THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OUR DEMOCRACY (2): The Imperative of Running a Truly Federal Republic (b)
The Veracity of a Claim
Truly, in name and by reference, Nigeria is a “Federal Republic”. Section 2(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) says so.
But how ‘Federal’ is a state where the union is more the product of coercion or the mechanical drawing of borders than of a voluntary coming together, arising from shared need and mutual respect?
How ‘Federal’ is the Nigerian Republic, whose constitution adopts a power sharing formula that is disproportionately lopsided in favour of the central government, only leaving the states to deal with the crumbs of national matters? Parts I and II of the Second Schedule to the Constitution reveal this vividly. While the Federal Government has exclusive rights to 68 items; it still shares parts of the rights of the States to deliberate on 30 items as contained in the Concurrent List.
How ‘Federal’ is Nigeria, where the component parts have to wait every month on the central government for hand-outs called “allocations” in order to meet their basic needs and to be able to carry out their most basic functions? This is to the effect that whenever there is a drop in whatever accrues to them from the Federation Account- as is the case currently, giving the slump in oil price- their development efforts are adversely affected.
How ‘Federal’ is Nigeria, where Governors are the ‘Chief Security Officers’ of their states, but have no operational control over their Commissioners of Police(CP), whose obeisance is paid to the Inspector-General of Police(IGP), an appointee of the President?
How ‘Federal’ is Nigeria, where states are not able to explore and exploit the abundant resources that lie beneath their soils being handicapped by legislations that were motivated more by selfish caution than statesmanlike courage?
How ‘Federal’ is Nigeria where the Federal Government controls over 50%, a portion greater than those of the State and Local Governments combined.
Many questions that strike at the heart of the veracity of Nigeria’s claim to being a federation abound, answers to which will all point at one fact- as currently structured, Nigeria is a UNITARY REPUBLIC or, alternatively, a PSEUDO FEDERATION.
The Consequences of an Anomaly
The unitary nature of power configuration and distribution in Nigeria is indicative of a hangover of the military years, during which political and economic powers were effectively taken away from the citizens and the States; and reposed in the Federal Government which had, itself, become an agency of a few powerful and well-connected people, whose ethnic, religious, economic, and political interests it was made to serve.
This anomaly, I humbly maintain, is the reason why Nigeria, the ‘Giant of Africa’ is tied down by a myriad of problems- problems which, if tackled with statesmanlike seriousness and sincerity, are miniature.
This unitary arrangement is the reason why state governments would continue to default in salary payment, and even consider the reduction of the meager N18, 000 minimum as a ‘cost saving’ measure.
It is the reason why ethnic and sectarian animosities would linger; and why secessionist tendencies would continue to rear their ugly head in the name of fighting marginalization.
It is the reason a Police Command located far away in Abuja would find it hard to effectively secure a village in the creeks of the Niger Delta or in the forests of the South West. It is the reason why a Police Service Commission equally located far away will find it hard coming to terms with the welfare needs of its officers and men posted to locations and beats very far away from it.
It is the reason why Government is far away from the people; and the only time it comes to them is the electioneering period when it needs their votes; and then remembers it has to attend to their basic needs in an effort that has been ridiculously christened ‘stomach infrastructure’.
Nigeria is big; and inherent in her are enormous potentials that can truly make her the ‘Giant of Africa’, which is able to decisively influence the course of continental and global events.
Nigeria has enough to be a self-sustaining economy. The productive and consuming capacities are there, enough to create a robust market for the exchange of goods and services that will make the economy rebound and less dependent on imports, a national past time that has greatly contributed to weakening the Naira.
The sky is big enough for birds to fly without ruffling feathers. That is what a truly federal system will do to the States and all manners of interest that occupy the space called Nigeria.
(To be continued…)