I would like to begin by thanking the Board of Trustees of the Goddy Jidenma Foundation, and in particular the Trustee/Executive Secretary, Dr. Ije Jidenma for inviting me to chair this 3rd Arc. Goddy Jidenma bi-annual public lecture.
I readily accepted the invitation for two reasons, first my admiration of the philanthropic activities of the Goddy Jidenma Foundation and secondly, my keenness to hear the well-known Prof. Isawa Elaigwu, one of our most cerebral political scientists on the topic of his lecture.
It is normally hazardous, and some would say, ill-advised for the Chairman to express substantive views before the lecturer’s expose on the topic of a lecture. But I have decided to venture a few substantive comments.
I believe that the topic makes this lecture particularly timely now that the country is preparing for the convening of a National Conference as declared by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Clearly, many of our political leaders, including those who are aspiring to get into the corridors of power, and even some of our most talented media commentators, are all living in denial of the seriousness of the systemic challenges facing our country at this time.
It is undeniable that there is political tension throughout the land, and continuing devastating insecurity involving the killings, almost daily, of so many of our fellow citizens in parts of the country. It should be clear to all objective observers that to proceed to the 2015 general elections without first resolving the political crisis that presently shrouds Nigeria, would be fraught with serious dangers to the future cohesion, peace and stability of the country.
While it is tempting to say, as indeed many people have been saying with some credibility, that our country’s underdevelopment and poor performance is a result of poor leadership and misguided conduct of the political class, I would like to submit that most of our country’s current problems are primarily systemic. I believe that the problems can be more effectively tackled if we review and modify our present structure of governance.
Nigeria has since the first military coup d’état of January 1966 adopted a structure of governance which, though it is described as federal, has in reality remained a reflection of the command structure in the military. I mean a structure of governance in which the central authority i.e. the federal government in Abuja, is all-powerful i.e. exercising powers and influence that are inconsistent with a true federal system of governance.
There can be no doubt that Nigeria was developing faster during the period between its independence in October 1960 and the first military coup d’état in January 1966 when it had four economically viable regions and a federal structure of governance that encouraged the majority political leader, Sir Ahmadu Bello, to choose to remain as the Premier of Northern Region while sending one of his Lieutenants, Sir Tafawa Balewa, to go to the central government as the Prime Minister of the Federation.
Our present federal governance structure retards our national development, and breeds instability and conflict within the country.
With 36 federating units and the federal capital territory, each with its full paraphernallia of administration, the country will continue to spend disproportionate amount of its resources on recurrent expenditure, thereby leaving little funds for its capital development. This will continue to mean inadequate funds for roads, education, health and the other infrastructures needed for the development and welfare of the citizens.
And at the same time, the control of the all-powerful centre, i.e. the Federal Government, will continue to fuel destabilizing competition among our ethnically and religiously diverse peoples. The syndrome of “it-is-our-turn-to-produce-the-President” which is at the root of the current tension and conflict in the country will continue to exacerbate the perceptions abroad, and reality at home, of Nigeria’s instability.
I therefore believe that the prospective national conference which the President has decided to convene will offer the country a welcome opportunity to discuss and hopefully reach a national consensus on a more appropriate federal structure of governance in Nigeria. Accordingly, against the background that all parts of the country would rather prefer to continue to live together in one political entity, the first item on the conference agenda should be a discussion of the governance structure that is most suitable for Nigeria.
In my view, the most appropriate structure of governance for Nigeria should be a return to a true federation of six federating units with each developing at its own pace, and the proceeds from “God-given” national resources i.e. minerals both liquid and solid, shared equally among the federating units after the deductions to be agreed for the mineral producing communities and the Federal Government whose exclusive powers will be limited to such national institutions as Defence, Foreign Affairs, Monetary Policy, Immigration, National security, Customs, etc.
I must, at this point, end my Chairman’s brief opening remarks and now give chance to our esteemed Lecturer to deliver his views on the topic before us.
Former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku’s remarks was at the 3rd Goddy Jidenma lecture held 12 November,2013 in Lagos.