On Anyaoku’s call for a restructuring of Nigeria
WHEN Emeka Anyaoku, elder statesman and former secretary-general of the Commonwealth suggested the other day that Nigeria must be restructured if the country is to make progress, he could not have chosen better words. Although his specific recommendation of a return to the regional structure that the country left behind, albeit by force of military intervention, half a century ago is not ideal, his submission appropriately reinforces the general call for restructuring which the nation urgently needs.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with a regional structure. It worked quite well for Nigeria while it lasted. The governments of the first three regions –Western Region, Northern Region, and Eastern Region – engaged in healthy competition in all the key areas of development with the positive result that each nurtured and expanded its economic base to in turn support the establishment of as many schools as it could afford, a university to develop high-level manpower, print and electronic media of public communication to inform, educate and entertain its regional citizens, and road and other infrastructure most necessary to further growth and development in all areas. And the 1966 military coup d’état happened.
Nigeria has since moved on first, to a different federal structure and second, a different, presidential system of government. The argument about the appropriateness of a regional or a federal structure for Nigeria or in another respect, a parliamentary or a presidential system of government for this country is neither here nor there. Each has been proven to work well in other climes either similar to or different from Nigeria. What makes the critical difference are the operators of each system, the human element that determines the success or failure of any structure, system, or process. Alas, the quality, in every meaning of the word, of the operators of the Nigerian federal structure, and its presidential system is, generally speaking, too poor to nurture growth and development in the country. Indeed, the quality of political leadership of the nation has fallen with time. Naturally, this infects other facets of national life.
Chief Anyaoku may have proposed a return to the regional structure because of his disappointment with poor progress of this federal republic. To the extent that there is never a perfect structure for a country, it is appropriate to say that the fault is not in the structure but in the way it is being run. This is to say that, if the political leadership does not change its ways, it will similarly mismanage any other structure of government. Therefore, elders of the land should concern themselves with getting, by moral suasion, and every other forms of pressure, political leadership to run the affairs of Nigeria with the utmost personal integrity and pan-Nigerian patriotism.
If the cost of governance informs the call to return to the regional structure, the question is: must a system be inefficiently expensive to be effective? Certainly not. Rather, a system will only be as expensive to run as the level of greed and unconscionableness of its operators. For example, the cost of running Nigeria’s presidential system as a percentage of the national budget is shockingly different from that of the most advanced democracy in the world.
It is a shame on Nigeria’s elite generally, and particularly successive political leadership that, more than five decades into self-governance, the structure for Nigeria continued existence remains a matter yet to be settled and the appropriate system of government still open to debate. It simply means that, contrary to both the letters and spirit of the constitutions, and in brazen violation of their respective oaths of office, the managers of Nigeria at different levels failed to do their duty. It suggests too, that in terms of the values and priorities that foster development and progress, Nigeria has grown only a little in more than half a century. It is this leadership failure, with the terrible consequences all over the land, that senior and respected citizens must worry about, address, propose and, if possible impose by the force of their influence, a solution. Otherwise, this country may remain merely one of great potentials perpetually waiting to be achieved.
A multi-ethnic, multi-religious Nigeria has long settled for a federal structure and since 1979, for a presidential form of government. The case for a federal structure for this nation of nations is so obvious it needs not be rehashed. Unfortunately, the Nigerian version is ‘unitary federalism’ which, first, is an intrinsic contradiction, second, in its working, subverts the principle of subsidiarity and other basic rules and intendment of federalism.
The urgent, burning Nigerian question should be how to make the present structure and system work best for Nigeria and its people. The answer, this newspaper insists, can be found in an incremental implementation of the more than 600 consensually reached recommendations of the Report of the 2014 National Conference. Given the number, calibre, and diversity of participants at the conference, on the one hand, and the breadth of issues addressed and agreed upon on the other, it is believed that the Report has assumed the stature of a pan-Nigerian document devoid of party or any other coloration. Besides, it was endorsed by both the then Executive Council of the Federation and the Senate of this republic.
The report has solutions to a wide range of problems that afflict Nigeria – from devolution of power, revenue sharing, national security, and political restructuring to politics and governance, religion, grazing reserves and many more other issues. Just a few examples: On revenue sharing, it recommends that ‘ the [vertical] sharing of the funds accruing to the Federation Account among the three tiers of government should be … Federal Government – 42.5%; State Governments – 35%; Local Governments – 22.5% to replace the existing formula of : Federal Government – 52.68%; State Governments – 26.72%; Local Governments – 20.60%’. Furthermore, a new horizontal sharing formula is also proposed. It recommends independent candidacy for contest into political offices, the removal of the constitutional provision of immunity from prosecution of certain political office holders, and proposes that spending public funds on religion matters such as pilgrimages be stopped.
To reduce the cost of governance, the Conference recommends that elected legislators should serve on part-time basis, that the number of political appointees and aides be ‘drastically reduced’, and proposes for the country ‘not more than 18 ministers from the six geopolitical zones.’ It agrees on a two-tier police structure of a federal police and state police for states that can afford it and that police officers of the ranks of deputy superintendent (DSP) and below should be deployed to their states of origin where they can better relate to the socio-cultural setting.
Even on the issue of cattle grazing and the attendant social disturbance, the Conference suggested that ‘on the long term, cattle routes and grazing reserves be phased out to lay emphasis on ranching …’
At least two reasons fuel the persistent agitation for a restructuring of Nigeria namely: the desire for the control of natural resources by the owners of the land, and the inequitable distribution of power among the ethnic groups that constitute the federation. These discontents affect the stability of the country and even the ability of the leadership to concentrate on the urgent tasks at hand. If, the sole purpose of government is to ensure the security and welfare of the country and its people, this newspaper again urges the All Progressives Congress and its government to study the 2014 Report of the National Conference and begin to, it bears repeating, an incremental implementation of its pan-Nigeria recommendations.