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Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 30

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Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki (left); Dapo Abiodun of Ogun; Akwa Ibom Deputy Governor, Moses Ekpo; Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra; Douye Diri of Bayelsa, Ebonyi counterpart David Omahi; Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; Chairman, Southern Governors Forum and Governor of Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu; Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta; Nyesom Wike of Rivers; Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos; Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwanyi; Imo Deputy Governor, Placid Njoku; Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia after Southern Governors’ meeting at Government House, Asaba…recently.

Late last year, we started a serial on federalism. We were convinced that a federal state structure was imperative. We remain convinced that constitution that is federal is the only basis for a united Nigeria from its plural demographic. The Nigerian state has not functioned, rather, it has been tottering in a state of underdevelopment and lurched into total anomie by the actions and omissions of the conceited elite from a section of the country that see Nigeria as their colonial possession and have governed the country from a feudal mindset. We are proud of the awakening that this serial on federalism has engendered. If the country must be saved from the tipping point of disintegration, it is the option open to us.

On a balance sheet, the country on all indicators is prostrate. Not too long ago, it earned the unenviable position of the world capital of poverty; the economy is on a free fall without productivity while the government is mopping loans from wherever it is available. The dire nature of the economy has now led recently to quantitative easing, i.e., the printing of paper money not backed by productivity. Upon this, through complex contrivances, the country has been taken over by new militarism, i.e., armed non-state actors with consequent impact on the free movement of law-abiding citizens and the crippling of farming activities across the country. The overall impact has engendered a situation in which the component nationalities, in other words, the peoples of this country agitating for separation. To the blunt, the country is collapsing under a rudderless leadership that is part of the problem.

It is against the foregoing background that the 17 Governors of the Southern States of Nigeria met in Asaba, Delta State on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, to discuss the deteriorating national crisis and to proffer solutions. The high-profile meeting was attended by Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, Willi Obiano of Anambra, Douye Diri of Bayelsa, Godwin Obaseki of Edo, and David Umahi of Ebonyi. Others are Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Nyesom Wike of Rivers. While Hope Uzodimma of Imo and Udom Emmanuel of Akwa-Ibom were represented by their deputies, namely, Prof. Placid Njoku and Mr. Moses Ekpo respectively. Governors Gboyega Oyetola of Osun and Ben Ayade of Cross River states were absent.

However, the meeting x-rayed issues such as the structure of the Nigerian state, the skewed appointments into federal institutions in the country, open crazing, the Apapa port congestion, and the general insecurity in the country among others. Accordingly, they proffered some measures to address them. They called for “urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation leading to the evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions, which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism.” They called for inclusivity in extant governance arrangements including security agencies in ways that meet the federal character principle enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended. They affirmed their resolve “to enforce the ban on open grazing in the South (including cattle movement to the South by foot). They also recommended that the Federal Government should support willing states to develop alternative and modern livestock management systems.”

Besides, the governors recommended “the activation and establishment of ports in other states of the federation to create new jobs and promote socio-economic activities in the country. Above all, they urged the Federal Government to convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency.

It has also been a fitting denouement to a meeting of the PDP governors that barely a week after the Asaba Declaration of the 17 governors, the chief executives of the opposition states also reiterated demand of the people: commitment to restructuring of the federation, which should culminate in practice of true federalism we lost to the military’s unitary system in 1966. The clouds have therefore been gathering on restructuring and what else should the people expect apart from that rain called federalism?

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Surprisingly, the meeting of the southern governors drew flakes from the standpatters insisting on the continuity of the status in ways that are provocative. The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) says the meeting of the Southern Governors is “a call for secession” and that the Southern Governors are “confused and mischievous.” Northern Leaders such as Tanko Yakassai, Professor Usman Yusuf, Senator Ali Ndume, and the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan have also faulted the position of the Southern Governors. In a laughable manner, the southern governors have even been accused of not consulting the Fulani (nation). While the Senate President abandoned his umpire status and said that: “But I believe that when somebody calls for improving the structure that we have, it is a genuine call…But I want to advise here, I believe that as leaders those of us who were elected must not be at the forefront of calling for this kind of thing because even if you are a governor, you are supposed to be working hard in your state to ensure that this restructuring you are calling for at the federal level you have done it in your state as well.”

Be that as it may, beneficiaries of the present decadent system would perhaps never desire a change. Without a doubt, the call for re-federalising Nigeria is not to be ignored if we desire to keep the country together.

The issues the southern governors raised are the issues that we have canvassed variously in this medium for several years, namely, fiscal and institutional restructuring of the Nigerian state in ways that devolve power in the component units of the Nigerian state. We support the actions of the governors. It is a right step in the right direction. This newspaper insists that it should not be discarded in deference to blackmail from the perpetrators of the backward state of affairs in the country who are incurable loafers who contribute nothing to the national coffers. Here is the conclusion of the whole matter: Nigeria’s unity is only feasible on the basis of justice, fairness, and equity. And only federalism can guarantee that as we have been reiterating here in the last 30 weeks.

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