*Can they muster the political will?
By JideAjani, General Editor
There is a general consensus among Nigerians that things cannot continue like this. Yet, consciously or subconsciously, successive administrations continue to do the same thing while expecting different outputs and outcomes.
The buzzword, RESTRUCTURING, readily comes to mind in the face of responsibilities and roles assigned to the tiers of government – federal and state and local government – in the 1999 Constitution as amended.
What do the candidates plan to do to change the governance paradigm with a view to steering Nigeria off this course of retrogression? How do they plan to amend the 1999 Constitution to allow for flexibility in governance operations to engender genuine growth and development in the face of this deceitful unitary document which calls itself a federal document?
Interestingly, some of those who occupy offices at the federal level do not see any need to devolve powers to the states. Being beneficiaries of the skewed structure, some elected public officeholders pay lip service to the issue. Calls to members of the National Assembly to legislate, either through enactment or amendment, on some economic and political issues that require restructuring or realignment for effective governance and progressive outcomes have almost always fallen on deaf ears.
The popular saying about doing the same thing and expecting different outcomes relates to mental health issues, may, after all, be right about Nigeria.
In a 2017 independence anniversary publication in Vanguard, a cross-section of leaders postulated that restructuring remained a major issue worthy of attention.
According to Reverend Samson Ayokunle, past President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, “there is the need to update how we govern ourselves, thus, restructuring the nation after 56 years is a welcome development. It must be done without bias or prejudice to religion, ethnicity, class or group affiliation. We must develop our homegrown democracy. The present system is a hybrid of the American and British systems. It is not working well for us”.
In his view, Professor of constitutional law and former Special Adviser to late General Sani Abacha, Auwalu Yadudu, believes “it is legitimate for any group to agitate, my view about restructuring is that if you cannot have your way according to the terms of the existing order; that is chaos; that is anarchy. I am not opposed to individuals or groups sitting to discuss their problems to seek to find solutions to them, but, as you can see, the antagonism, the agitation, the absolutist position that some individual blocs take are obviously unattainable if there is no give and take, if there is no understanding like our forefathers did. What it means, therefore, is that the 1999 Constitution and the existing laws under which we operate are not perfect and need to be addressed”.
For Chief E. K. Clark, elder statesman and former federal minister, “the reason Nigeria is not progressing the way it should is because of the unitary form of government we operate in the name of federalism. I think that is the problem. We need to restructure the country in line with the 2014 National Conference recommendations, 600 recommendations to move forward.”
Former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi insists that “it is no gainsaying that the vestiges of these tensions remain very much with us today; and as such, the demand for restructuring or rearrangement of the country should be taken seriously by our political leaders and other stakeholders across the nation. True ‘federalism and presidential system of government,’ no doubt, appear close to the heart of the people and, if well handled, ‘will address the issues and accommodate all interests, fears and apprehensions of various ethnic groups in Nigeria.
The question that needs to be addressed is how to achieve this goal and now!”
Late governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, captured the feelings of many states: ”For Nigeria to survive, the federal government should give up some of its powers to the federating units. At the moment, the federal government represents an injustice to millions of minorities in Nigeria, especially the Niger-Delta … a federal government that does not produce but consumes is unsustainable federal government and such a federal government can only protect its unfair privileges through the force of arms.
Senator Joy Emordi believes that ”true and healthy, competitive federalism saw to the establishment of the first television station in Africa by the Western Region and the emergence of the Eastern Region economy as the fastest growing economy in the continent. While the inauguration of the University of Nigeria Nsukka by the Eastern Region on October 7, 1960, was quickly responded to with the founding of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1961 and the University of Northern Nigeria (Ahmadu Bello University), Zaria, in 1962.
Therefore, if Nigeria has continued on a downward slide into poor governance, a battered consumer economy, and has become the butt of jokes in the comity of nations as a “fantastically corrupt” country, it is because we have steadily destroyed the foundations of federalism on which our founding fathers agreed to build”.
Since 2017 when these leaders of thought made this position, nothing has changed in the governance ecosystem regarding restructuring.
Renowned professor of politics, Jonah Isawa Elaigwu, explains how Nigeria got into this bind; “under the inspiration of successive military governments, the objective of subsequent Nigerian constitutions has been to strengthen the central government.
As a matter of fact, a number of factors led to the centralization of political power under military rule, making it easy for subsequent constitutions to be designed in favour of the central government. These factors include: (1) the nature of military legislation, which made it easier to issue decrees taking over the functions of the subnational units; (2) the civil war, which gave emergency powers to the federal government to take over the functions of the subnational units – powers that were not reversed after the war; (3) the creation of more subnational states (now thirty-six), which weakened the resource base of the states; (4) the increase in petro-naira,6 especially through profit taxes that accrued to the central government; and (5) globalization, has resulted in the strengthening of centralization, at least in the Nigerian case.
Restructuring, not about returning to regionalism, says ABC Nwosu
Nigeria has had a number of constitutions since 1914 – about nine, not all of which were promulgated or implemented. Under colonial rule Nigeria had, in effect, six constitutions: the 1922, 1932, 1946, 1951, and 1954 Constitutions, along with the Independence Constitution of 1960.
After independence, Nigerian governments authorized the writing of five constitutions: the 1963, 1979, 1989, and 1995 draft Constitutions, along with the 1999 Constitution of the current Fourth Republic”.
The first step to breaking the shackles of stagnation would be to amend some sections of the 1999 Constitution.
Although many have argued that a good-hearted leader can deliver good governance with the constitution as it is, the counterpoise to that is that a whimsical approach to governance has never been sustainable. So, what happens when a despotic individual takes charge? What about the institutions of governance? Built on rule of law, they would deliver on their mandates and create an environment where progress is made.
The leading candidates all have something to say about their views on what needs to be done. They would not be the first. It is the political will to see it through that has always been lacking.
The Nigeria of our dreams requires cosmopolitan politics and an all-inclusive governance structure with the essential capacity to harness our diversity in a just and fair environment where the rights of all citizens are protected by a transparent government that is not just deliberate and purposeful but also conscious of its duty to the citizens and its role and prestige in global aûairs.
•Following rule of law
Make government at the Federal, State and Local levels leaner and more eûcient in service delivery by streamlining their functions
Meet needs of a rapidly growing population in a speedily changing global economic environment by bringing decision making as close as possible.
Foster the spirit of co-operation and consensus in a nation of diverse ethnic groups, cultures and religions.
Make government more accountable and nurture good institutional democratic governance.
Restructuring the Party
All who support the calls for the restructuring of our federation are united in their desire to live in a society that works better and works for its people. They are also united by their love for their country, their patriotism.
Those who do not love their country would just want it to break up; they would not be interested in making Nigeria work better.
We shall work with the National Assembly and all other stakeholders, to initiate the process of genuine and transparent constitutional amendments.
•Devolve delivery of such social and welfare issues like education, health, etc. to the States and Local Governments
•Devolve issues bordering on minerals and mines, internal security including Police, law and order, railways, communications, transport, environment, land matters, etc to the concurrent list
•New revenue allocation formula to be negotiated through the National Assembly.
•Central Government retaining the sole powers of quality assurance, policy standardization and implementation.
•Local Governments to become a true third tier of government with ûnancial autonomy
Deepening democracy at all levels: community participation & reorientation committees (cprc)
·CPRC will be a reform agent and catalyst for a New Nigeria. It is our manifest intention that the CPRC will be in all the 8,809 wards in Nigeria.
Membership of the CPRC:
•At the Ward Level
•At the Local Government level
•At the level of the state
NNPP AND RESTRUCTURING OF NIGERIA
The conversation in respect of the necessity to or not to restructure Nigeria has been raging for over a decade now. A number of factors are fuelling this conversation, some of which include:
The real and perceived injustices by successive administrations
•The failure of successive administrations to respect the letter and spirit of our Constitution;
·Our inability as a people to appreciate and honour the spirit of true federalism that our founding fathers envisaged;
•Our failure as a federation to evolve structures, processes, and instructions based on our peculiarities and in line with the needs and aspirations of our people, especially since the existing structures have failed to meet such expectations
Restructure the polity through effective legal and institutional reforms to entrench the rule of law, aggressively fight corruption, reduce cost of governance, and establish an honest and efficient civil service.
To achieve these:
Strengthen our federalism by critically reviewing the 68 items on the exclusive list of the Federal government.
Reduce cost of governance in Nigeria will start with the immediate implementation of the Oronsaye Report
Reforms of our paramilitary agencies.
The following anomalies in the management of the macroeconomy have progressively plagued the Nigerian economy:
The pursuit of multiple objectives by CBN, some of which appeared to be in conflict with the Bank’s core mandate.
The loss of fiscal viability by the Federal Government, as revenues are now consumed entirely by debt service,
The financing of excessive fiscal deficits through Ways and Means Advances
Exchange rate stability has also become a mirage, as foreign exchange can only be accessed at the artificial official exchange rate by a handful of privileged persons and businesses.
We will functionally redesign our fiscal architecture such that revenue mobilisation and allocation will be bottom-up like most federations across the world, and the federal government will now rely on revenues from taxes collected by states to drive the right incentive for efficiency and optimal allocation of resources.
a. Empower the federal and state ministries of finance to harmonise taxes and the tax database.
b. Authorise the Joint Tax Board (FIRS and States’ IRS) to identify all payable taxes and fees by companies and individuals;
c. Consolidate all tax databases into one centralised system;
d. Determine the tax delineation, i.e., which form of taxes is receivable by the states or federal government.
e. Work with states and communities to effectively combat the nefarious activities of non-state actors and institutionalised brigandage, notorious for huge revenue leakages, expropriation, and exploitation which undermine investment and development in the real sector.
FEDERALISM AND DECENTRALISATION OF POWER IN PURSUIT OF A MORE BALANCED DEMOCRACY
A Tinubu administration will rebalance the responsibilities and authorities of the different tiers of government. We will collaborate with the National Assembly and State Governments to amend our national governance architecture such that States are afforded the autonomy and resources needed to better serve the people.
GROWTH AND INVESTMENT ENCOURAGED BY THE RULE OF LAW: When laws and legal institutions operate effectively and fairly, the end products are investment, jobs, and the creation of wealth.
•Judicial Independence and Integrity
•Respect for the Rule of Law
•Access to Justice.
•Equality Before the Law
•Structural Review of
•Decongest and Digitalise Trial Courts
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.