Senator Magnus Abe representing Rivers South-East Senatorial district, in this interview posits that Nigeria has undergone all forms of restructuring since independence, insisting that restructuring should should not be an issue to fight about. Excerpts:
What is your stand on the current issues surrounding restructuring?
The idea seems to be that people don’t know what they are talking about; but they know what they are talking about, what you are calling re-structuring is your own restructuring, but what it simply means is that you as a Nigerian believe that there are some things that we can do better or that there are some things that are being done as good as it is, or that you are not happy with the way the country is or how the structure of the country is formed and what it is leading to, that’s what people are saying and so we need to look at that.
What we should ask the people simply is “What will they like to see that they think will make Nigeria better’’; so as many as those ideas will be, let us put them on the table, the one that the majority will agree on we change, to me it’s not an event, it is a process, like it or not Nigeria has been re-structured severally and is still being restructured every day, so it is not a new thing.
From independence we had one structure, that structure had its own problems people felt the Centre was too weak and the Regions were too strong and the minority felt they were unprotected in those strong regions and so it was restructured that’s how we came by states, so we now had a stronger centre, now people are saying the centre is too strong, the states are too weak, they cannot deliver on the expectations of the people, it’s a ‘convoluted’ system, a lot of people feel that it bestows too much power and privileges on those who control the centre and too little on those who don’t, so they want another review of the system.
I don’t see what is happening as a totally academic exercise, where we go around and say…ooh restructuring, what do you understand by restructuring, making the word ‘‘restructuring’’ become the issue rather than the country, ‘‘the issue is how do we make Nigeria better’’.
Restructuring is not a new thing and it will continue ‘‘until we arrive at a country that delivers the most to the most number, as it is now we have a country that delivers a lot to very few people and does not deliver enough to the majority’’, that is why people are clamoring, people are not satisfied, the jobs are not coming, prosperity is not spreading the way they look at it and they think that ‘‘if the structure was better organized more people will be made more efficient, because my own issue is the efficiency of the structure, I feel that the structure is inefficient, we pay too much for too little, we can pay less for more, that is how efficient organizations are managed’.
We have a structure that is too expensive and is not delivering enough, as a child I grew up in Calabar, Cross River state, I’m from Rivers state, I didn’t have to lie that I was from Cross River state for me to get free education from the then South Eastern state government, when I fell sick in Calabar my parents were living in Port Harcourt, I was taken in the school bus of St. Patrick’s College Ikot-Ansa to the Mary Slessor Hospital in Calabar, I was treated and was eating three times a day; in fact the day the school bus returned to convey me back to school I was hiding because the hospital was too sweet and I was not from South Eastern state’’.
Today south eastern state has become Akwa Ibom and Cross River state; Rivers State has become Rivers and Bayelsa, the question is ‘‘Is any child in Cross River enjoying in Cross River what I enjoyed as a Rivers son in South Eastern state, the answer is no’’. So why is it that we have all these resources and yet the people are getting less and less and less from the government, that’s the question that needs answers, so whatever suggestions they can make to make the system more efficient for the people, that’s restructuring righ