By Guy Ikokwu
AT a time like this, 56 years after the end of Nigerian civil war in 1970 it beats the imagination of the outside world to imagine how the largest concentration of black people on planet earth has taken a long and arduous road that has left a hundred and seventy million people despondent and impoverished.
From 1970 to date the predominant leadership has been the military class which is not imbued with the tenet of freedom, civic rights, equal opportunity, economic advancement, and the Rule of Law which are some of the cardinal tenets of democracy.
All the succeeding military class in Nigeria have tried to abate, without success, various structural arrangements. From Gowon to Muritala, to Buhari, to Babangida, to Abacha, to Abdulsalami, to Obasanjo and again to Buhari, they have failed to invoke a workable constitution for the democratic tenets which Nigeria’s fore-fathers had adopted from the imperial Britain.
The structures and ethos of the military is highly egocentric and therefore synonymous to a unitary system of governance which is highly unsuitable for any society of humans that are heterogeneous in culture, diverse in religion, with multiple languages and dialects of which there are over 300 in Nigeria, with differential ecological systems.
A unitary system in such a terrain has to be dictatorial rather than federal.
Awolowo’s former secretary, Odia Ofeimun says “the battle for restructuring is not one that Nigeria can lose. But it could be won for the wrong reasons which is why advocates of restructuring need unusual thinking caps while they are at it”. Quite a few of such advocates are now deceased and have moved on to yonder terrains, most of them were our leaders of yesteryears. From Herbert Macaulay, to Nnamdi Azikiwe, to Obafemi Awolowo, to Bola Ige, to Ahmadu Bello, to Aminu Kano, to Waziri Ibrahim, to Tarka, to Michael Opara, to Akanu Ibiam, to Dennis Osadebe, to Okotie Eboh, to the former Ooni of Ife, to the former Emir of Kano, to Adeniran Ogunsanya, to TOS Benson, to Briggs, to Sarowiwa, to Abubakar Rimi, to Solomon Lar to Dim Ojukwu et al.
The system of governance which our fore-fathers bequeathed to us at independence continued until the 1963 Republican constitution which Gen. Gowon operated after the 1966 military uprising until the federal system of governance was abolished after Gowon’s overthrow by his military associates. The 1979 constitution and the 1999 constitution eroded the federal system of governance in Nigeria.
Among constitutional lawyers worldwide and particularly even in Nigeria under our own distinguished constitutional icon Prof. Ben Nwabueze, it is trite to say that the Nigerian system of government today is not federal but unitary.
The 36 states in Nigeria today are mere appendages of the central unitary government with a military ethos.
The 7th National Assembly observed that the exclusive legislative list which is under the central government had taken away most of the powers which were in the concurrent lists and applicable to the regions.
Major Gen. Chris Alli (retired) commented that the military command after the civil war unitarised the country and diminished the percentage of the formula of derivation. For instance in 1946 the derivation formular for the regions which controlled their resources was 100 per cent, while in 1951 the British recommended 50 per cent derivation, whereas in 1953 the western region actually disbursed a hundred percent of resources they controlled. The 50 per cent derivation continued from 1960 at independence up to 1970 when Gen. Yakubu Gowon reduced the derivation formula to 45 per cent and by 1975 it was reduced to 25 per cent. Nigerians should know that in the first coming of Gen. Buhari it had crashed to 1.5 per cent and Gen. Babangida then raised it to 3 per cent and thereafter it moved to 13 per cent.
It is therefore remarkable to note that with the increase of states from 12 to 36 by the military class, and the accumulation of the legislative list to the central government, the Nigerian states today have become so pauperised as appendages that they are all today amongst numerous Nigerians very laughable, as 28 of these states cannot even pay the salaries of their workers let alone their gratuities and pensions.
Therefore, the Nigerian Unitary system of administration which we have now is not only an illegal constitutional contraption, but also an unworkable political system and a harbinger of a perverse, chaotic, political and economic conundrum. Under these unitary systems Nigerians are getting poorer and poorer and poorer.
President Buhari’s minister Sen. Udoma Udoma told Nigerians recently that the 2017 budget will make Nigeria’s economy to grow by 7 per cent which is a real fallacy. The 2017 budget of over 7 trillion naira with the devaluation of the naira and with the onset economic recession is really smaller than the 2016 budget which has not been performed or accounted for in real terms. An analyst Ego-Alowes in his recent write up and analysis says that there is an economic prediction that by June 2017 the US dollar will be traded at about N1000 a piece. The World Bank said recently that in 2017 the Nigerian economy may grow by 1 percent
The analyst ended thus “ that is why the greatest economic effort so called this year is to thinker with the economic team or reshuffle ministers. The greatest economic game we can play in 2017 is to restructure this nation. It’s certainly, not to bother about terms and statistics like GDP, unemployment figures etc. If we miss out on restructuring, then we will be lucky if by the end of the year the naira will not trade for N1500. And soon after, little will remain of Nigeria if it is not all gone like a smelling fart.”
The issue of restructuring of Nigeria’s political system is already partly documented in the 2014 Abuja Confab which has been endorsed by the federal executive council under President Jonathan, and handed over to incoming President Buhari and laid on the table of the senate president Hon. David Mark who has handed it over to the 8th National Assembly of Saraki/Dogara for further analysis and implementation.
Nigerians should be aware that while we endorse president Buhari’s Security and Corruption challenges, it is the National Assembly that has the challenge to usher in very urgently a restructured system of governance for more viable economic challenges via a reduction of the legislative list for the centre as was in the 1963 republican constitution or thereabout, so that Nigeria will evolve into a true federation with such fiscal federalism as will make the economy to grow at no less than 9 per cent per annum. Nigeria will recover lost grounds and assume a leadership position not only in West Africa but in Africa as a whole.
The military ethos of the last 50 years must be jettisoned from our new system of governance. There may be modifications as diverse Nigerians may postulate for instance that at the centre they may have a president with commanding authority on foreign affairs and territorial integrity and the overall democratic culture which will be sustained, whereas details of the execution of governmental and economic affairs within the purview of the central government should be directed by a prime minister with a seat in the National Assembly, some of whose ministers will be elected assembly men or technocrats from outside the Assembly but with sitting capacities in the National Assembly. This will make the National Assembly a true watch dog with the necessary oversight deliberations in the Assembly on matters of governance and implementation of policies.
Apart from the central government there would be federating units and most suggestions have been anchored on the adoption of 6 federating units or geo-political zones, 3 in the north and 3 in the south. The 774 local governments should be scrapped and the 36 states or more should be accommodated as provinces within the 6 geo-political federating units. The modalities of the functions of the provinces or other structures within the federating units should be harmonized in such a way that the issue of marginalization or intrusive domination or neglect of the grass root within the federating units are not compromised.
In essence the new structures should reduce the cost of governance and increase the capital expenditure in a constitutional manner. More emphasis should therefore be placed on elevation of the capacities of the citizens and individuals to enable them play more vital roles in the nation.
Many prominent citizens from all walks of life have aired their views on these matters from each of the 6 geo-political zones. They include former presidents, religious leaders, former federal ministers and state governors, former military men, members of various ethnic nationalities, educationist, journalists, professionals, women leaders and international and African leaders have in various ways urged President Buhari to urgently leave a lasting legacy in this second administration of Nigeria.
In our new era in Nigeria, we have to go back to the systematic discipline of our forefathers who advocated parliamentary democratic practice which is less expensive and less corrupt than the executive presidential system of today.
In this regard the elected parliamentary members are now subjected unduly to the wit and caprices of the governors, local governments areas, state and central leaders who have a four to eight years tenure with inbuilt immunity clauses and unaccountable security and financial funds, which are being grossly misused.
The present executive system is an extension of military ethos where one man at the head of governance in any tier personalizes his rule without any contributions or even deliberations by other functionaries or subordinates or even surrogates. Its executive’s orders must be obeyed as if he is a military commander, which is not democratic but egotistic and individualistic. Elections and general good will are subverted and purchased as it is evident in today’s Nigeria. That is why elections in Nigeria today are either inconclusive, or fraudulently executed or indefinitely postponed and where the security apparatus of the police and the military are used to subvert the will of the people and the electorate of the area. Nigeria cannot move forward in such a system, that is why the country has to be restructured systematically as a true federation and fiscal responsibilities.
The urgent restructuring of our present system of governance which will increase the level of Nigeria’s governance and appropriation for education to a minimum of 20 per cent to be endorsed through the National Assembly regulation by a referendum by people of Nigeria in this dispensation and in 2017.
As one of Nigeria’s media posted recently “ Nigeria’s unity is sacrosanct but negotiable and the peace of Nigeria cannot be maintained by force of arms as we cannot afford gun point national unity.”
There should be a re-orientation of attitude by the house and extremist among us both in the leadership and among activists. We must live together as brothers and sisters and trim our differences through peaceful dialogue.” So be it and we shall prosper today and thereafter as one nation.
* Chief Guy Ikokwu, Second Republic politician and a stalwart of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, wrote from Lagos