‘Regional govt, key to running Nigeria effectively’
Chairman of the Conference of Political Parties (CNPP), and former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Abdulkadri Balarabe Musa, in this interview spoke on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration as it clocks one year in office. He also bore his mind on government policies, the recent protest by labour over fuel price increase as well as gave reasons why Nigeria should return to regional government. Saxone Akhaine reports:
Taking a critical look at policies initiated by this administration for the revival and development of the economy, would you say the government has achieved much?
These policies were not made sincerely to address the ills of the economy. Even at the time the policies were made, some informed Nigerians believed that there was no competence in fulfilling them. There is also no capacity and patriotic zeal to implement them.
So far, policies have been put in place by government to address the crucial sectors of the economy, such as power, oil and others with no much success.
Is it government officials that lack competence, or the right policies were not made to address the challenges in the sectors ab initio?
No, I think we have to blame it on the president and not the people he appointed to handle the sectors. For example, we believe that there is no way Nigeria can reach the peak of any development, either economic, political or social without the major role of the state in the economy to ensure peace, equality and justice. But, he has just come out to identify himself with the worst policies, anchored on the leading role of the private sector in the economy. He recently said that his government would be anchored on the leading role of the private sector in the economy. So, as far as we are concerned, that is a complete failure as there is no way to succeed on the basis of that. Even history has shown that wherever one is calculating from (whether since 1914 or 1960), the level of development that Nigeria achieved was faster and greater because this was predicated on the leading role of the state in the economy. This is more than what we have achieved from 1979 to date when we started with the leading role of the private sector in the economy.
For example, the problem of fuel scarcity rocking the country can be dealt with in one minute if government had been serious about it. That is, making the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) responsible for all supplies of petroleum products in the country. And this is very possible, all it needs to do is break NNPC into divisions and give them responsibilities to refine oil, import fuel and distribute it. Government should have responsibility in the supply of petroleum products and not to give powers to the shylock marketers. At the moment, the marketers are making it impossible to have adequate supply of the product simply because they want to continue to maximise their profits at the expense of Nigerian masses. What is difficult for government to take up the responsibility of supplies? All it needs to do is to make sure that nobody steals public funds and get away with it.
Secondly, government institutions should be made to work efficiently like they did before. In those days when we had ECN did we have problems with power up to this magnitude? There was stability in electricity then as a result of the way the organisation was managed. The same thing applied to petrol, before this privatisation started. Fuel was available everywhere at a reasonable price. And people used petrol economically. But, since we had this mindless privatisation, commercialisation and deregulation, we can longer find our bearing. How can Nigerian private sector, which is parasitic in nature, control the economy without chaos?
How would you assess the practice of federalism in the country?
Well, federalism is good. The only thing is that it is characterised by ethnicity and tribalism just like Junaid Mohammed from Kano, Olu Falae, and Chukwuemeka Ezeife made federalism distasteful, associating it with tribalism and sectionalism. But on its own, federalism is a good system of government. Nigeria should be structured along regions so that it can be more efficiently run. With this large size as well as the large population of people, running the country efficiently as a federation requires something reasonable and that includes returning the country to the four regional structures we had. When we talk of democracy and federalism in Nigeria, it is reminiscent of the return of the regional set up, which will do the country a lot of good. But, this time, we should not have more than six regions. The Federal Government must play a leading role in making sure that the country’s unity is preserved.
This is not to say that it should take all the decisions that should be taken. No. The regional units should also have a say, and each of the regions should be able to handle the states and local governments themselves, and not for the states or local governments to depend on the Federal Government as is happening now. Once the country is transformed into six regions, the regional governments should be able to handle the states and local governments under them efficiently. These states and local governments should also be economically dependent, except of course in some cases where national unity is involved.
For example, in the area of education and development, the North as a whole is 40 years behind the South. This should not be allowed. In this case the Federal Government should step in and make sure that this gap in education between the North and South is bridged within a reasonable period and with a plan of bridging it within 20 to 30 years. If we had done this years ago, we wouldn’t have had all these problems now, particularly, where the North is becoming a problem to the country.
If we have a new Federal Government with a new sense of purpose that is ready to fast-track development in the country to catch up with America, Britain, Russia and others within 20 years, the country will need to create positions for 5,000 engineers within a short time. In doing this, each state can be asked to make available to the Federal Government 100 engineers. Now tell me, how many northern states can supply 100 engineers to the Federal Government? I think if any of the northern states can attempt this, it is only Kwara and Kogi that can do this judging from history. The rest of the 17 states including Abuja cannot do that. But, in the South, throughout the South East, South West and South South, even a local government can supply 100 engineers. If you understand the present situation, you will know that it is not possible for the North to work as equal with the South under the present circumstances because of this gap in capacity. And this is basically the source of national unity in Nigeria today. Now, how can such problem be resolved? Can it be done when the regions are stronger than the Federal Government? No. However, under a regional government as being proposed, the Federal Government should be strong and capable of protecting the interests of every Nigerian.
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