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Restructuring hate-public policies in national democratic life

By Dafe Otobo
28 September 2017   |   3:30 am
EIGHT - REVENUE ALLOCATION FORMULA… There have been eight ad hoc revenue allocation commissions since 1946 - viz: Philipson Commission (1946), Chick’s Commission (1953), Raisman Commission (1958), Binns Commission (1964), Dina commission (1966), Aboyade Committee (1977), and Okigbo Commission (1980) - when the fiscal battle began in earnest. The nationalists politicians, right up to 15…

National Assembly Complex Abuja.

There have been eight ad hoc revenue allocation commissions since 1946 – viz: Philipson Commission (1946), Chick’s Commission (1953), Raisman Commission (1958), Binns Commission (1964), Dina commission (1966), Aboyade Committee (1977), and Okigbo Commission (1980) – when the fiscal battle began in earnest. The nationalists politicians, right up to 15 January 1966 coup, the least dishonest of all Nigerian politicians, understood the essentials of colonialism to be naked stealing and appropriation of assets of various communities and of militarily subjugated indigenous political rulership and so the fight for Political Independence was by its nature a process of undoing these.

Many of them, notable businessmen and women in their own right, understood quite clearly too the logic of private enterprise economy since they were not trying to create a communist or socialist system where land, houses and all minerals are controlled by the government, despite the Cold War, and after intense collective negotiations put principle of derivation at some 50% in the revenue sharing formula – to drastically reduce scale of formal stealing. The junta wasted no time in undoing these negotiated arrangements by first reducing Derivation percentage to anything between 1% and 13%, and cemented this with their Petroleum Decree 1969 which vested the “entire ownership and control of all petroleum in, under or upon any lands in the State”. And to put a protective fence round their property, the whole country, the putschists spectacularly outdid the Lands Proclamation of 1900 (which the colonial dictatorial regime used in seizing all lands in the north with the provision “All grants of occupation, use or enjoyment of land, whether for general or specific purposes, should be in the nature of Leases and Licences and not grants of the absolute property or freehold interest.”) with Land Use Decree that dispossessed all Nigerian communities of their natural right to their own lands (strictly, it is extending Lands Proclamation 1900 to southern Nigeria). While the colonial Mineral Regulation (Oil) Ordinance of 1907 was primarily concerned with ensuring that “only British subjects or companies controlled by British subjects would be eligible to explore for oil resources,” the combined effect of the Petroleum Decree and Land Use Decree (without any exaggeration whatsoever and really an understatement) is a return to a form of modern slavery, where a handful of former military officers and cabals spawned by them can do whatever they like with land and minerals – as has been the case. These two Decrees were some of the “no-go areas” pressed on all at “constitutional conferences” and embedded in the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions of a supposedly civil and federal republic!

The 1977 Aboyade Revenue Allocation Commission’s Report, appointed by General Obasanjo, was rejected by Alhaji Shehu Shagari as being “too technical” and his efforts at unilaterally managing allocation were stymied by the courts till his kingmakers removed him. The Babangida junta reviewed the allocation formula four times and left it as Federal, 55%; States, 32.5%; Local Government, 10%; and allocation to oil mineral-producing states and general ecological problems 1.5% and 1% respectively. The Abacha junta imposed Federal, 48.5%; States, 24%; Local Government, 20%; Special Fund, 7.5%. Under General President Obasanjo, and by Presidential Executive Order, Federal, 52.68%; States, 26.72%; Local Government, 20.60%. The naïve might think what goes to the federal government has been the only bone of contention until we examine the factors that determine how whatever goes to State governments collectively is shared among and between them – equality of states (the oil-producing areas having only six states of the thirty-six, this criterion attracting at least 40% of total funds), population 30% (the more populous states are in the East, West and central northern parts), landmass 10% (larger states in mostly northern parts), internally generated revenue 10% (mostly generated in Lagos area, some in PH-Warri axis and Kaduna) and Development Factor 10%.

So, the same people who imposed the states, drew their boundaries, turn round to compensate themselves for the landmass they drew, of which most of the physical infrastructure therein have been federally funded, and take more money for having the population they are yet to develop along with the landmass! And that is not all…the Development Factor has Education, 4%; Health, 3% and Water 3%. Of Education, school enrolment has a percentage shared in relation to numbers enrolled, a percentage considered unfair by northern states because of lower enrolment, who then demanded additional out of the general pool as “encouragement” to enrol more children in schools by next revenue sharing exercise! As for Water, aside from getting most of these funds under this heading, we earlier noted the investment in water-related projects by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and its agencies have deliberately and overwhelmingly been in the northern states. All this reminds me of advertisement jingle for the defunct African Continental Bank, “for dis corner, e dey there; for dat corner, e dey there”! Simply amazing! How prejudice and greed can rationalise and defend the improbable.

LASTLY…RESTRUCTURING – Restructuring is an aspect of the much older term and phenomenon called “reform”. A modern meaning of the word “reform” would offer the following: a) to put or change into an improved form or condition; b) to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses; c) to put an end to (an evil) by enforcing or introducing a better method or course of action; and d) to induce or cause to abandon evil ways (reform a drunkard). What all these meanings of “Reform” point to clearly is improving upon a current situation that is considered to be unsatisfactory. This is partly why Restructuring is captured by such catch-phrases as: “No condition is permanent”; “The only thing constant in life is change”, and “Every action causes a reaction”. Logically and factually, practically all major measures have positive and negative consequences, intended and unintended, with the best of intentions – hence continuous monitoring and efficacy of the feedback loop or arrangements would be critical to the relative success of any restructuring or reform exercise and, more crucially, to minimising and eliminating adverse impacts and thus a much-improved new condition.

Restructuring, we may sense from all of the above, comes in various formats. One could restructure a process or procedure, say, of designing and implementing leave roster, or payment of salaries of all federal public servants taken over by the central bank of Nigeria (of which an unintended consequence is impacting negatively on the disciplinary and other administrative procedures in tertiary educational institutions), or procedure for acquisitions and purchases, or method of payment and collection of personal or corporate tax, and method of preparing a budget, method or process of importing and distributing refined petroleum products. or, restructuring might be of institutional type: a sub-unit of or the whole organisation or politico-administrative structure of a country may itself be restructured, by rearranging roles, span of control and positions and levels in the hierarchy, or how several organisations (National Assembly, Presidency, States and LGAs) may, in fact, relate to one another. Or, restructuring might be that of access to some value: social justice, freedom and mode of worship, procedure for accessing land (e.g. Land Use Act), or funds for agricultural purposes, unemployment benefits, health and medical services, housing, education, right to vote, freedom of association, right to abortion, right to speak freely, right to free movement, etc. Quite often, certain restructuring exercises involve not only the three forms simultaneously, but also push for a rank-ordering of values, processes and institutions at one go – and which is the case with National Conferences or Constitutional Talks.

In multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural countries with communities differentially endowed with human, mineral and other resources of economic value, the basis for common citizenship, not being automatic by definition, has to be carefully and deliberately crafted because such admixture is naturally problematic. All around us, happenings everywhere, in the Middle East, European Union, United States of America, the United Kingdom (Scots, Welsh, Irish and English/Anglo-Saxon) and our own CIVIL WAR and socio-political developments since then say so most eloquently. More importantly, a more fractious polity, aside from being part-outcome of improved avenues for voicing one’s views on any matter (sometimes libellously, sometimes raucously, and other times subdued by teargas and other strong-arm tactics of law enforcement agencies maintaining “law and order” and “public peace”), is also traceable to the reaction of partisan state authorities to the drawing of attention by those individuals, groups and communities so affected, to those unsatisfactory conditions. Quite often, due to a combination of factors, usually ideological preferences, largely unbridled competition for and control of political power and sectional and much narrower considerations, the needs of and preferences advocated by some groups and persons “lose” legitimacy before the eyes of partisan state authorities – particularly legislators and presidency, security and intelligence agencies and political cabals – and such groups’ or communities’ activities directed at protecting, promoting and pursuing their interests, ostensibly like other interest groups in society, attract negative labels – anti-government, subversive, ill-conceived, illegal, terrorists, etc. – and dealt with accordingly. Countervailing reaction by such groups, persons and communities and partisan state authorities’ own further actions all tend to create a seemingly vitriolic, unstable social, political and economic environment, held, locally and internationally, to be “unfavourable” to investment and development, including the relative absence of some of those physical and social infrastructures long-demanded by the groups and communities not so endeared to partisan state authorities and other better-connected interest groups at that juncture.

All this is not a judgement call, but to highlight the hate-driven logic of the long-standing, hate-producing public, political and economic policies and actions, corrosive of nationalism and patriotism, being indisputably fuelled by parochial, regional, ethnic, and religious sentiments and bigotry and which have brought to the fore the rational questioning of the basis for continued common citizenship in many quarters and levels of society.
On this take, the current round of so-called hate speeches from all sides owe little to election defeat since a typical politician always blames actual and imagined rivals or the opposition for any unpopular development or occurrence, a variant of the well-known psychological disorder of the oppressor blaming victims for his own actions. Then, again, you never know…a retired Admiral and former governor was quoted to have publicly bragged about how “we dealt with the Igbos and Yoruba are next”, obviously pitifully ignorant of the fact of most officers and men of the Second and Third Divisions who bore the brunt of the fighting during the Civil War were drawn largely from Western Region and Northern and Southern minority ethnic groups. A top politician also announced how “they” would make the country “ungovernable” for President Jonathan. It would be stretching the imagination beyond limits to think President Jonathan summoned a National Conference because he liked such things, selected and ordered all the participants to show up, grouped them into various committees, compelled them to produce reports and append their signatures to the Final Report. And he was so power-drunk and ambitious that he forgot to restructure in line with contents of the Report. Ahhhh. hate speeches? Na today?

So, we have less than half a million “fellow” Nigerians nationwide holding everybody to ransom because of their greed and narrow-mindedness, specialising in divisive policies that from the middle-belt to Bornu, western states to southeast and south-south, any of these at very short notice can RESTRUCTURE to have their own security organisations, civil service, parastatals, economy and military outfits capable of, like Israel in the Middle-East, holding off all others and you better believe it – and European Union, the USA, UK, Canada, China, Russia and lesser powers will easily back such rearrangements as long as ethnic and religious bigots keep on this way against all odds and we end up in violence. A million and more refugees from Nigeria will collapse all the economies in ECOWAS. Nigeria and the world have changed a good deal since 1967 and we now have over 80 million young ones under 30 who must find a living against these cabals having monopoly over land and mineral resources. Even for a booming economy anywhere in the world, not more than 10% can be salary/wage earners as companies and investors do not go into business to create jobs because there is mass unemployment; only those jobs and tasks which guarantee profits. The current economic down-turn might have increased anxieties and poverty, but is not the cause of the general malaise, simmering anger, palpable tension and periodic outbreaks of violence. It would be dishonest to so claim..

The Senate President is a bright young man and I trust him to understand fully the lay of the land. So, Mr Senate President, kindly rouse your various sleepy committees and let’s pump some adrenalin into our growing but severely threatened national democratic life by taking the following democratic steps to undo what have been undemocratically foisted on us – but keep the Senators on the standby to override presidential veto, if any. Should you need services of a small team of legal minds and analysts on the side, that one can put together in no time at all…but you go pay me small, shaa. First, repeal the Petroleum Act pending final determination by a National Constitutional Conference. Second, not only remove Land Use Act from the Constitution, bury it deep more than six feet permanently under the ground without a coffin – dust to dust. From 1951 to 1966 Nigerian peasant farmers fed us and European, British, Japanese, American and other foreign industries with groundnuts, cotton, palm oil, palm kernel, rubber and other agricultural produce with our customary land tenure systems, common law principles on sale of goods and other contractual relations, and Islamic Property Law in operation.

And these did not hamper the development of the solid infrastructure from 1954 to 1965 that putschists, as earlier noted, corruptly and incompetently ran aground. What has been the state of agriculture and everything else with a Land Use Act? Easily the most anti-Nigeria contrivance in our national history. Third, decentralise the NNPC immediately.

The subsidiaries originally were (and are in law) autonomous limited liability companies, with own boards and engaged employees directly. As political capital moved to Abuja, so did the NNPC headquarters; as political power centralisation in Aso Rock intensified, so did NNPC Group HQ drain and centralise control over subsidiaries to a point of engaging and posting staff to them. Unbundling is the big word for returning to their original autonomous subsidiaries – but…PPIB is mostly old wine in new bottles, to continue with barely disguised excessive centralised control. One argument offered in defence of retaining NNPC Group HQ in some form is its overseeing of national investments in the oil and gas industry. This is mistaken because, one, the Subsidiaries are already doing that; two, there is the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and, three, there is a section of the Federal Ministry of Finance which has the statutory responsibility to watch over all federal government’s investments. Fourth, remove from the Constitution and annul any law which accords permanent secretary and director general “political appointees” status for such has almost irreparably damaged the professionalism and technical competence of civil service and parastatals on whose shoulders effective public administration and national development rest. In any case, public oversight function usually lies with boards on which politicians and citizens may be appointed.

Fifth, revisit statutory structure and composition of each parastatal and agency and change position of executive chairman to chairman for the former are of no use in the public sector, become de facto several “mini-executive presidents” and an unnecessary expense we can do without. Sixth, related to the Fifth, revisit statutory structure and composition of each parastatal and agency to eliminate forever the imposition of outsiders as their heads, like a retired Colonel as Comptroller-General of Customs of whom we last heard of in October 1997 for “sacking” all the civil servants in Kaduna State, some 30,000 men and women, for objecting to a decision of his. Thousands of women and men in the services and agencies, proud of their work, lives and uniforms even when only one person can rise to the ultimate position, not to get demoralised, debased by foisting on them a head that cannot be proud of such uniform because he does not belong there in the first place. And not done, brags to the public he only reports to Mr President who put him there, not the Federal Ministry of Finance to whom all revenue-yielding agencies statutorily make returns. That is not the culture and ethos of the public service; square peg in round hole.

Quite similarly is the confirmation of Chairman of EFCC. The American President would have sent in another name by now for Senate confirmation and the position of the executive head of the Commission should not be left vacant for any length of time without slipping into illegality, aside from other operational difficulties, especially as there is no provision for the position of “Acting Chairman”. For being there and being paid at all, illegality is already being committed, and I am particularly pained because the EFCC and SSS are two of my favourite institutions doing all the hard work – not good for the EFCC’s efforts at uplifting the moral tone in the country and for constitutionalism and Democracy. Indeed, it is such disdain for procedures that accounts for most of the corruption in our body politic. In any case, resignation letters of staff should not be addressed to Mr President because the Commission is the employer. Still doubting we have not quite left the mid-1980s and 1990s behind? Seventh, start discussing the Report left behind by President Goodluck Jonathan, taking care to get rid of all the “no-go” areas and thereafter let general talks begin.

Finally, politicians, in and out of government, should be a bit more conscious of their own mindsets and attendant utterances. “The unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable” means several things: a) the utterer forbids any discussion of it, and which then logically attracts the question “You own Nigeria?”; and b) this question is followed by “who determines what is to be negotiated?” I suspect in light of all happenings that have been analysed here, questions like these will dominate collective discourse in the months, if not years, ahead. If you love this country do what is democratically determined because you are what you do, and seeking to impose biased and personal choices will meet with opposition sooner or later. Fighting corruption, the starting point is not all Diezanis’ millions but the immediate dismantling of all the brutalising and dehumanising, money-extorting check-points that have turned the country into a militarily besieged and occupied territory for decades, in the clear understanding that over 170 million Nigerians and myself remain quite happy living here, in spite of everything else, and not in Dubai, Riyadh, Madrid, Paris, London, Toronto (with or without certificate), Atlanta, New York, Geneva, Rome, and other favourite foreign haunts of yours. A few days ago, between Shagamu and Ore, a distance of some 300 kilometres, I counted 21 check-points, making an average of one check-point per 14 kilometres! How many check-points do you see in those favourite places of yours? Stop pointing accusing fingers at each other; just scrap policies and measures that are making people feel harassed, oppressed and impoverished to start with.

Otobo is of the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Lagos