 1990’s, and subsequently was increased again to the current  13% share which does not reflect full offshore derived revenues. This has been considered unfair and unacceptable by the oil producing states especially Akwa-Ibom and Ondo states whose oil is virtually 100% offshore, which technically limits their benefits from the principle of derivation. This has resulted in the continuous  agitations by these states for equitable share of their God given natural endowment for  effective development.

It is therefore strongly suggested that derivation should be increased from the current 13% to 35% for the states that produce the natural resources. This I think is equitable and will ultimately increase the level of development of the areas concerned. This advocacy should extend to all natural resources found in the different states of the federation.

6.10 No more state creations

The virtual uncontrolled creation of states especially during the military era has made the states to be weaker while the center has become a behemoth. Of the thirty six states only about four can survive without federal allocation to pay salaries.  We have all seen in recent times that some states have become bankrupt. It has been so difficult for these states to pay their workers salaries and pensions for the retirees. Even the bailout from the Federal Government could not save them from the huge liabilities they have incurred. It is therefore strongly recommended that state creation in Nigeria should be put on hold. When you create new states, the money  that ought to be used for development end up being used as recurrent expenditure to cater for new beauracracy and overhead costs.


7.0  Conclusion

In this paper I tried x-ray  the evolution of the strindent   calls for the  restructuring of the Nigerian polity. I tried to articulate the  reasons for the need to restructure and in what manner such restructuring should be done. It is high time we unbundled the over concentration of powers at the centre to give room for development at both the states and the Local Government Levels.

It is the believe of this writer that the best way the agitation should be addressed is through the instrumentality of constitutional amendment by the National and State Houses of Assembly.  In a constitutional democracy like we practice, it will be an anathema to call for a sovereign national conference to deal with the issue of restructuring, it will amount to indirect dissolution of the structure put in place by the constitution. If some of the recommendations canvassed in this paper are acted upon, it may go a long way in addressing the nation’s enormous challenges, stem the tide of the various agitations and lead our country to an eldorado of unity, peace, progress, justice, equity and even development.


Thank you.


[1] E.O. Abah and Nwokwu Paul Monday. Restructuring the Nigerian Federalism: the Proposed Form and Shape. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research 25 (7): 1518-1526, 2017.


[2]The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons was formed in 1944 by Herbert Macaulay. Herbert Macaulay was its first president, while Azikiwe was its first secretary.

[3] See Nigeria: Constitution Development History. Accessed on 12th November 2017.


[4] These are University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ahmadu Bello University and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nsukka.

[5] See the Speech Delivered by Mall Nasir El Rufai on Restructuring at Chatlam House London Published by Daily Post on 21st September, 2017.

[6] Enu, Donald Bette, Opoh, Fredrick Awhen & Bassey, Pascal Eze Balancing the Imbalances in the Structure of Nigeria Federalism: The Civic Educators’ Perspective. International Journal of Advanced Research in Public Policy, Social Development and Enterprise Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 January, 2017.



[8] See Item 65 of the Exclusive Legislative List.

[9] See Item 61 of the List.

[10] Abubakar Magaji Buba, Corruption and Poverty: A Sure Way to Slow-Down the Pace of Development. Accessed from



[11] Nigeria has the worst police force in the world, See World Internal Security and Police Index International, WISPI  released in November, 2017.


[12] See Stella Oduah: Tribalism, ethnicity, bane of Nigeria’s development
Read more at:
[13] See Human Capital Development and Economic Growth in Nigeria: An Empirical Analysis. Accessed from


[14] Being an excerpt from the speech delivered by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on 21st day of July, 2017  at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.

[15] See Igbo Secession: To Be Or Not To Be? Retrieved from Daily Independent Newspapers of 9th May, 2017.


[16]confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign states, united for purposes of common action often in relation to other states.


[17] See Premium Times, Why Senate rejected devolution of powers to states – Saraki. Retrieved from


[18] See Gbolagunte Oladotun, Independence of the Nigerian Judiciary. Retrieved from

[19] Muhammed Ndatsu, Independence of Judiciary in Nigeria. Being a Thesis submitted to the postgraduate School, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

[20] See Ndudi Elumelu, The Roles of the Press in Sustaining Democracy in Nigeria. Retrieved from


[21].See. Jefferson’s preference for “newspapers without government” over “government without newspapers” (1787). Retrieved from


[22] G.N. Okeke and C. Okeke, The Justiciability of the Non-Justiciable Constitutional Policy of Governance in Nigeria. IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) Volume 7, Issue 6 (Jan. – Feb. 2013), PP 10.


[23] Ogugua V.C. Ikpeze,  Non-Justiciability of Chapter II of the Nigerian Constitution as an Impediment to Economic Rights and Development. Journal of Developing Country Studies. Vol.5, No.18, 2015. Page 53.

L-R: Dr Kayode Adam, Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly Dr Ali Ahmad, Mallam Yusuf Ali, and others shortly after the event


[24] See Derivation Principle of revenue allocation in Nigeria. Retrieved from

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