Why Nigeria Needs Restructuring Now and How It Can Peacefully Do It

By Aka, Philip C. | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Why Nigeria Needs Restructuring Now and How It Can Peacefully Do It


Aka, Philip C., Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


I. INTRODUCTION

General Muhammadu Buhari's election as President of Nigeria in March of 2015 raised new hopes for change among many Nigerians and followers of Nigerian events troubled by the persistent chasm between the country's potentials and the performance of its governments. (1) Buhari is not known for his strong suit in economics and foreign policy, two strengths a chief executive needs to be effective in the modern world. (2) Instead, the Nigerian literary giant, Wole Soyinka, labelled him an "economic illiterate," (3) while in foreign policy, Buhari's first outing as Nigerian military leader held him out as a leader of insular dispositions with little interest in international relations. (4)

Given his middling track record, nobody expected Buhari to perform leadership miracles that Nigeria had not thus far experienced in the near-sixty years of its independence from Britain in 1960. The most that was expected was that his election would replace a good government with a better one when the country returns to the polls in 2019. (5) But Buhari's lackluster performance three years into his presidency has not borne out even this minimalist expectation. (6) Coming after the equally middling performances of three prior presidents under Nigeria's latest experiment in democracy since 1999, known as the Fourth Republic, (7) this disappointing result suggests a deeper problem: Nigeria's state-building ailment is a structural issue not amenable to managerial window-dressing. (8) An intractable disease requires a drastic treatment. Like Buhari said of political corruption when he ran for president in 2015, (9) Nigeria will die if it is not robustly restructured without further delay.

Predominantly Muslim Hausa-Fulani elites from the northern portions of the country have dominated the Nigerian government since the country's independence. (10) This is despite the fact that northern leaders participated lukewarmly in the decolonization struggles that led to Nigeria's independence in 1960 (11) and complained soon after about the "mistake of 1914" that amalgamated the North and South by fiat. (12) Yet, these same leaders have repeatedly sued for "unity" (i.e. an undivided country) (13) in a nominally federal system that they have, especially since the civil war (1967-70), implemented in a unitary format during military and civilian regimes alike. (14)

Restructuring Nigeria along the lines of the proposals made in this Article will unlock creative energies that will stem the country's hemorrhaging brain drain problem and minimize disruption in its leadership role in West Africa and beyond that could arise from an unplanned change. Restructuring will also help the work of redrawing Africa's artificial, colonially-bequeathed boundaries that the African Union must perform in this century. (15) Conversely, irrational fear of disintegration (separation anxiety) only increases the chances of an "outright collapse" by 2020 of the type a group of U.S. intelligence analysts predicted in 2005. (16)

This Article marshals reasons why Nigeria must be restructured now and presents concrete proposals, embedded in constitutional democracy, (17) for achieving that restructuring peacefully and nonviolently. Consistent with the purpose of this piece and in line with the tenets of constitutional interpretation, (18) "restructuring" is defined broadly to include complete separation from the country for disaffected ethnic groups. (19) Although Nigeria's Fourth Republic has been rocked by numerous centrifugal challenges that include an active religion-based terrorism, the ongoing campaign for self-determination among the Igbo of Eastern Nigeria (20) provides the context for the restructure argument this Article makes.

The ensuing discussion falls into three main parts. Part II is a historical background account anchored on a portrayal of Nigeria as a state afflicted with a separation anxiety syndrome. …

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