By Adisa Adeleye
Since the return of democracy in 1999, many commentators on Nigerian affairs have been harping on some issues, which need tackling to ensure and enjoy the fruit (dividends) of democracy. It has been observed that the efforts of any government, however genuine, might not be appreciated if the structure of the country is deficient.
For example, the generosity of the Federal Government could be misunderstood if the same Federal Government is surrounded by hungry looking states in tattered clothings which like Oliver Twist would always ask for more.
What comes to mind is a re-examination of the states’ structure.
Many analysts have described the 36 states of the Federation as unwieldy, uneconomic and prone to political instability. Some have suggested the restructuring of the 36 states into six political zones. These zones are South West; North West; South East; North East; North Central and South-South.
On sober reflection, it is considered that the six political zones might harbour certain factors of instability. While the South West zone (Yoruba) and the South East zone (Igbo) contain the same ethnic groups and culture, and some Northern zones harbour people who understand the same language Hausa and majority adhere to the same religion, other zones are not all that lucky.
For example, the South–South zone which consists of Edo, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers are made up of different nationalities of multiple languages and diverse customs and cultures. There are the Binis,Urhobos/Isokos, Delta Igbos, Ijaws, Efiks, Ogojas, Itsekiris, Ibibios, and the Kalabaris, etc. It looks as if there is a need to reexamine the formation that makes up the South-South zone.
However, the complication mentioned above does not diminish the argument of restructuring the 36 States into a lesser number that will be agreed upon by the people of Nigeria to ensure economic prosperity and political stability. The essence of political development in any nation is the practice of continuous dialogue to address growing problems in a growing nation under the maxim of peaceful co-existence.
An informed and experienced leadership would always welcome any opportunity of dialogue on processes that would lead to peace, progress and stability.
One could recall with painful nostalgia, the advice of Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon (now retired General) during the crisis of 1966 when he addressed the nation in a Press Conference on 8th October 1966 that the Nation should choose between Federal system with a strong Central Government, Federal system with a weak Federal Government and Confederation, an entirely new arrangement that would be peculiar to Nigeria and which has not yet found its way into any political dictionary.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian political leaders of the 1966 era instead of choosing the constitutional means of settling disputes among the different ethnic groups opted for a civil war that was costly and unnecessary.
The situation today is the picture of a Federal Government with a strong Central Government behaving as if it is operating a unitary system of Government.
Unfortunately, the 1999 Constitution being operated presently is against the spirit of the 1954 constitution, which embraced the concept of true federalism. It is not too late for the Federal Government to reconcile the present practice of federal/unitary system with the spirit and provisions of 1954 Constitution.
This could be done through a set up of a Review Committee of the people by the people of Nigeria. Any arrangement made could be tested in a form of referendum by the people of Nigeria.
In the country‘s political development, there has been a change from the British parliamentary system of government to the American presidential system which is now proving to be costly for a poor nation. Though the presidential system was enshrined in the 1979 Constitution, no attempt had been made till today to examine its suitability for a poor country like Nigeria for its qualification to be included in the 1999 Constitution.
This and other matters fuelled the challenge to the present Federal Government. The President has been criticized to be insensitive to the cries of many for a review of the Constitution and to examine issues like State Police, General Security and Allocation of national resources.
Criticisms about insensitivity
To me, criticisms about insensitivity to national issues should not be taken as personal attack on the person of the President. Criticisms by the opposition and the offering of alternative measures are critical to the development of
If I were President Goodluck Jonathan, I would welcome all criticisms fair or unfair, genuine or cynical and I would thank all critics for giving me the chance to re-examine my performance on some of the critical issues. In this sober examination of issues, I would definitely take a firm stance on fundamental issues that trouble the minds of the nation.
I believe that some issues are too critical than to be left to the decisions of some committees which might not meet in time or whose reports might not be looked into. The President and not any committee is the ruler of the nation, and he alone carries the responsibility of his position.
My advice is for President Jonathan to stand up and shame his critics by playing to their rules. Faults finders, they say, will still find faults even when they are being put into paradise. But before paradise, there are opportunities for worldly bliss. There are many short-term policies that should be taken to ameliorate the poverty problem and promote employment. Any thinking of long term policy in a moment of despair would be too late.
As Lord Keynes once said, “In the long run, we are all dead”
If the truth must be told, there are roads across the country which floods (not by President Jonathan) have wiped out; there was Power whose infrastructures have been ruined (not by President Jonathan); there have been massive irrigation projects whose infrastructures had run down (certainly not by President Jonathan); and I agree that problems of Agriculture and massive farms were not the faults of President Jonathan.
In fact, if the problems of infrastructure decay and the evil of corruption are there before, it is the responsibility of an elected leader to tackle them quickly and seriously, too.
As I mentioned last week how President Roosevelt managed through the instrument of Budget Deficit to cure economic depression in the USA in the 1930s, President Jonathan can also use the principle of Budget Deficit to overcome the problems of infrastructural decays. What is he waiting for?
The unspent amount in 2012 budget is there for him to ask the National Assembly allow him to use. The assumption is that the Central Bank would not, in a devious way; mop up excess liquidity necessary for expansion and development.