In light of the tensions growing in the land, I had to cut my sabbatical short to address the prevailing agitations that has gathered momentum over the past few weeks. ‘Biafra’ and ‘Restructuring’ are the latest events to heat up the polity in Nigeria. Both events have common factors. They are both driven by resource control and management. But they both differ in modus operandi. The agitation threat of Biafra gave birth to restructuring. Given the aforementioned, let me further state and describe the nature of both events and their economic implications.
The quest for Biafra centers on secession and balkanization of the Nigerian State. Championed by Nnamdi Kanu, the chief antagonist, Biafra attempts to divide the nation and gain absolute control of all resources in “Biafran States”. The penchant for self-autonomy is driven by hatred for other regions, most especially the North. Biafra wants independence but does that serve the Nation in whole a great deal of good? No. Simply said, the Igbos, who claim they are victims of marginalization are known for their commercial and trade exploits all over the country. In Lagos here alone, they dominate the retail and wholesale markets at Computer Village, Alaba International, and the Okirika markets on the Island. The markets at Iwo Road Ibadan are also dominated by the Igbos. After threats of expulsion from the North by the Arewa youths, we got to find out; they cannot leave the North because the Igbos has 44 trillion naira worth of investments in North. Interestingly, the Igbos needs us as much as we need them, which makes the ambition for Biafra toothless.
Looking at the restructuring narrative, which sounds more plausible, can be defined as a reorganization of a country with a view to achieving greater efficiency and management, or to holistically rearrange (not dismantle as some fear) a country. Concerning Nigeria, restructuring envisages state creation, power devolution, local government autonomy, rotational presidency, resource control and the type of legislature to operate amongst other cardinal components. Certainly, this can help alleviate the problems of marginalization but to my disbelief our politicians are using the ‘issue of restructuring’ to score political points, so much so President Buhari ‘s claim that “Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable” has been seen as a faux pas. So it is not surprising that for every comment dropped about restructuring, there’s a political effect that follows. It’s like playing WHOT and Chess simultaneously. What’s exacerbating about this problem is that the view to achieve ‘greater efficiency’ might drown as the tides of politics waves on. However, the need for restructuring lies on the onus of our politicians.
Having said this, I now need to talk about economic development as a result of the Biafra and restructuring equation. My two cents on this is Biafra might not lead to economic development for the Igbos. The agitators should ask South Sudan if division from Sudan really helped. Restructuring on the other hand, will re-balance the duties of federal and state governments whereas powers will be devolved and every level of government will be strengthened and more accountable to her people which will bring economic development. Present states can leverage on the resources in their regions to create wealth. While state governments are challenged to look for sources of wealth creation primarily within their region, it will have productive ripple effects on their economy. Federal government moreover will be saddled with responsibilities that are essential such as foreign policy, defense and national economic policy etc.
It is on this premise, I would conclude that Biafrans should borrow a leaf from the originators of this popular quote “if you can’t beat them, join them” and join every faction irrespective of ethnical prejudice for their economic and political gain. It is also germane to know that restructuring is not the prerequisite for a better Nigeria. Good governance is. The chassis can be built, the windows fitted and the engine refined but without purchasing the wheels, Nigeria will go nowhere