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That the ‘federation’ may prosper


he Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari, who practically scorned the idea in his New Year message, is merely playing the ostrich: That restructuring, true federalism or devolution of powers has become an idea that must be supported and brought to fruition is an indubitable fact of the nation’s life today.

Many statesmen and other well-meaning Nigerians, indeed, have spoken eloquently and factually on the need to have Nigeria properly run as a functional federation where equity and justice reign.

While establishing the nexus between federalism and his call for the devolution of the economy, some time ago, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar also brilliantly submitted that the nation is blessed with human and mineral resources needed to achieve greatness.

It has been said before: The Federal Government should, indeed, start by devolving powers over water resources, agriculture and indeed mineral resources to the states with a view to enhancing their powers to create wealth for themselves and the nation at large.

Certainly, an appropriate understanding of the idea of making Nigeria a proper federation is afoot all over the country. And the manipulative tendencies of some political jobbers who deliberately distort the idea and confuse members of the public about the benefits of federalism will soon be curbed. And members of the political class and the people must understand the indisputable truth that the federating units of Nigeria can only be greatly strengthened by the devolution of powers to them.

As this newspaper once noted, devolution brings that ability to take decisions closer to those affected by those decisions. The bad decisions taken by the representatives and decision makers in Abuja and what they say in defence of the old order at the moment are a disservice to the nation and its future.

Unfortunately, the elite and even most public intellectuals including those in the ivory towers are not so enthusiastic about deepening an understanding of devolution of powers to the federating units. Most lament glibly about lack of without settling the political issues that are responsible for such retardation.

Clearly, one of the factors responsible for the ongoing failure of Nigeria is over-centralisation of powers.

Since the military politicians destroyed the federal structure that triggered exponential growth of the Northern, Western, Eastern and Midwestern regions of old, Nigeria has not recorded any tangible growth in any economic or political sense.

‘The selfless leaders from the North and South of Nigeria in the first republic were arguably the last of the great men this country has had and since the structure of governance that propelled them to those great heights was ruined, crass opportunism and enlightened self interest have created a situation in which small minds consistently succeed in taking the reins of power and they have led the country to the nadir of reproach.’

It bears repeating that it is time for all Nigerians, including those who profit from misleading the people about the many benefits of restructuring that, just as there was oil in the South, cocoa in the West, rubber and timber in the Mid-west, the North of Nigeria had grains other agricultural products like groundnuts and cotton for a world-class textile industry upon which it prospered. No region was subservient to the other and none can ever be. All can only be interdependent.

It is therefore shameful that Nigerian leaders of today would not be eager to harness these vast and diverse resources in different areas within the context of a truly federal Nigeria.

As once noted again, Kogi State, for instance, can go to Nasarawa State and invest in some mineral resources and employ the people there. Just as Lagos State is currently doing with Kebbi State in massive rice production. It is Kebbi’s citizens that are employed and taxes are paid to the state, after all.

That way, there will be a balance of opportunity to exploit what is available in all states. Why should agriculture, water and mineral resources be the preoccupation of the government at the centre in a supposedly federal governance structure? What obtains in Nigeria now is a fraud that helps no one but destroys the nation’s future.

Therefore, instead of shooting down and foreclosing discussions of opportunities that abound in federalism, all Nigerians should, as a starting point, encourage their representatives to take another look at the recurrent and exclusive legislative lists with a view to devolving more powers to the federating units.

The exclusive list that gives too much power to the Federal Government in exploitation of mineral and water resources, especially, should be relaxed and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) should begin the process of devolution of powers to the federating units for the rapid development of the country.

Besides, those who wield federal powers now should be persuaded that Nigeria would not be broken or hampered by the practice of federalism as some have mischievously submitted. Indeed, a properly organised federal structure will strengthen democracy and make the country prosper economically.

At the moment, poverty in the federating units, all of which keep asking for bailouts from the centre before they can pay even basic bills, is intolerable and unacceptable.

It must be reiterated that for Nigeria to prosper, the nation’s powerful, influential men and women should raise their voices, exert pressure on those in leadership positions at all levels to stop playing undue politics with the need to return to the idea of a federal system of government in letter, in spirit and in truth.

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