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Who will fix this contraption?

Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Mahmud Mohammed,Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, President Mohammadu Buhari, Senate President Senator Bukola Saraki and Former Head of State Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar Cutting the Cake to mark Nigeria 56TH Independence Anniversary at the Presidential Villa Abuja on the 1st Oct 2016. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Mahmud Mohammed,Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, President Mohammadu Buhari, Senate President Senator Bukola Saraki and Former Head of State Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar Cutting the Cake to mark Nigeria 56TH Independence Anniversary at the Presidential Villa Abuja on Oct 1, 2016. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

I haven’t lived that long, relatively. But all my sentient life, Nigerians have lamented the quality of people that get to be our leaders. The first half of this period (my existence), admittedly, was under the leadership of the military, but they can be excused as having had no real chance at succeeding at politics and governance. From the historical accounts of how very quickly after independence the bar was lowered for admission into the officer cadre (in the name of regional balance), to the coup and counter-coup of 1966 to the civil war that followed shortly afterwards, it is clear that the primary focus of any military leader was unlikely to be national progress and prosperity.

I suppose the counter to this would be that it was the regional in-fighting of post-independence politics that re-engineered the army’s psyche. After all, if the ‘founding fathers’ had been less primordial in their leaning, the jostling for regional supremacy that began the series of unfortunate events that led to the failure of the First Republic would not have happened. Many will argue that one region was by far guiltier than the other in its inward-looking and that may indeed be so, but by the time the first coup happened, there wasn’t really any innocent party left standing.

The extent of that jostling, however, is wholly the fault of the British, who left a federal structure in which one region was larger than the other two combined and would always have its way and its say. For a country with a few hundred years’ experience of the parliamentary system of government, it is unclear how such a huge oversight happened. Unless, of course, it was no oversight, in which case, things have gone according to plan. Britain is a country that has been tweaking its parliamentary constituency boundaries since 1958 (!) to keep them relatively similar by size and population and whose coming changes will put Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn out of a seat at the next adjustment. To be fair though, if it only started in 1958, maybe we were the inspiration.

Perhaps the biggest legacy of the coup and the civil war was the de facto de-regionalisation of the country, (paradoxically, with the creation of more regions) and the funnelling of all the power to the centre. The regions were stripped of most of their powers to prevent future thoughts of recession. It has led to the winless situation in which people who cannot help but think regionally having to pursue regional interests at the federal level. Of course, this assumes that the politicians we have are actually pursuing the interests of their constituents and that’s a very debatable point.

This regional-central anomaly is the big argument for federal character and quotas, which place an emphasis on regional balance, rather than competence. In fact, the evidence suggests that it has promoted mediocrity. The centre is so powerful that being there, or connected to it, takes priority over regional advancement. The anomaly means that the federal government has negotiated a uniform minimum wage to apply across all states, in spite of the difference in their earning power and cost of living. The anomaly also means a state can build a Tinapa but see all its investment go to waste because ports fall under the purview of a federal agency (headed by someone from a different region) and he refuses to issue the required permit.

We are the product of our history. And here we are, diverse people with conflicting interests, bound by colonialist design and military force, generally not trusting of each other, mostly subject to the whims and caprices of a central government that’s now broke because its major source of income (from a small part of the country) is not worth what it once was. The states, addicted to the easy money, atrophied over the years, with many producing nothing and virtually none capable of remaining viable without federal support. Where do our history and our present predicament suggest we are headed?

It seems fairly evident that the current arrangement is not sustainable and is unlikely to last much longer. Our geopolitical structure and common sense suggest that the states should be self-sufficient and contribute to the maintenance of the federal government, and not vice-versa. However, this will mean that they must have full control of the resources within their domain. Reverting to this arrangement has always been fiercely resisted but given the crisis at hand, it may well be the federal government pushing this agenda shortly.

It will also mean that the federal government relinquishes control of quite a few more things, in addition to natural resources. Fishing and inland waterways, labour/industrial matters, electricity, policing, the establishment and regulation of companies, railways, income taxes; to name a few, should not be matters under the exclusive preserve of the federal government. States need to be able to give real incentives for businesses to be drawn to them.

How much of this is feasible? Very little, I suspect. Our big-man political system will probably need to self-implode before it contemplates the reversion of that heady power from the Federal Government to the states. I suspect as well that there are several states whose leaders are happy to be mere conduits for the federal largesse to their states, who have no interest in the intellectual rigour the change of the status quo would require. More than that, given how stuck our ruling elite are in ideas that have mostly been discredited both locally and internationally, it’s scary, thinking about what could happen in some states. We need a brave, new, enlightened cadre to step forward to fix this contraption.

In this article:
ContraptionRotimi Fawole

  • vincentumenyiora

    And Bukola Saraki is featured in all these programs and you are doing “Change to begin with Nigerians!” Whoever is advising you people on psychology of the people! Why not ry SarakI and let Nigerian know what the decision is whether to acquit him or condemn him about the allegations rather than what you are doing making your pronouncements all farcical! Even the school children will be wondering – those clever among them, why is he still featured in everything in Nigeria yet they say he done this and done that and you’re arresting Judges and in 2nd though you release them on self account – and you were given solution on how to stop the improprieties of corruption and debauchery! I have even mentioned names that have the solutions and they all attend to the important government officials! Nigeria – TAKU!

  • Jacob Chile

    Is it now that we realize splitting Nigeria? Why not earlier when somebody else was ruling?

    • 10101010101010

      People were talking about a serious restructuring long before now. This isn’t a new topic of conversation but it’s being argued with greater vigour than before because those at the helm are the worst that Nigeria has ever had.

  • kierino

    The question has been asked, “Who Will Fix This Contraption”?
    Certainly not the people cutting that “national cake” they aren’t tired of sharing as it appears in the photo to want fall backwards… Perhaps that is an omen of things to come.
    Well, as infer from the article, the Dullard with the knife cutting the cake appears to be on a mission to implode the system bequeathed by the British to make way for a new order based on restructuring Nigeria. He the last ditch saviour of the old order as he is arrogantly disdainful and vehemently opposed to anyone in favour of restructuring the deceitful so called federal system we operate and is doing everything a dictator hiding behind a ‘democratic’ order will do to hang on and cling to an order that has kept Nigeria back and giving undue advantage and control to a tiny section of the country.
    Quoting from the iconic masterpiece of African literature, Things Fall Apart, “things fall apart when the centre cannot hold”. The grossly unfair and insensitive ‘centrist’ system disguising as a federal system favoured by ethnic jingoist as represented by man with the knife cutting the cake don’t realise they are fighting a battle they will loose… My fear is that they don’t take their grandstanding, brinkmanship and intimidation in defending their favoured order to a level that will drag all of us into an abyss we can’t come out of…

  • Guttano

    The right and the most urgent step an serious reformer should take would be implementing the recommendations of the 2014 confab, herein lies the solution to our crisis.

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