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Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 19

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The incongruities of the Nigerian state were on the front burner for scrutiny at a recent conversation organised by Radio Now 95.3. And the central message, after the hue and cry, is no other than the calamity to which the country is headed unless urgent steps are boldly taken to infuse true federalism character in it, to stop the internecine war brewing across the country.

The interlocutors include Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, and Sam Adeyemi, Head Pastor, Daystar Christian Centre who holds a doctorate degree in Leadership. They all spoke to the theme: “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Tactics and Strategies to Pull Nigeria from the Brink”. El-Rufai used the occasion to call on the Federal Government to immediately implement three specific recommendations of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism to address the insecurity in the country.

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He argued that the fixation of the country to hold on to its prerogatives with envy and consistency as the guarantor of law and order in the country that makes it a leviathan had undermined the federal essentiality of the Nigerian state. This fact, it is argued has engendered a fierce contest by all manner of social forces including armed and state actors. He further underlined the contemporaneous contradictions of the Nigerian state and made recommendations to resolve the contradictions. The recommendations include the engrossment of state police, resource control, and immediate decentralisation of the judiciary. Procedurally, he noted that only the National Assembly could bring about the prescriptions. Emphatically, he stated that “There is nothing the governors can do. And these senators and House of Representatives members were elected from the states.”

To rationalize the necessity of state police, El-Rufai went further to point out the demographic paucity of the security forces to secure the country and the fact of overstretch. As he put it, “This country does not have enough soldiers, uniformed police, or secret police to project state power across its vast swaths, particularly the forests. The limited number of boots on the ground is not well-equipped and are significantly lacking in the technology that can make their limited number matter a lot less.”  

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Although El-Rufai pointed out new lines of funding of the armed forces, he failed to acknowledge that the central government has indeed drawn money from the recommended sources one of which is the Excess Crude Account – for state security. The problem which the governor ought to have captured or at least advert to is that the country’s security forces do not represent the country’s diversity, but are dominated by a tiny minority group that currently controls the central authority thereby making it an outfit for internal domination. The equitable democratisation of the armed forces is the key to curbing national insecurity. To the extent that the status quo remains, so will secure Nigerians be elusive. These days, security does not translate into hardware security but human security, which is being undermined by the incumbent state actors across the country.

The subsequent call by Governor Fayemi for compassionate leadership may be relevant to focus on human security, absence of which is partly responsible for the social crimes in the country. Weighing in on the crises besetting the country, namely, banditry, insurgency, and the herder-farmer conflict, he noted that, “When you have lost somebody or you know someone who has lost someone, it’s no use telling the person to be rational about the ill that has befallen them and the bereavement they’ve suffered. The truth of the matter is that we also need compassionate leadership in order to help deal with these issues, in addition to all the substantive things we need to deal with.”

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Pastor Adeyemi on his part did not share the inclination to break the country for its people to part their ways but called for restructuring for citizens’ empowerment. He wondered why it was difficult to pull these brilliant ideas about rebuilding the country through. “Let me be honest, I have friends in government. We should be discussing Nigeria’s development; Nigeria needs to move into the 21sst century as fast as possible. This whole thing is about the economy. If you have any problem in this country that is not tractable, somebody is making money from it”. This particular theory has been raised on several occasions and linked with the perseverance of Boko Haram and the banditry going on in the country.

The summary of the conversation is that the interlocutors have given content to the country’s federal scaffolding: autonomy for parts to control the security; resource control; and fiscal autonomy. As Kenneth Wheare brilliantly argued, you have no federation without fiscal autonomy of the units. These are some of the issues that the voices calling for restructuring have always foregrounded. But the issues have been consistently undermined by those who are profiting from the apparently dysfunctional system.

However, the conversation’s latent function is not a commitment to stability and a truly Democratic Nigeria; rather it is about inspiring false hope. The governor of Kaduna State knows the origin of the compounded insecurity in Nigeria that seemed to be defying the capacity of the federal security architecture. He openly claimed he paid bandits to stop killings. He said on another occasion that the killers were foreigners; yet refused, or made no concrete move to allow the full weight of the law to descend on the outlaws. So, we ask, what has changed suddenly? Some of the recidivist elite are beginning to see the country pulling apart from its seams and therefore self-interestedly trying to pull it from the brink. In the main, therefore, for the Nigerian project to work, the redesigning must be approached with honesty and a high sense of equity and commitment. A federation is best suited for managing diversity but for those hell-bent on implementing domination nurtured by a retrogressive unitary system, they may very well discover that there is no country to dominate without restructuring, after all. 

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