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9 August 2017

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RESTRUCTURING NIGERIA: The Roles of Nigerian Youth in National Rebirth

No doubt, given the present parlous state of the country politically, socially and economically, it will be agreed by all that Nigeria needs an urgent restructuring. However, what we must understand is that restructuring itself is not a new idea in the history of Nigeria.

Before now in Nigeria, we have experienced regional governments, state creation, parliamentary system presidential system, unitary system and now we have a federal system which shows that Nigeria has been restructured at different times in history. So nothing that is being canvassed today by members of the ruling elite in favour of restructuring is actually new. Unfortunately, despite the restructuring undertaken at different times in the past, agitations over marginalization and domination have continued.

The reason for this state of affairs is because none of the restructuring carried out in the past endeavored to address the fundamental root of oppression, inequality, underdevelopment and marginalization which is the neo-colonial capitalist economic system handed down by Nigeria's erstwhile Colonial masters. As a result, the crises of inequality, underdevelopment and marginalization have always multiplied with each step taken by the ruling elite to redefine the forms of relationship and cohabitation among the different ethnic nationalities making up Nigeria and the political system that best suits our complexity.

FALSE ARGUMENTS

Even today, the restructuring argument continues to suffer from this major and fundamental weakness. For instance, notable proponents of restructuring like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar still continue to give the impression that all that is needed to make Nigeria work fairly is simply to devolve power from the centre to the states, review the revenue sharing formula, and create state police. This argument is to give the impression that the primary reason Nigeria is not working is simply because power and resources are too much at the centre. If we were to agree without conceding to this argument, the question we must ask is what have the 36 state governors done with the powers and resources granted to them under the current federal system to uplift their people?

To answer this question, all you need to do is take just a cursory look at the conditions of working people and youth in each of the 36 states. According to reports, more than 20 states owe workers and retirees several backlogs of salary and pension arrears. Today, all the state governors are united in opposition against the demand of the labour movement for an increase in the national minimum wage to N56, 000. Equally, all the state governors are implementing anti-poor policies of education underfunding, privatization and commercialization. Instead of using public resources to pay workers' salaries and fund essential services, many of the state governors embark on white elephant projects simply to loot public resources. Corruption and nepotism are the hallmark in state governance.

NO MEMBER OF THE RULING ELITE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

If these are the scorecards of state governments under the present federal system, then what is the guarantee that once more powers and resources are devolved to them they would perform differently? In fact when it comes to issues of resources, state governments in the South South region where the shout of marginalization is the loudest today receive monthly at least 30% of the allocations to the states, especially during the oil price boom, apart from special intervention funds from NNDC and Ministry of Niger Delta, yet there is no significant development to point to in these states. What this therefore means is that the solution goes beyond mere political restructuring. We also need to restructure socio-economically by ensuring that we enthrone an alternative socio-economic system that seeks to use Nigeria's vast human and mineral resources to meet the needs of the vast majority.

Most agitations and social crises all over the country such as pro-Biafra agitations, Boko Haram, kidnapping, Niger Delta militancy, Badoo killings, etc. are fuelled by socio-economic crisis such as unemployment, poverty, economic hardship, low standards of living etc. Of course, if unemployment crisis is resolved and the standard of living in the country is better off, ethnic and religious agitations will have very few foot soldiers.

Of course, this would not mean that once this is done that ethnic and religious agitation would automatically disappear or there would be no more need for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) dominated by elected representatives of the working and oppressed people to renegotiate Nigeria's unity. What it does mean is that for real unity to exist in Nigeria and for development to go to all nooks and crannies of the country, we need far more than devolution of powers or creation of state police. Rather we need a revolutionary overturn of the socio-economic system of capitalism which is based on exploitation of the mass majority by a handful because this is the root cause of the disharmony and imbalance in the country whether socially, economically and politically.

CAPITALISM IS THE ROOT CAUSE

As Oxfam recently puts it, five (5) Nigerians own between themselves so much wealth than is enough to end poverty in Nigeria. Without taking this enormous wealth from this people and putting it into use to fund education, health and social services and create jobs, there is no way it would be possible to lift the millions in poverty out of it.

Therefore for us in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the only true and genuine restructuring is one that ensures that jobs are provided for the unemployed, workers' salaries and retirees' pensions are paid as at when due, public education and health are properly funded and democratically managed, the outrageous salaries and allowances of political office holders reduced to a level not higher than the national minimum wage, N56, 000 minimum wage and all anti-poor policies of deregulation, privatization and commercialization reversed and the commanding heights of the economy placed under public democratic control and management.

No member of the capitalist ruling elite from any part of the country can implement a genuine programme for restructuring along the lines canvassed above. Rather for them, restructuring is a slogan to canvass for their own self-serving interests and ambitions.

Only the working class can carry out genuine political and economic restructuring and transformation of the country. The only unifying class of all oppressed layers of the country is the working class irrespective of religion or tribe. This is the only class, by virtue of its position in the economy that can carry out a revolutionary transformation of Nigeria. But it can only do so if it first and foremost transforms its own weak and pro-capitalist leadership to those that are ready to challenge capitalism and goes on to build a mass workers' political party rooted among all oppressed layers in the country to lead the movement to change the country.

OUR ROLES AS YOUTH IN NATIONAL REBIRTH

Of course the youths have major role to play in national rebirth, because the youths are the bedrock and future of every society. Therefore our roles as youth is first and foremost to develop ourselves ideologically in awareness of the class struggle and secondly is to organize ourselves to begin to challenge all anti-poor policies and ally the working class to struggle to end capitalism and enthrone a democratic socialist order. This is the only way that the contradictions of the present system can be resolved under which good standards livings can be guaranteed for the mass of the Nigerian people.

Leaflet circulated on Wednesday August 9, 2017 by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Lagos State University (LASU) Chapter at the Youth Summit organized by the parliament of the students union of the university.