By Martins Oloja
Angry debaters, fellow citizens, editors, citizen journalists, intellectuals, columnists, political leaders, politicians, political consultants, men of God, let’s calm down and listen to this very important message: that unless we stop agonizing and begin to organize for the purpose of understanding what, why, and when we need to restructure the broken walls of this federation – from Sambisa Forest to Obudu Ranch – our current, noisy lamentation in the media will be futile.
I mean in all modesty, that we need understanding of the economic and political benefits of restructuring. We need to suspend the debate because it has been corrupted. And unless we organize classical public relations strategy for a renewal of our minds, we may lose democracy and even the rudderless country.
At the moment, as Chinua Achebe would say, the falcon can no longer hear the falconer on restructuring of the federation. The debate itself has been over-contextualized and become a terrible buzzword and cliché. It has been conceptually misunderstood. The northwest and southwest leaders who are in office and power (as president and acting president) respectively now hate each other on restructuring.
The leader, sorry the Lion King, monitoring developments on “restructuring-the-federation” debate from his den in the United Kingdom may not even be aware that his own kinsmen (including some in his presidency) have been insulting the acting president, all because of the bogeyman called restructuring. The youthful elders from the core north have dabbled into the corrupted debate by taking a stand against the constitution: they rose from their own colloquium on restructuring in Arewa House, Kaduna and asked the south-easterners in the north to leave for proper implementation of their restructuring agenda in the East.
The south-southerners too are clearing their throat and sharpening their machetes for a possible mistake from the centre. They just artfully opened an academy in Kaiama, a historic place to train future leaders for a federating unit in the Niger Delta just in case…At the opening ceremony of the strategic academy on July 13, 2017, General Yakubu Gowon laid wreathes at the graveside of the celebrated Ijaw hero, Major Isaac Boro, a forgotten hero of restructuring clamour who first declared Niger Delta Republic in 1966. Gowon, who still goes on with one Nigeria, also recognized captain Sam Owonaro Boro’s deputy who also fought against the federal forces in a battle that lasted 12 days before they (rebels) were overpowered, tried and jailed. General Gowon himself, a soldier of fortune, who will in future be reconstructed by posterity for the historic role he played in the politics that has shaped restructuring of the polity before and after the civil war (July 6, 1967-January 15, 1970) is still rummaging through the rubbles of unfinished business of restructuring the class of 1966 began. Which has reinforced a recent declaration on this page the other day that you can actually attempt to keep truth in a grace but it won’t stay there… February 17, 2017 (https://guardian.ng/opinion/truth-in-a-grave/). Thank God, Gowon and his colleagues in military politics can now understand that, from the restructuring heat they are still feeling from Kaduna to Kaiama.
Now back to the brass tacks: the debate and demand for restructuring of the polity have assumed toxic dimensions as different ethnic and religious groups have taken various positions even without proper understanding of the real points at issue in the restructuring that all regions will stand to benefit from, if only we can ‘cool down tempers’ to understand one another. That is why the elders from Borno through Lagos to Calabar, should moderate the political-reform-debate agenda so that we can have some order. The elderly moderators who need to tell the doves in the north and the south to appeal to the hawks in their midst to note that we need to respect each other and one another’s positions now. Besides, we need to deepen our understanding of why we need to restructure not only the constitution for common good but also other aspects of our cultures that have affected our development, in this connection.
Remarkably, we need all the significant men and women to use even covert and subterfuge approaches to get the powers that be to swallow their pride and vanity and join the national reorientation teams on restructuring. A national leader’s mindset to the extent that he didn’t even bother to read the content of a document of urgent national importance (2014 political conference report) and that he had confined to the archives would serve no peaceful purpose.
Besides, a recent position of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) reiterating stringent conditions for recognition of the 2014 document and indeed debates on restructuring will not help. We may have noticed some incongruent, extreme and sometimes bizarre positions from other socio-political groups such as Afenifeere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, etc. But the ACF’s stance is weightier, in this regard because the commander-in-chief and chief executive of the federation at the moment, hails from the north. And we need to note this perception issue that the ACF and the quit-notice givers are suspected to be emboldened by the fact that the Nigeria’s CEO has already created a toxic atmosphere: more than 96 per cent of the security, military and intelligence chiefs and indeed all the presidential bureaucrats are from the same far north. Some say quietly and in the social media that, that is why some of the president’s can arrogantly tell the acting president that his opinion on the controversial Magu’s fate is private, after all.
Our elders in the north need to make things easy for Nigeria’s leader at the moment, President Buhari. The acting President is not the elected leader. He is only a vice president who cannot chiefly command the armed forces even in an emergency without consultation as was observed in this column two weeks ago. And it came to pass! The regent just returned from consulting the Lion King in his den in London. Which shows that the acting president is only acting. There is nothing derogatory about consultation in the U.K. The president is still the president and he is the commander-in-chief, wherever he is. And so, the Lion King’s kinsmen should not worsen the already toxic political atmosphere for him.
And here is the thing, there is already some fixation, certain mindset about Nigeria, that has suddenly become an orphan. Yes, a Nigeria that only Generals Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo, are the last two men standing for. This is disturbing. That is why we the people, south-westerners, north-westerners, south-easterners, north-easterners, north-centralliers, middlebelters, etc, should ‘cool down’ to understand one another about the failed union the colonial masters organised for us. We cannot continue to threaten to pull down the rickety temple and decrepit city walls and rebuild them when our Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s are in limbo.
We Need ‘Cognitive Restructuring’ Now!
Cognitive restructuring is a useful technique for understanding unhappy feelings and moods, and for challenging the sometimes-wrong “automatic beliefs” that can lie behind them. That is what clinical psychologists believe. These moods are all over the place now. We need to defuse tension arising to make progress in discussing project Nigeria. Even if we are to discuss to live peacefully apart, we need clarity of purpose and understanding of benefits of restructuring. The noise level is really deafening.
And so, we can use “cognitive restructuring” model to reframe the unnecessary negative thinking that we all experience now as we talk restructuring in cacophonous tongues.
Bad moods are unpleasant. They can reduce the quality of our performance in negotiations. And they have, in fact, undermined our relationships with one another.
Cognitive restructuring will, therefore, help us to change the negative or distorted thinking that often lies behind these moods. As such, this mind tool will help us approach situations in a more positive frame of mind. It stands to reason now that without a renewed frame of mind, things will fall apart sooner than later before realizing that we actually need each and one other, after all.
Albert Ellis, a psychologist, developed “cognitive restructuring” in the mid-1950s. And it’s a core component in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) we can use to control and change negative thoughts, which are sometimes linked with damaging behaviors such as we have now in the country now, no thanks to poor ethnic politics.
We need to deepen our understanding that if we fail to restructure the ruined federation, then will not be worthy to lead the black race. And so, we need to dismantle the union because we should not be credited with the epithet that we are the most populous black nation on earth. And consequently, if we do not develop, the black race will not be noticed. We need to concede that to Brazil, the acting leader of the black race on earth. She is developing fast and is a member of BRICS, the prestigious emerging markets comprising her, (Brazil), Russia, India, China and South Africa. Brazil that just advertised its zero-tolerance for official graft and jail of its charismatic leader, Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva for corruption and money laundering, is so qualified to lead the black race. 2010 census result shows that 97 million Brazilians or 50.7% of the population, are black or mixed race compared with 91 million or 47% who are white. Nigeria is 181 million, all black people. If we can’t restructure peacefully to have a working federation that will not go to Abuja every month to share from a federation treasury account, we should lose this status to Brazil now.
The deliverable here is that we need a new national reorientation for all of us to understand that as dynamic forces of globalization powered by social technologies daily disrupt the world of business and politics, we need to restructure the way we think and do things. Beginning from every family head, there is a need to overhaul our personal budgets. Even faith-based organizations, church and Islamic leaders, should understand that they need to restructure the way they organize and manage members, income and expenditure. Our states and local governments too, should understand the urgency of restructuring. Ruling and minority parties need to understand the benefits of restructuring at this time. It is lack of understanding that makes a government to announce publicly that it is not ready for restructuring. If we don’t restructure our businesses and politics, we will die sooner than later. Behold, the other word for restructuring is change. Does that make sense?