Friday, 9th June 2023

We can’t be downer, can we?

By Ray Ekpu
18 May 2021   |   4:12 am
Recently, the evil men took the fight nearer to the precints of the Presidential Villa, by “foolishly attempting” to burgle the residence of the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari ...

Anybody who lives within Nigeria knows that Nigeria is down, not up. This down-ness is more evident in security terms. Nowhere in Nigeria is safe: churches, mosques, highways, footpaths, police stations, army cantonments, you name it, death stalks. Recently, the evil men took the fight nearer to the precints of the Presidential Villa, by “foolishly attempting” to burgle the residence of the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari which is just a whisper away from the President’s office and residence.

That is the height of their audacity and Nigerians are beginning to speculate whether or not our security forces have the capacity to protect our President from being kidnapped for humongous ransom. We hope that doesn’t happen because China may be unwilling to lend us money for that purpose. As part of the growing nationwide concern for our security or more appropriately the lack of it, 17 Governors from the three zones in Southern Nigeria met recently in Asaba, Delta State to ventilate their views on the state of the nation.

The last time they met was in October 2017 and since then they have, as a group, gone into quiet, worrisome hibernation giving the impression that what may have been going on in the country is unimportant to them and if it is important they do not want to know. Of course, two of the zones, South West and South East have within this period responded to the high level of insecurity in the zones by establishing Amotekun and Ebube agu, respectively, their own regional security outfits.

Only the South South is yet to put together its own regional security force. But the two established security outfits are yet to make any significant impact in their zones because of assorted impediments. However, the 17 Governors decided that they needed, as a group, to put in the public space their views on a number of national issues. Belated as this is, a number of Nigerians welcomed their intervention. Whether their views are respected or not no one can ignore the fact that nine of these states produce about 80% of the nation’s foreign exchange wealth through oil and gas and at least 70% of our Value Added Tax revenue. The issues they covered included state police, open grazing of cattle, devolution of powers, restructuring, federal character and national dialogue. None of those issues is new to those who have paid attention to Nigeria’s historical trajectory.

Secondly, most sensible and patriotic Nigerians believe that most of those suggestions are the irreducible minimum requirement for a stable and united Nigeria. In any case, those suggestions have been canvassed on several platforms from all parts of Nigeria since 2014 when President Goodluck Jonathan put together a national conference. Also in article seven of the APC Constitution the party commits itself to the promotion and fostering of Nigeria’s unity, political stability and national consciousness of Nigerians. It also promises to promote true federalism in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The APC set up a committee under the leadership of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. The committee travelled to all the zones, received tons of memoranda and oral interventions from the people which formed the basis of their recommendations. Such recommendations as State Police and restructuring are part of the APC report. Since then there have been pressures on the APC led Federal Government to implement the report.

Such pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Since then there have been all kinds of conferences, mini conferences, town hall meetings, colloquiums, seminars, newspaper columns, radio and television interviews. There has been no shortage of seminal ideas from Nigeria’s best and brightest brains on how to solve Nigeria’s problems. What has been lacking is the political will. So the call for another national dialogue is absolutely unnecessary. What is needed is for those who are in a position to influence the Federal Government to take a decision on these matters to do so without further delay.

The reactions of the Senate President Dr Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila to the communiqué of the Southern Governors is very disappointing because they are among those who wine and dine with the President regularly and they control the National Assembly which can amend or make new legislation for the alleviation of these problems. Lawan was reported as dismissing restructuring because elected officials should not lead such agitations. He also reportedly said that the worsening security situation in the country is not as a result of Buhari’s incompetence but the lack of a functional local government system. On his part, Mr Gbajabiamila reportedly said “If truth be told we all have equal share in the blame for what is happening today. Whatever challenges we have we must all come together to tackle them.”

These two men are artful dodgers of their responsibilities by these statements. They are either grovelling sycophants or unpardonable cowards. The two houses of the National Assembly that they head have passed several motions on these issues. Some of their members have wept openly in their chambers for the lack of ability on the part of the Federal Government to solve these security problems. The two leaders have carried themselves to the Presidential Villa several times for meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari on security. They have questioned security chiefs in their committees about state of their equipment, utilisation of funds voted for security and the lack of commensurate performance by the security agencies. Now, they pretend that they do not know that the major problem with our security lies with the Federal Government of Nigeria. Any other institution including the 36 governors can only play a tangential role.

Why do I say this? There are three reasons for this. One, all the military and para-military agencies are exclusively controlled by the Federal Government only: Army, Air Force, Navy, Immigration, Customs, Road Safety, Police etc. Two, the Federal Government collects for itself the chunk of the nation’s resources. Here is the revenue allocation formula: Federal Government 52.68%; All the 36 States put together 26.72%; All the 774 Local Governments put together 20.60%. As you can see the 36 States and all the 774 local governments get a total of 47.32% while the Federal Government gets the largest share. Which of the three institutions should do more for Nigeria?

Three, since independence the framers of our Constitutions have whittled down the powers and responsibilities of States in favour of the Federal Government. Here are the facts: 1960 Constitution: 44 items on the Exclusive List, 28 on Concurrent; 1963 Constitution: 45 Exclusive List, 29 Concurrent; 1979 Constitution: 66 Exclusive List, 28 Concurrent; 1999 Constitution: 68 Exclusive List, 30 Concurrent.

Nigerians have been crying about this lopsidedness in the power sharing and revenue which has led to maximum dysfunctionality of Nigeria, but the National Assembly, our chop-and-quench National Assembly, has done nothing about it. This particular National Assembly which has been christened by some critics as a Ranka dede parliament has, like its predecessors failed to do what can move Nigeria significantly forward.

Let me mention a few things it could have done to move Nigeria to a higher level: electoral reforms, state police, judicial reforms, oil and gas industry reforms and solid minerals. I keep asking the question: what did solid minerals do to us that we do not want to look in its direction?

There are trillions and trillions of dollars under our feet by way of solid minerals in all the 774 local governments but no one has shown any significant interest in that treasure. So why can’t the National Assembly bring out legislation that makes it possible for the Federal, State and Local Governments to co-own, co-exploit these solid minerals for the benefit of all Nigerians. Anyone who is not honest enough to admit that it is the tardiness, rigidity and incompetence of the Federal Government that is keeping Nigeria down is simply living in a fool’s paradise.

It is the support and praise singing of cowards and sycophants in high and low places that is making those who run our affairs to believe that anyone who is not singing their praises is a hater of Nigeria. Those people are as guilty of the dysfunctional state of affairs as those who sit up there in the seat of power. Shame on those co-conspirators in the demolition of Nigeria, a country that has all the potentials of greatness but is held down by our many misfits in government.