Restructuring as key to development
Sir: The renewed and growing clamour for a restructuring of the country and the consequential devolution of economic powers to Nigeria’s federating units is one borne out of patriotism and self-preservation, and the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Again and again it has been reiterated that it is in all our interests to re-work our political and economic systems.
We know we will make no real progress practising an unjust system that generates so much strife, hate and violence; yet for selfish reasons our political leadership persists on the journey to self-immolation.
It is submitted that the business of a modern national government in the 21st century is the development and implementation of socio-economic policies that improve the lives of the people. A government faced with mounting economic problems should not be busy perpetually playing the role of fire-fighters, putting off different sectarian fires across the country, fires that have been occasioned by the structural and systemic flaws of a faulty and corrupt political-economic system.
Our non-chalant attitude towards governance and our well-being is not taking us anywhere, other than over the precipice – if we continue on this trajectory and the fervent opposition to Federalism.
The fear that Federalism is tantamount to the parochial idea of “Resource Control” and will entail the total control of OUR precious oil and gas revenue is unfounded, especially seeing that the economic bankruptcy of Northern Nigeria is not the goal of federalism, nor is it in the interest of southern Nigeria to have a faltering Northern Nigeria.
Federalism is NOT resource-control. Whilst a sense of ownership is given to states or communities wherein natural resources are located, the proposed Nigerian fiscal federalism does not entail the absolute control of resources by sub-national governments. Federalism is a system of accommodation, one that can be engineered and reviewed to suit and serve the legitimate aspirations of ethnic nationalities in a country.
Furthermore, the terms of our proposed political-economic system, including its fiscal component was enunciated in the 2014 National Conference Report. The report largely canvasses for a simple review of items under the Exclusive list of the 1999 Constitution with a view to devolving economic power to the sub-national units that constitute Nigeria.
A simple devolution of economic powers to Nigeria’s federating units would engender a lot of positives for the country. It would greatly reduce the frenzied contest by ethnic nationalities for the control of the centre – the sole dispenser of goodies, thus restoring much-needed social cohesion.
It would also engender good governance at the sub-national level by occasioning the emergence of serious-minded state governors. Seeing that the recurrent expenditure of states will have to be financed via the internally generated revenue of states, only men and women prepared to think and to work will present themselves for elective office, knowing that they will not be receiving hand-outs from the government at the centre.
The benefits of federalism, nay the decentralisation of power, will cascade into every facet of our national life, from economic to security, to social cohesion, to power generation and lots more. It is time to call on the current APC-led administration to keep its word by abiding by the contents of its manifesto and consequently ensuring the practice of federalism, in order that we may live prosperous lives.
• Ugochukwu Joseph Amasike,