Return to federalism will not break up Nigeria, says Opadokun
• Laments effect of 1966 coup
General-Secretary, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Ayo Opadokun has said that a return to federalism is a way forward for the Nigeria as such move will not lead to the disintegration of the country but rights the wrongs committed in 1966. Adding that the acceptable and equitable solution to the National crisis for majority of Nigerians is to return to the Federal constitutional arrangement upon which Nigeria secured its independence is because, Nigerian witnessed its golden age in terms of progress and development and much more political collaboration when the Federal Constitutional Governance was operating.
Opadokun who delivered the 5th memorial lecture of Omojola Oluwiye, known as Baba Omojola who died in 2013, in Lagos. He spoke on the theme; Solution To Nigerian National Crisis: Restoration To Federalism.
In his words,“that the centralization and unitarisation of governance since 1966 has led to extreme injustice, inequity and unfairness in the allocation of socio-economic and political appointments in spite of the clear provision in Chapter 11 of the 1999 Constitution dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State Policy which provides that the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”.
Opadokun said, “National restructuring has been given different interpretations by commentators and opinion leaders including well-meaning people and mischief makers to satisfy their predilections and prejudices. I don’t want to join the unnecessary debates as to the correctness or otherwise of each definition.
Nigerian is an heterogeneous people of diverse ethnic nationalities who had occupied and dominated their various geographical space with absolute and undisturbed control of their lands, water, trees, mineral resources, cultures, traditions, artifacts, folklores, mores, religious, languages until the invading colonial masters, nay imperialist Great Britain exploited their superior fire power to conquer the diverse peoples which they forcefully married into co-habitation in a newly created land mass which Lord Lugard’s wife nee Shaw called Nigeria.
The major campaigners for Nigerian independence were representatives of the main ethnic nationalities, Leaders of Trade Unions and Professional Organizations and they were united in a common front against the continuity of the British occupation and administration of Nigeria.
The Nationalists compromised among themselves and negotiated for a Federal Constitutional Governance having regard to the compelling reality that the new country is made up of heterogeneous peoples. So, the 1960 Independence and the 1963 Republican Constitutions were therefore federal constitutions. In them, there were three sections, Exclusive, Concurrent and Residual powers. Exclusive for Central, Concurrent for Regions while Residual was common for the use of the two tiers of government,Federal and Regional Governments between 1951 – 1966. Nigerian pioneer political rulers performed fairly well in governance as beginners and there were healthy competitions among the various governments in free education, establishment of pioneer tertiary institutions, development of farm settlements, river basin, media institutions, first minimum wage among others.
“The Constitutional provisions were of great assistance to the two tiers of government, that’s, Central and Regional Governments. In both constitutions, each region kept 50% of proceeds from its natural economic resources to itself, contributed 20% to the Federal Government and put 30% into the distributable account which were shared out among the regions on the basis of need. Fiscal federalism was a constitutional order.
But as soon as the military overthrew the civilian government of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, as Prime Minister, the Federal Constitution was the first casualty as it was suspended with the Constitution, Decree 1 of January 17, 1966 but not published in the official Gazette until March 4, 1966. Within the shortest possible time, the Military Government had appropriated to the Central Government, about 68% of powers and authorities that were within the competence and authority of the Regional Governments. The Military Rulers equally appropriated to itself the major means of raising resources in the regions to the central military government. And since the Military Governors were agents of their bosses on military postings to the Regions/States, they were bound to comply with the decrees and directives of the ruling military rulers.
Again, the Military had Balkanized Nigeria into very unviable component units and thereby effectively weaken the component units and unproductively increased the Recurrent expenditure to finance the Nigerian bureaucracy to about 80% of our total national income till date. Nigeria has therefore been left with less than 20% for capital expenses. Nigerians can now appreciate why there had been no commensurable meaningful development related to the humongous earning of Nigeria from petrol dollars which is above 400 billion USD in the last 50years. Our global ratings in Human Development Index, Infant mortality Rate and Gross Domestic products index/analysis do not correspond with the huge receipt.These three statistics/analysis expose Nigeria to be within the ranks of war ravaged areas like Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia etc.
He added; “Since the military overthrew the civilian government in 1966, they have imposed a Centralist and Unitarist government to which they have appropriated disproportionate national resource at the expense of the component units.
The centralization and unitarisation of governance since 1966 has led to extreme injustice, inequity and unfairness in the allocation of socio-economic and political appointments in spite of the clear provision in Chapter 11 of the 1999 Constitution dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State Policy particularly section 14:3 which provides “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”.
The Federal character Commission remains a charade,thereby leading to unending National incohesion, mutual national mistrust and regular political instability and disunity which are traceable to the centralist and unitarist constitution. But the Nigerian state has continued with the false claim that we are running a federal government.
As of today, four zones of Nigeria as well as the ethnic National nationalities which were the building blocks upon which Nigeria edifice was constructed are united and determined to campaign aggressively for Nigeria to restore to Federalism.
“Let it be said without sounding alarmist that the Nigerian State has been held together by the force of arms, first by the imperialist Great Britain and later since the Nigerian Army illegally supplanted the constitutional order in existence on January 15, 1966 and have since replaced the negotiated Federal Constitution with their various decrees and the militarily programmed various constitutional orders which are usually brought into existence by decrees, the last being Decree 24, of 1999 which brought into existence, the current 1999 Constitution.
“Let’s also note that almost all nation states formerly held together by force of arms have virtually disintegrated. Today, there is no more USSR or Yugoslavia on the world map. Even the mercenary imperial master, Great Britain had to concede significant freedom and independence to Ireland and Scotland in the Good Friday Accord before there could be some negotiated peace.
It is human to prefer being governed by your people and that is why self determination is the anthem of this new millennium.
It is the prevailing centralist and unitarist agenda that is responsible for the retardation and under development of Nigeria in spite of our God-given human and natural endowment. Return to Federalism will not break up Nigeria. The civil war which was avoidable except for the personal ego of the military leaders did not settle the Nigerian National Question.
“But the fact that matters to me is that Nigerian secured its independence on a Federal constitutional order. The military politicians treasonably and unwisely overthrew the existing order with their decrees which essentially abrogated the existing federal constitution. We cannot make progress nor develop until we return to the negotiated federal constitutional order. Then Nigeria will be able to creditably respond to her manifest destiny as the Leader of the black race to which we have remained a great disappointment till date. Let’s stop being a giant with a feet of clay.
“On Omojola, he said; “Baba was always the leading light of many ideological struggles for Nigeria’s genuine emancipation from imperialist exploitation; against the neo-colonialist agents collaboration with the foreign invaders and the various efforts of educating, informing, conscentizing, and mobilizing Nigerians of different cadres to jointly work together to build an egalitarian society in our country.
The last was his unadvertised leading coordinating roles in the Peoples representative assembly to write an all-inclusive constitution for Nigeria, called PRONACO. He in fact died on active service at Akure in the process of presenting the PRONACO draft to Senator Femi Okunrounmu’s public hearing for the South West. Baba should have died hereafter because he remains irreplaceable because of his unique characteristic.
On his part, 3rd Military Administrator of Lagos, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu who was the chairman of the occasion, said; “Baba was somebody in the struggle to get things to work in Nigeria; five years have gone since his departure, in this five years, I we’ve restored Federalism, Nigeria would have gained so much. What we’ve lost in those five years of inactivity is such that even when we restructure, it would take about 20 years to recovered what we’ve lost in five years. We must get back to federalism so long that people want to have a country where they live and grow together.