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Nwolise: Nigeria is a federation with inverted coma, revenue allocation should be revisited

15 May 2016   |   2:08 am
Regional government can take place in Federations. We started with three regions in the Federation, then later went into four regions with the creation of Midwest.


Prof Osisioma Nwolise is the Head of Department, Political Science, University of Ibadan. He spoke to IYABO LAWAL on the need for government to dialogue with agitating groups in all regions of the country.

Do you support the idea of regional government as being clamoured for now?

Regional government can take place in Federations. We started with three regions in the Federation, then later went into four regions with the creation of Midwest. The country was very buoyant at that time, now, we have 36 states and the federal capital, some of the states cannot feed themselves, they cannot pay their salaries. I will agree with the suggestion that we should go back to regional government and we already have six geo-political zones, we will convert those political zones into regions, and then, we can have states within, like the local council type of thing for utmost development. Now we have states that can’t pay salaries, so, of what use are the states?

The argument is that the Federal system is too costly and central, what’s your take on this?

There are two things, costly and central. There is too much power and resources in the arms of the Federal Government. It’s a product of the military rule, actually, it was the military that centralised most of these things, and they took all the juicy sources of revenue, leaving the councils and states with little or nothing. So, I think we should give power to the regions, and let them do some of those things that the central government should not be involved in, so that the Federal Government can concentrate on something like external matters, defence and foreign policy, providing enabling environment for the regions to strive.

Right now, there is too much concentration of power at the centre, there’s too much concentration of money at the centre and this is encouraging corruption. When you open a room, and you see too much money, the temptation is to steal them. The money is too much, because it is not being used for the benefit of the people, as well as the development and greatness of the nation. So, the revenue formula has to be revisited so that the money will go to the state and local councils.

It is not the centre that brings government nearer to the people, but the councils. Actually, we are just saying this for theoretical purpose; as far as I am concerned, this country is not a federation. We don’t have a federation, we don’t have a nation, we don’t have a republic, we don’t have a democracy, and so, if we want to be a nation, then we should start thinking seriously about the processes of nation building.

There are lots of things that the government is doing, especially, federal government that is not in tandem with promotion of nation building.

If you are talking about Federation, I will give several examples why this country is not one. This is the only Federation with inverted comas, in the world without State Police or multi level police. Every Federation must have multi level police. What happened at Agatu wouldn’t have happened if there were State Police. I don’t buy this idea that we are not ripe for State Police, that argument is being thrown by enemies of the people. I don’t also buy the idea that governors will misuse the state police, because Federal Government itself is misusing Federal police against the state, all that has to be done is to put checks and balances in place to make sure that governors don’t misuse State Police. Nigeria must have State Police for security to increase.

The other issue is the development and resource allocation. In a Federation, all the corporate unit own the resources within their soil, all that is necessary is that the Federal parliament or the National Assembly will make laws about what percentage of the royalty they pay into the common pool. So the Federal Government does not have to stay in Abuja, and be controlling the oil in Rivers State or controlling the marble in Oyo State, that is not how Federation works. I say this country is not a republic, because in a republic, power is not inherited. Besides, the general public determines the great issues of the day. When issues are too bad, you throw it to the nation in terms of national referendum. In this country, there has never been a national referendum; nothing has been thrown back to the people to decide upon.

We are talking of oil price today, we had problem with the Jonathan administration, we just woke up one January, instead of new year’s gift, we got increase in the pump price of fuel, and this one has also come. These are issues that you throw back to the people.

This government didn’t campaign for increase in price of crude oil. If they take the people seriously, you say during your campaign “if you vote for me, I will end subsidy, which is corruption and I will use the money I will save from this to achieve this and this,” so, when people vote for you, from day one, they know you are going to increase the price and you would have done your homework by carrying them along.

But in this case, we just heard grammar being blown in London and the next thing is increase in fuel pump price, it doesn’t speak well. It shows that we are not doing our job and its capable of alienating the people from the government. We should take the people much more seriously and into confidence.

What do you think is the best system for the country?

A philosopher once said that those who argue about the best system are just ignorant; that whatever the government thinks is best, is best. We were told that this country is a Federation, but it is being run like a unitary state.

Anyway, for multi-ethnic societies and multi-linguistic societies, federation is good, but we must put into effect what will make the federating units to be happy within the union. As at now, the Federating units and union are not happy. The Southeast practicalises the trends during the civil war in 1967, they broke away, and it was war that brought them down.