December 14, 2021

Rethinking states as ‘sovereign’ units

Rethinking states as ‘sovereign’ units

VICE President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s recent call for state governors to start seeing their sub-national entities as “sovereign” units carries many implications.

At the maiden edition of the Ekiti State Investment Forum, the VP observed: “You have a bigger GDP than many nations. There is a different mindset when you are sure of a monthly allocation of cash, at least enough to pay salaries, whether you generate income or not.

“This is the challenge. The so-called Dutch disease, one becomes complacent. But what if you had to take responsibility for all those who reside within your borders, pay salaries, from internally generated revenue?”

This is clearly an idea from a genuine progressive, pro-true federalism mindset.

The two major political parties – the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP – are mixed-bags of reactionaries who favour the centralised, feeding bottle system of our political economy and progressives who, like Osinbajo, prefer that power be devolved to the sub-national units.

If our politics were still ideology-based, the two camps should have separated and looked for votes from Nigerians based on their ideologies.

For states and even local governments to see themselves as semi-sovereign or self-accounting units, the 1999 Constitution must be thoroughly reviewed or even changed to present all office-seekers a fait accompli to take responsibility for the units they govern.

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If we depend on governors like Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State to fight for their rights to collect the Value-Added Tax, VAT, the opposition they get from the federal and other state governments will be too frustrating and distracting.

 Such a new and challenging system requires an enabling, not frustrating environment for it to work.

Our past experiment with regionalism proved that when sub-national entities are empowered to use what they have within their economies to fend for themselves they will break barriers.

It enables the people at the grassroots to join in the effort to develop the system, thus massively reducing unemployment. Governments will be forced to reduce their cost of governance.

It will force political parties to field capable and trusted candidates with proven track records, unlike what we now have which throws up candidates that can be manipulated by powerful political cabals.

We urge Vice President Osinbajo to be an agent of change within his political party and push for the implementation of the APC’s campaign promise of restructuring Nigeria.

We are in the seventh year of the regime. Rather than restructuring the country, the administration is straining to revive nonexistent “grazing routes” for herdsmen, thus stoking the fire of endless conflicts between pastoralists and landowners.

States as “sovereign entities” should be enabled.

Vanguard News Nigeria