This is the most important aspect of Pastor Tunde Bakare's well delivered speech. It's a narrative so familiar but yet so compelling like never before.
"At Independence, the entire Northern Region, which comprised the current nineteen northern states, had one Ministry of Education headed by one Minister.
The entire Western Region, which comprised the current six states in the South West and roughly two states in the South South, had one Ministry of Education headed by one Minister.
The entire Eastern Region which comprised roughly five states in the current South East and four states in the current South South had one Ministry of Education with one Minister.
Therefore, there were only three Ministries of Education headed by three Ministers in the entire country and they were responsible for the rapid educational advancement that took place in that era as the regions competed through such policies as free education to achieve socioeconomic development. Today, we have thirty-six Ministries and thirty-six Commissioners for Education which, together with the Federal Ministry of Education, consume a huge chunk of the limited education budget through recurrent expenditure.
This is a very huge drainpipe in our economy. It ranks pari-passu with the cancer of corruption in hampering our growth and development as a nation. Imagine how much we could save with six efficient and effective ministries in education and other relevant socioeconomic sectors in six geopolitical zones.
Restructuring Made Easy
For those who still question the need for restructuring, I have for you a simple analogy that may cause you to have a rethink. For sixteen years, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was the governing party in Nigeria.
For about twelve years, as individual parties, the so-called opposition parties tried unsuccessfully to wrest power from the PDP. In 2003, the Action Congress (AC), dominant in the South West, the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), dominant in parts of the North, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), dominant in the South East, presented individual candidates for federal elections, particularly the presidential elections, and were overwhelmed by the PDP.
The same scenario played out in 2007 despite the change in name by the Action Congress to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). In 2011, three parties, ACN, ANPP and a new party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), once again individually took on the PDP and were beaten as before by the power of incumbency. However, in 2015, following the merger of these major opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), the PDP was finally defeated and today, we have an APC-led government in power.
Fellow Nigerians, this is a prime example of leveraging on relative strengths. As with those small preceding political parties, our 36 states, most of which generate insignificant internal revenue, are not viable enough to overcome our economic challenges and facilitate accelerated economic growth.
These thirty-six states, overwhelmingly sustained by allocations from Abuja, cannot guarantee functional infrastructure such as world class roads, railways, airports, housing and urban development.
These thirty-six states, largely unable to pay workers’ salaries, cannot guarantee standard educational and healthcare systems, or facilitate rural development. These thirty-six states should, in fact, become districts headed by Mayors within the framework of six geopolitical zones, because they will be stronger and more productive within a zonal structure.
As zonal structures, they can pool resources to build transportation infrastructure; as zonal structures, they will empower local governments to bring effective governance directly to the people.
As zonal structures, they will efficiently coordinate socioeconomic policies for the benefit of every Nigerian – every Nigerian like Mama Blessing, whose petty-trading business will be expanded and transformed by vibrant regional agricultural and transportation policies; every Nigerian like Mazi Kelechi, whose electronics business can have a globally competitive made-in-Nigeria supply from regionally backed industrial clusters; every Nigerian now just selling suya who can build a whole range of businesses around hides and skins sourced from regionally coordinated ranching systems; every Nigerian like Baba Bukky, who will no longer rely on generating sets for power supply due to regional coordination of multimodal resources for efficient power generation, transmission and distribution.
The Search for a Well-Structured State
On the question of how restructuring will be done, let me state that we have had engagements with this government, as well as with the preceding administration under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in which strategies and documents were put forward towards restructuring.
One of these proposals called for a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring guided by, among other frameworks, the 2014 National Conference. I do not have the time to delve into the specifics of that Commission in this address, but I must state that I am inclined to a zonally structured governance system due to the reasons I earlier alluded to.
However, in the spirit of trustful give and take, let all the proposals be brought to the table. Inasmuch as it is in the interest of our nation, whatever governmental structure results from the process, a people deserve the right to determine the structural and functional parameters of governance in their nation. Let the Nigerian people decide.
From the United Kingdom’s European Union membership referendum, to the constitutional plebiscite in Italy, we have seen examples of how this is done. The notion that the Nigerian nation is non-negotiable will remain contested through agitations, until we summon enough courage to put it to the test, and prove, through the outcome, that we are indeed prepared to become a truly united nation".
Written By Olasunkanmi Olapeju