Bakare calls for national renaissance

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

With the myriad of problems confronting Nigeria over the years, the present democratic government may not, at the end of the day offer the necessary solutions, or take it out of the woods.

This is the belief of some political observers, who said the 1999 Constitution has not only stagnated the development of the country but has also rendered the component units subservient to the central government.

In an address to mark the 27th Anniversary of the Latter Rain Assembly on Sunday, the Senior Pastor, Tunde Bakare called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently institute a Presidential Commission for national reconciliation, reintegration and restructuring.

The cleric said this would midwife a process of constitutional rebirth that will culminate into a new constitution.

The cleric said the time had come, once again, to ask whether Nigeria was appropriately configured to survive current and coming upheavals “talk less of fulfilling her great destiny.”

To him, the 1999 Constitution was not only hurriedly put together by the past military administration, “it is also without the input of the people of Nigeria, therefore it cannot resolve the current challenges confronting the Nation.”

In similar vein, former National Secretary of Labour Party (LP), Dr. Kayode Ajulo called for a new revenue sharing formula for the country.

Ajulo said there is the need for the Federal Government, to immediately review the revenue sharing formulae between the tiers of government as a solution to the lingering unpaid salaries of workers in the service of States government.

Ajulo who is also the Chairman of Egalitarian Mission, Africa, maintained that fiscal policies in Nigeria gave more powers to the Federal Government than the other sub-federal units combined, which he claimed has ensured an increased dependence of the sub-federal units on the centre particularly for their finances.

Bakare in his message said that the presidential commission, which will comprise a team of highly respected nationals with unquestionable integrity and bridge-building antecedents, “should also be mandated to undertake other critical assignment for the country, while working closely with stakeholders and power blocs as well as legislative houses.”

According to him, “The commission should be mandated to create a new national identity for the Nigerian people; promote forgiveness and reconciliation among contentious interest groups in Nigeria; foster the integration of the diverse sectional groups in Nigeria into true nationhood; facilitate the creation of an acceptable functional governmental structure for Nigeria; and midwife a process of constitutional rebirth that will culminate in a referendum by which the people will adopt a new constitution.”

He believed that the report of the 2014 National Conference, with its Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration, would provide a ready-made operational springboard for the team to work on.

While maintaining that Nigeria was currently squarely in the midst of the predicted socio-economic and political quagmire, warranting a re-examination of the configuration of its nationhood, the cleric said the national rebirth process could go on seamlessly alongside socio-economic development.

According to him, “Such socioeconomic development should be championed by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo-led economic team, while the national security and anti-corruption strategy should be headed by the President himself.

“However, within the allowance provided by the current constitution until it is replaced, socio-economic development and national security strategies will be channeled in line with the cutting-edge national philosophy from which the new constitutional order will emerge.

“Very importantly, this process will also result in the adoption of a long-term constitutionally backed national vision that will subsequently guarantee accurate succession as well as guide policy-making for many generations, irrespective of the party in power. Partisan elections and leadership selection will then be based on determining which political party and which candidates have the best strategies to achieve the national vision. That is the pathway to the New Nigeria,” he stated.

Speaking on the current power configuration in the country, the cleric called for devolution to the levels of government that were closest to the people at the grassroots, maintaining that was best way to deliver public goods to the people.

He argued that, “Central to the delivery of public goods is the devolution of powers. Political power is the vehicle through which economic value is allocated. Therefore, power must be devolved to the levels of government that are closest to the people and that can best deliver public goods.

“Political power must then be used to facilitate the development of clusters. Clusterization arises from the need to factor into the value creation process the cultural, geo-economic and bio-geographical peculiarities of the various subnational entities as well as the need to create competitive economies of scale. This necessitates the formation of zonal or regional structures.

“The zonal blocs will become distributors of governance, channeling good governance to states which will act as wholesalers. Local governments, functioning as retailers of governance, will deliver public goods directly to the grassroots.”

Ajulo, on his part said Nigeria, in the last two years have been enmeshed in an awkward reality of inability of state governments to pay salaries to their workers with consequent hardship bedeviling both workers and the citizens “hence, I have found it imperative and exigent to state the facts and set the records straight on the economic status at this point in time in our country.”

He further stated that more than 80% of the states in Nigeria are too broke to carry out their fundamental functions and primary administrative assignments.

Stating that the present revenue sharing formulae was almost antithetical, he maintained that many states have violated minimum wages law and have resorted to payment in percentages (ranging from 25 per cent to 50 per cent salaries), while some pay ‘net salaries’. “More worrisome is the fact that the provision of dividends of democracy in welfare projects and provision of basic social amenities is gradually becoming elusive because of the paucity of funds in the states.”

To him this is evident in the numbers of very expensive but almost unnecessary federal parastatals and agencies, the unthinkable amounts of allowances accrued to federal aids and appointees and the unreasonably high cost of presidential trips, predicated upon the numbers of practically needless aids paraded on such trips, to mention but a few.

“The financial responsibilities of the states on the other hand is obviously incomparably higher than that of the federal government because they are closer to the people.”

The legal practitioner urged that there “is a non-negotiable need to go back to the basics and revisit our national fund sharing formula, in which if as little as 5 per cent is conceded from the Federal Government’s share to the State governments as a serious national hardship and security threat looming would be abated.”

He consequently called upon the NLC, TUC, all other national workers unions in the country and well meaning Nigerians to agree, cooperate and work with the state governors and demand for a re-evaluation of the revenue allocation formula by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission. “This would be in the interest of vast majority of the Nigerian workers and fellow compatriots across the nation as the bail-outs given to the States by Federal Government have shown to be ineffective.”

He concluded that paragraph 32 of Part I of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vested the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission with powers and responsibilities to “Review from time to time, the revenue allocation formulae and principles in operation to ensure conformity with changing realities”

Noting that despite the constitutional power vested in the Commission, with regards to the responsibility of fixing revenue sharing formula for the country, the Commission was hesitant to do the desirable to reflect contemporary realities.

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