By Olayinka Ajayi
ACTING National Chairman of Social Democratic Party, SDP, Chief Supo Shonibare, is an unapologetic Awoist whose agitation for a restructured Nigeria is unshaken. In this interview, the Afenifere chief among others maintained that restructuring is the only antidote for most of our economic, political and security challenges.
On the state of the nation
The country is in a perilous state of instability with economic, political and security challenges. Anyone of these factors is a major challenge on its own not to talk about a combination of all in an active mode. When one then throws into the mix the increasing unemployment challenge among the youth, which is currently at 38 per cent, then it is obvious that we are sitting on a time bomb.
On how to address insecurity, poor infrastructure, and dwindling economy among other challenges
The problems of insecurity, meeting infrastructural deficit requirement needs, dwindling economy and massive unemployment rate can only be properly addressed and resolved by our devolving legislative, executive and judicial powers and functions to the federating units to unleash the great potential of Nigerians in all the states. It will attract both International and local entrepreneurship.
Any other palliative will be kicking the can forward without making a decisive impact on addressing these challenges.
The states need to be able to exercise executive, legislative and judicial functions on the issue of licensing and issuing permits and regulations on the exploitation of the mineral resources within their territorial boundaries. All our states will benefit from this approach and the Federal Government would then limit its revenue drive to a proportion of taxes from all these economic activities settled and agreed as being its share thereof.
On the Senate justification of N5.5 billion budget on cars for senators
The issue of recurrent expenditure of both the National Assembly and the Executive needs to be placed on the front burner of our economic recovery. The spectre of the cost of running government and recurrent expenditure taking 70 per cent of our earnings is most unacceptable and unfair. We will struggle to rescue the ship of the state from shipwreck, if we continued on that trajectory.
On Prof Banji Akintoye and Yoruba leadership crisis
There is no crisis or controversy in Yoruba land. Prof Akintoye is a renowned historian and former Senator of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN in the Second Republic.
I read his releases stating unequivocal loyalty to our Leader in Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti and our Elder, Chief Ayo Adebanjo. Professor Akintoye concedes to them and being his leaders. They are Yoruba. The Yoruba people know their Leader.
The group which adopted him is another organization with a different objective. Afenifere is a socio-political and ideological group steeped in the ideological pathways of the Action Group, UPN and Alliance for Democracy, AD- at the stage of our incorporating AD.
It is an unapologetic federalist group, dedicated to ensuring our return to a truly federal structure and the adoption of economic imperatives capable of enthroning an ideological platform able to formulate the necessary policies to alleviate poverty and constantly devise policies to evolve a fairer society. That is why restructuring the polity to a truly federal system of government is probably the most urgent overriding objective of the group at the moment.
So, only state police can adequately attend to our meeting our security challenges. A federal body cannot. Federal Police functions should be limited to the interstate and enforcing compliance with malfeasances contained in the Federal Legislative list.
The spectre of insecurity will continue to constitute a recurring increasing challenge as our population increases, with local warlords and organized criminals dominating territories in many states.
We can devise a State Police template which does not confer operational powers and functions on governors. We also need to amend the Police Act and also withdraw this power and function from the prerogative of the President too, so that the political office holders are only confined to funding and performing oversight functions.
Operational responsibilities should be conferred on Federal and State Police commissions.
How will you describe the reported waterway bill reintroduced by the Federal Government?
The Waterways bill ceding Inland Waterways to the Federal entity is inconsistent with our being a federation. We ought to have long interrogated this anomaly. The Rivers Basin authorities should come under the states they are sited. It negates the concept of our being a Federation to a unitary system of government if the Central body controls inland waterways.
It is not the name you adopt that is descriptive of a political system. It’s the features of the structures in the system itself. One of the features of a Federal system is an overriding objective ensuring the limitation of the jurisdiction of the Federal or Central government to constitutionally defined stated legislative list, which will only entail interstate economic and security needs for the collective and good governance in the polity. Other stated and residual functions must reside with the federating units, being states in our present structure.
The states will therefore exercise legislative, executive and judicial functions and powers as contained in the State Legislative list, as well as residual powers and functions.
Unfortunately for us, since the advent of the Military in 1966, we have been in the Unitary travel direction with a never ending increase in legislative functions and powers for the Federal entity, enshrined in its exclusive list.
Even the Legislative list of states is infringed upon by making them concurrent. In the event of the list being concurrent, the Federal Legislative list takes precedent. This completely negates the structure adopted when we became an independent nation and subsequently a Republic. The National Assembly should confine itself to legislating on international waterways and not inland waterways.
Next Tuesday, it will be 59 years of Nigeria’s independence. How have we fared so far?
At 59, we are still playing ostrich in not realising that the path to nationhood is in accepting our “unity in diversity”- apologies to Sir Ahmadu Bello. We must acknowledge the truism that no stable entity in the world, comprised of various ethnic nationalities, has successfully operated a unitarist system of government.
Even homogeneous countries are gradually devolving powers to parts of their country. Operating a unitary system even if labelled as being a federation, tends to exacerbate ethnic sensibilities and suspicion, which encourage further deepening of ethnic divide.
It also affords our power brokers and rulers a red herring ethnic identity trump card for anyone interrogating the misrule. We may recall how a former convicted governor was able to play the ethnic card for support in his enclave. If we have a restructured entity, the people indigenous within that territory will hold their leaders more accountable.
The Federal body, as in all Nation state, will continue to legislate on foreign exchange and other interstate interests and functions that would allow the federal entity to still act as the Police and watchdog in the interest of beleaguered states and will be able to prosecute a state governor or any other power broker, who may have perfected the “state capture” of his state.
So going forward, restructuring is the anecdote able to assuage most of our economic, political and security challenges.