Professor Ibaba S. Ibaba has argued that what Nigeria need today is good governance and not restructuring. Ibaba who made this known in his Convocation Lecture tagged “Rethinking the Narrative: Oil, Federalism and Development in the Niger Delta” stressed that restructuring is not possible at the moment because restructuring is a game of numbers and those who stand to lose from restructuring have the number which they will never give. Therefore, instead of focusing on restructuring, Nigerians should pay more attention to good governance first.

The above argument supports Ibaba’s earlier position that Nigerians “overlook the leaking roof while mopping the wet floor”. Ibaba maintained that the issue of restructuring has been an age-long discussion which has remained untenable by the Nigerian state. In his opinion, despite the billions of Naira received by the Niger Delta States monthly, extreme poverty, poor governance, willful and conscious embezzlement of public funds and huge underdevelopment still rock the region.

“a disabled federal system that suffocates the electorates” – Ibaba

Ibaba held that the cost of project construction in the far North of Nigeria is tripled in the Niger Delta region all in the bid to siphon public funds. Ibaba however, faulted the current Nigerian federal system when he described as “a disabled federal system that suffocates the electorates”. This led Ibaba to likened the Nigerian Federal system to a polygamous family with an irresponsible father. Ibaba revealed that in such a polygamous home with an irresponsible father, the future of the children rest on the hands of the mother. The mother here is likened to the individual Niger Delta states while the irresponsible polygamous father is the Nigerian government. Polygamous families are difficult to restructure, hence, individual mothers hold on to what is theirs and give the needed training for the survival of their children. By inference, Nigeria may be difficult to restructure but good governance can erode the negative effect of what Ibaba describe as a “disabled federal system”.

Ibaba held the following assumptions on the issue of restructuring:

  1. Restructuring cannot be a “stand alone”. That is, even if restructuring was possible today, other negative factors which has plunged the Nigerian state into underdevelopment still persist. Hence, all these factors must also be looked into.
  2. While the quest for restructuring is abnormal, it is a consequence of lack of good governance.
  3. Poor conversion of goods is a logical outcome of poor governance.
  4. Restructuring is highly possible but improbable.

Ibaba reasoned that there are only six core Niger Delta States with communities that does not belong to Niger Delta. On the other hand, there are states outside Niger Delta with communities belonging to Niger Delta. Ibaba therefore call out to geographers to help in ascertaining and mapping out these boundaries.

Ibaba noted that during the early post-independence years, argument on poor governance of the then Midwestern region was largely hinged on the notion of regional leaders transferring the wealth of the Midwestern region to their homelands in the Eastern region and other parts of Nigeria. However, the story has not changed that much even with a pronounced representative system. Bad governance have continued to plunge the Niger Delta States into underdevelopment.

The major problem of restructuring according to Prof. Ibaba is due to the fact that some persons stand to lose income and those who will lose have the numbers. Since democracy is a game of numbers, those who will lose income from restructuring will never give their numbers for them to fall. Therefore, restructuring is not possible for now – dialogue and good governance are the ways forward.

Ibaba seems to emphasize less on the federal system as the cause of the Niger Delta region’s multifarious woes. He focused more on poor governance by the regions’ leaders. Ibaba pointed that the income of only Akwa Ibom state in his period of investigation is more than the income of the entire South East geopolitical zone.

“public funds is considered a as bush meat” – Ibaba

According to Ibaba, “public funds is considered a as bush meat”. Emphatically, “public servants have consciously embezzled public funds. Unfortunately, we have joined to celebrate them because we too agreed that truly, public funds is bush meat”. To confirm, check out public servants’ buildings, the funds so used were supposed to be for our children’s education.

What has however, happened over the years is merely “governance by instinct” – Ibaba

Ibaba was of the view that it is time for government officials to set their priorities straight. It is time to have effective government-citizen communication, growth plans, clean water, education, good roads, etc. We have not been able to achieve these because “priorities of government do not coincide with that of the people”. What has however, happened over the years is merely “governance by instinct”.

“priorities of government do not coincide with that of the people”

This led Ibaba to reason that we must “restructure governance first, not Nigeria”. Suggestively, Ibaba opined that we must find qualitative leaders to take us from this mess. However, these crops of leaders must not come from this environment. “The level of knowledge and thinking of our current leaders cannot take us out of here”.

“Restructure governance first, not Nigeria”

In an attempt to explain the level of poor governance which has led to poor resource extraction, Ibaba noted that only in Bayelsa State, the profits from a thousand hectare of rice farm is enough to sponsor the state budget. We must look inwards. Restructuring does not stop us from planting rice. It doesn’t stop us from development. We must restructure governance, not Nigeria.

“The level of knowledge and thinking of our current leaders cannot take us out of here”