Restructuring: Miscellany of perspectives at News Express Lecture

Posted by Chima Nwafo | 14 October 2017 | 1,732 times

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•A cross section of dignitaries at the News Exptress 5th Anniversary Lecture

“You can change the name of an old song; rearrange it and make swing . . . But time changes everything” — Tom Duncan

For the benefit of some Nigerians who have deliberately chosen not to know what restructuring is all about – given their educational background and political stature – I recall the above lines from a 1940 hit by Bob Wills and His Playboys of Texas. The quoted lyrics of Time changes everything, written by Duncan, captures the essence of restructuring a polity or the form/process of government. For dialectical reasons, it is still necessary to consider the lexical definition of the head-word, structure, from where the now controversial restructuring draws its meaning.

The Advanced Learners defines Structure as: To organise something, such as a system or company, in a new and different way.  For more clarity, defines structuring asTo give a structure, organisation, or arrangement to; construct or build a systematic framework for; e.g. To (Re) Structure A Curriculum So Well That A Novice Teacher Can Use ItBecause the subject of restructuring is a political discourse - with all its inbuilt deceit, mischief and doublespeak – most of its opponents with private sector experience should have accepted there’s no difference between restructuring the polity, and repositioning a manufacturing/production company. If for the sake of argument a school of thought emerges with one, it is still a distinction without difference. Besides, The Random House Thesarus agrees with the example from outside political arrangement, other things such as an event or programme can be (re-structured) re-designed, re-assembled, re-constructed or re-conceived to capture the wider interest of stakeholders of a community or group. And even a parastatal such as the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited has, through examples, proved to multinational and indigenous corporations that corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be restructured to capture the diverse needs of both immediate and neighbouring host communities, as well as the state and country in general.

Therefore, whether one is a Nigerian politician from the North or South, an engineer or a musician, an operations manager or civil service administrator, restructuring should convey same simple and uncomplicated meaning. Nothing in the foregoing definitions and meanings connote, imply, signify or convey the idea of disintegration, break-up, or secession. Again, true federalism simply means controlling a country’s resources by each of the federating units, as in the First Republic. Devoid of ulterior motives, a nation can restructure its polity same way you can rearrange an old song and make it swing with modern trends. In like manner, companies often reposition or restructure, with a view to expanding or narrowing its operations. Perhaps unknown to opponents of restructuring, the oft-repeated call on the Federal Government to diversify the economy from its current near-absolute reliance on crude oil export, is equally a demand for restructuring. Driven by self-interest, oil-producing states ought to have condemned such demands or brand its proponents enemies of the economy.

Against the foregoing backdrop, the Management of News Express online, Nigeria’s global voice, aptly entitled its 5thAnniversary Lecture, “National Unity and the Demand for Restructuring: A Governor’s Perspective”. On Thursday, September 28, at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, the Guest Speaker, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, Executive Governor of Niger State, impressed listeners with his approach to the topic, especially as he iced his speech with a local instance of restructuring. As if by design, three other speakers from the public sector, like the governor, were unavoidably absent. But presidential spokesman, Elder Femi Adesina, was physically present, and predictably spoke as a politician/political appointee, and a journalist. As a media man, he agreed with the chair of the event, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, that fake news is doing a lot of harm to genuine news dissemination.

The governor, who was ably represented by his Chief Press Secretary, Mallam Jibrin Baba Ndache, averred: “As we discuss restructuring, we must be aware of the red lines that must not be crossed. The red lines are not because we are afraid, but because there are certain basics that must not be toyed with. Our national unity must not be toyed with: breaking Nigeria into smaller units will diminish our relevance. Restructuring must be done with decorum, and the realisation that the hallmark of democracy is the right to hold dissenting views. Niger State is today governed on the basis of restructured governance. There is an unwritten zoning arrangement that rotates the governorship among three zones of the state.”

Governor Bello noted that political agitations should be geared towards maximising the potentials of the various nationalities, rather than how to dismember it.

For obvious reasons, Adesina agreed wholly with Governor Bello, that restructuring should be pursued with decorum and in a way that will deepen national unity and not weaken it, realising that the hallmark of democracy is the right to hold dissenting views. And that agitations should be geared towards maximasing the potentials of the various nationalities, rather than how to dismember it. Earlier, he had noted that the current alignment between the South-west and the North was a form of restructuring that changed Nigeria’s political landscape. He wondered why some Nigerians have chosen to make the restructuring an opposition issue which, to him, it’s not.

The Managing Director of Nigeria Export Zones Authority (NEPZA), Dr Emmanuel Jime, was billed to take the keynote address, with the theme: “Using the platform of public office to reclaim our destiny”. But he was unavoidably absent. A deputy director in the MD’s office, Mr Richard Obianu, a lawyer, who sat in for him lived up to the title. But, the presentation restricted itself to how restructuring was employed in the NEPZA, to guarantee fairness and equity in management and welfare of all staffers. Former Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi, who was represented by his Special Adviser, Mr Valentine Obienyem, a lawyer, insisted that that the nation’s major problem was not restructuring, but leadership failure. That assertion leaves us with the all-important question: Even if we restructure, will the emerging leadership be restructured, and by whom? That is, we may be back to square one.

This is where the brief remarks of the Group Chair of Zinox Technologies Limited, Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, and General Manager, External Relations, of NLNG, Dr Kudo Eresia-Eke, make the difference. They were apolitical and focused without rhetoric. While Stan Ekeh acknowledged that Nigerian masses from the deepest South to the farthest North face the same problem, the NLNG’s external relations chief gave practical instances of restructuring a public corporation to cater for the interests of all – from labourers, farmers, youths, artisans, and women in host communities to local, state, and federal governments. Describing everyone privileged to enjoy the benefits of the information technology as an unusual entrepreneur, the Zinox chief said God did not create anybody in the 21st century to be a poor man.

But NLNG’s Dr Eresia-Eke drew unusual and robust examples of corporate social responsibility initiatives to prove that what the ordinary Nigerian needs most is quality education, quality health-care and  employment; and, for companies, a friendly host-environment in which to do business. He gave facts and figures that could shame some banks, manufacturing companies, and even oil czars that have been operating in Nigeria for some 50 to 100 years and over, without any concrete gestures to show in terms of corporate commitment to immediate host communities.

“As the world’s fourth largest LNG project and Africa’s most expansive industrial complex professionally managed with 95 per cent indigenous staff”, Dr Eresia-Eke cited how NLNG recently signed the contract for construction of a road within its operational zone, to serve host communities. The company contributed a whopping N60 billion to the N120 billion road project, which he described as the “biggest CSR initiative.” Who else could boast attempting to make a Dubai out of its host-community, with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will cost the company N3 billion every year for the next 25 years? Already, Bonny Kingdom enjoys uninterrupted light and water supply, besides other initiatives aimed at empowering youths, adults and women of the ancient kingdom. You can now appreciate why NLNG has their operational headquarters in Bonny, Rivers State, while other multi-national oil companies are unwilling to return to Niger Delta, in defiance of Vice-President Yemi Osibajo’s order. Yet, it was war-time Finance Minister, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, that ordered oil companies to relocate to Lagos in 1969.

Opponents and critics of restructuring should note the point: If the leadership of the country through the years had been fair, just and equitable in the distribution of our common patrimony to all component units of the federation, there would not have been this loud clamour for restructuring.

Nwafo, Consulting Editor with News Express:; 080 2933 4754.

Source: News Express

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