Dankofa: Decentralisation is more beneficial
Dr. Yusuf Dankofa teaches law at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State. Fielding questions from KAMAL TAYO OROPO, he said the way to solve the viability question of most of the states of the Federation is decentralisation of the polity in favour of the state and local governments.
In revisiting the debate over calls for Nigeria to return to the regional arrangement as practiced in the First Republic and despite over 40 years after the first set of states were created, why are people still not comfortable with the present arrangement?
I personally do not subscribe to that argument. My considered position is support for devolution of more powers to the state and local councils. The Federal Government seems overburdened with the Exclusive Legislative List. Why should the Federal Government exercise exclusive controls over fishing and fisheries, for example? This no doubt slows down the potentials of industrialisation in core fishing areas, which states or local councils that are in coastal areas may take advantage of. Also, mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas, should be on the concurrent list; not the exclusive list.
The advantage of this is that states can effectively appropriate their God-given resources for their people and pay tax to the centre. States may also adopt the principles of comparative advantage to benefit from resources that some of them don’t have. The 68 items listed for the centre is too wide and burdensome in terms of implementation, but highly attractive when it comes to the enjoyment of the prerequisites of office. The local councils also should be more empowered in terms of public primary and secondary education. The snag, therefore, should be more powers to the state and local councils, coupled with a vibrant legislative councils to act as checks on perceived excesses of these levels of governments.
That is a lot more gainful. Decentralisation means devolution of more powers to states and local councils from the centre. This of course, entails constitutional amendment. But it can be done. With the right attitude to governance and political will, it can be done.
But advocates of a strong center often point to the nature of the Nigerian-state as a complex entity. Don’t you think they have a case in this regard?
And we asked what is complex about Nigeria? The only thing complex about the country is that some rampaging cabals have held her hostage and turned her into a fat cow that must be milked for their sustenance. They exploit the diverse nature of the country for selfish ends. This cabal is the leadership class, whose only agenda is to continually fight themselves to retain power for the purposes of being enjoyed.
Would shifting some of the centre’s responsibilities to component units not amount to redistribution of wealth to private pockets at the state and council levels?
That is a prospect waiting to happen if the present mercantilist political structure is maintained. The assumption is, those who can engineer this change would be revolutionaries who will assist in the emergence of a responsible and more forward-looking political class. The re characterisation of Nigeria should be structural and human. In trying to fix the decayed structures, emphasis should be put on human capacity especially, integrity and moral components of human development. If this can be done, then the practical reality of success is achievable.
A new political process must, therefore, be established and sustained to complement structural development. This new process will be truly democratic, that is all-inclusive. It should not be monetised, because monetisation of the process is what breeds alienation. A system that promotes and propels only the rich into leadership position and political participation is evil and decadent.