Restructuring necessary now than ever, says 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.”

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Muhammed Idris, hailed Soyinka’s fatherly role in nation-building.

He underscored the Tinubu Administration’s eagerness to address all the issues.

He said: “The Punch has been here for 50 years, and what that tells you is that it’s a story of resilience, trust, hard work, and commitment to the Nigeria project. These are the exact virtues President Bola Tinubu upholds.

“Nigeria is going through hard times now, but it’s not new and it’s not peculiar to this country.

“All the issues we are discussing now are issues other countries are discussing. A few weeks ago, we heard that the United Kingdom had gone into an economic recession.

“President Tinubu has taken very bold steps. The first day after he assumed office, he took away fuel subsidy. Before he assumed office, the economy was a dead horse standing.

“So, whether the subsidy is removed or not, the economy is going to be challenging. He ensured that the subsidy went away for the benefit of all.

 

“We knew from day one that it’s not going to be an easy sail, but we are seeing the effects of the decision, and the good story is that the government is taking very pro-active decisions to ensure that we turn the corner and Nigeria’s economy bounce back again.

“All these things happening are for the good of the country, and the economy is going to bounce back. We foresee a situation where, in another year, this country is going to get better.

“Let’s talk about the good things happening in this country, it’s not bad news all the time. The National Bureau of Statistics said we are improving by about 66 per cent.

“Our fuel consumption has gone down by about a billion litres.

“These challenges will continue to exist, but the important thing is that the government will always take proactive measures to ensure that the challenges disappear.

“Very soon, we are going to have a major policy shift in the petroleum sector.

“The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) complained about hardship in the land, but we are happy that 24 hours later they also found it necessary to suspend that action (protests). Most of the 15-point demands NLC made are being met.”

The Punch Chairman, Mrs Angela Emuwa, said the theme “Recovering the narrative” was a call to action in shaping the future all Nigerians would be proud of.

Describing the anniversary as no mean feat, Emuwa expressed the organisation’s gratitude to all its long-standing partners and audiences for the journey so far.

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She said: “It is a rallying cry for the media and responsible actors to reclaim their rightful place as the guardians of facts, truth and justice, and the voice of the people.

“This is so because, in a world inundated with information, the power to shape narratives is a formidable responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly.

“As the most widely read newspaper in the nation, PUNCH has not only been a witness to history but a key player in shaping narratives.

“Our 50-year resilience is a testament to the power of the press in influencing positive change, upholding the values of democracy, and championing the cause of the people.

“We hope that the impact of our 50-year journey will serve as a source of inspiration to all.

“We have weathered storms, stood against oppression, championed the cause of justice, and yet we remain unbowed and unbroken.”

The lecture was in memory of Chief James Olubunmi Aboderin, the founding Chairman of the newspaper, who died on February 28, 1984.

The event had in attendance media executives, captains of industry, academics, leaders of thought, and security chiefs, among others.

Among the dignitaries at the event were former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Special Adviser on Information and Strategy to the President, Bayo Onanuga, and former presidential spokesman Malam Garba Shehu.

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