University don advocates reconfiguration to strengthen Nigeria

Taiwo Ojedele and Ayoola Efunkoya, Lagos

A re-examination and discovery of the true ties that bind Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups is the best solution to determine the appropriate structure for the country.

A professor of Political Science Richard Joseph told his audience at a lecture in Lagos that a change in the federal structure was necessary to address the security challenges, ethnic conflicts and economic sabotage that have gripped the most populous African country.

With his presentation, the professor of Political Science from North-western University in the United States joins the ongoing debate on the appropriate structure for Nigeria.

Africa’s largest economy is currently battling insurgency in its north, militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta and calls for self-determination by supporters of Biafra in the East.

Debates and public discussions now increasingly question whether Nigeria is practising federalism, with many calling for a shift to “true federalism” which will put more powers in the sub national units while the government at the centre focuses on issues common to all.

Professor Joseph says a “reconfiguration of the country which will allow citizens and their representatives determine how the diverse groups will coexist will douse the tension.’’

“There are flaws in the architecture of the Nigerian federation,’’ he said.

While he does not favour calls for “true federalism” preferring a “reconfiguration” instead, the don acknowledged that Nigerians were actively debating the best form of federalism to adopt.

He says the National Assembly, executive and other state institutions will need to play active roles in ensuring the success of the reconfiguration process.

Good governance
The lecture jointly organised by the US Consulate in Lagos and the University of Lagos is part of initiatives to contribute to calls for changes in the federal structure, to ensure good and effective governance in Nigeria.

Participants at the lecture however doubt the practicality of a reconfiguration exercise.

A professor of Mass Communication, Ralph Akinfeleye said the suggestions put forward by the guest lecturer would be rendered impracticable by the widespread greed and corruption in the country.

A young architect John Ajewole said the outcome of the lecture would make no improvement like those from similar discussions.

He is particularly worried that the debate like many others failed to consider the interest of Nigeria’s youths who make up the majority of the population.


Avoiding Sensationalism
Professor Joseph urged Nigerians to avoid sensationalism in their perception and interpretation of government actions.

“The media in particular must do away with sensationalising government decisions as this could further heat up the polity already tensed as a result of the economic recession as Nigeria is very important in Africa,’’ he added.

Mercy Chukwudiebere