from Africa in Transition

Proposals on Restructuring Nigerian Governance

September 20, 2012

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Against the background of continuing political and security crises in Nigeria, elder statesmen--and others--are doing some serious thinking about how to change the constitution to create more effective governance. At an awards ceremony sponsored by one of Nigeria’s serious newspapers, Leadership, three major political figures made concrete suggestions.

Former vice president Atiku Abubakar urged that the current state and local government structure be replaced by the regional structure of the late colonial and first republic period.  The current states would then be transformed into provinces of six regions.  The local government structures would be abolished.

Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, a former minister of defense, who has played a major role in most of Nigeria’s previous governments, supported the former vice president and commented on the overwhelming power of the governors who have few if any checks on their power.

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a well regarded former governor of Lagos state and a major opposition figure, advocated abolishing the senate altogether.  He argued that it merely replicates the duties of the house of representatives, and is an unnecessary waste of money.

Changes such as these would have a profound impact on Nigeria’s present patronage-dominated political economy, which is largely based on the distribution, and maldistribution, of oil revenue.

These three elder statesmen have been at the very center of Nigerian governance since the end of the Biafra war; Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu may still harbor political ambitions, while Gen. Danjuma appears to have retired from active politics to pursue philanthropic interests.

A recurring proposal in Nigeria is to convene a sovereign national conference tasked with rebuilding Nigeria’s governance structures.  Should it happen, it would be the ideal venue for considering the ideas of these three elder statesmen--and many others.  However, up to now, no such conference has been convened.  To do so would directly challenge the entrenched individuals and groups that benefit from the current status quo.

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