Restructuring Necessary Now Than Ever, Says Soyinka

Wole Soyinka

Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka yesterday called for restructuring as a way to ensure self-sufficiency and sustainable development.

He noted that past leaders recognised the importance of restructuring but failed to implement it.

Soyinka was the guest speaker at The Punch 50th Anniversary Lecture held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Wednesday said his administration was laying a solid foundation to foster proper federalism.

Speaking during a visit to Afenifere leader Chief Reuben Fasoranti in Akure, the Ondo State capital, he said the right foundation would involve successful economic reforms to support a restructured country.

Soyinka stressed that the call for restructuring has been persistent but with no action.

He said: “Certain facts, however, implicitly admit that the word has a number of common, pragmatic implications for both governance and the governed, that indisputable commonality being as follows: the present contraption is not working – neither economically, developmentally, or even as a material expression of any functional social philosophy.

“Another is that those who come in power have indulged in pretend exercises in that direction, engaging the populace in totally phoney exercises – obviously just to ‘pacify the natives’. It is surely time that this demand be taken seriously, and addressed head-on.”

Soyinka argued that there is no shortage of reasoned and implementable propositions in past conference papers.

“It is high time we stopped the cyclic distraction of re-inventing the wheel. The spokes are in place, the rims intact. Only the will, not the wheel, is missing in action.

“The press, needless to urge, has a crucial role to play in this!

“However, be it noted that the press is only one of the enabling estates – all arms of governance, most pertinently, at the state level, have a propulsive, even commanding role to play in the effort.

“Repeatedly, backed by constitutional authorities, both publicly and privately, we have pointed out to them that there is sufficient constitutional leeway in the present protocols of association – if I may quote myself unapologetically – to ‘push the envelope as far as it can go without actually bursting’ – if the centre continues to shirk away from this now strident imperative.

“I repeat that wearisome call yet again. There can be no further evasion.

“That assertion is made both as a general principle of socio-political volition that is fundamental to any free, truly liberated people, and as an informed response to the actualities in which we struggle to exist as a sentient people, responsive to the exigencies of daily manifestation of change,” the Nobel Laureate said.

Soyinka acknowledged that restructuring may not be the magic wand to address Nigeria’s challenges.

He explained: “To anticipate accustomed banal responses, let me state quite clearly that no one has ever claimed that decentralisation – a precise word I personally prefer – will end hunger in the land or terminate religious conflicts and other forms of national malaise, no.

“We simply insist that this is central to the incomplete mission of – nation-being.

“It is essential to activities of basic existence such as food production, and access to such products.

“Palliatives remain crude, short-term, stop-gap measures only.

“As a veteran of food security working conferences from Uganda to India, from Paris to Sochi, I insist that, for a nation to be food self-sufficient, and sustainably, decentralisation is the key, not collectivisation.”

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