THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OUR DEMOCRACY (2): The Imperative of Running a Truly Federal Republic (c)
A Federalist’s Panacea
To return Nigeria to the path of peace, productivity and prosperity is not hard; neither is it rocket science. It only requires a leadership that is nationalist, sincere, and foresighted enough to care about the well-being, security, and prosperity of Nigeria and her citizens.
Making a return to that path would necessarily involve doing the following:
- Considering an open-minded renegotiation and reconstruction of our Federation on the platform of a truly Sovereign National Conference, whose members would be substantially elected by the Nigerian electorate, not on political party basis but on individual merit.
The decision for, and of, this national discourse should be that of the States and the Citizens- not that of the Federal Government- with patriotic compromise seen a tool for such national dialogue. Hence, the decisions and outcome of such conference would be ratified by a referendum of the Nigerian citizenry and would be enacted into law, not reviewed, by the National Assembly.
- A review of the revenue sharing formula which unduly favours the national government, and continues to hamper the fiscal autonomy of the federating units.
A more progressive revenue formula which allocates some more funds to the States and Local Governments would be needed. As suggested by a development economist, Mr. Enwegbara , a formula of this nature could be considered: 30% for federal infrastructural projects to be managed by a National Council for the Development of Federal( National) Infrastructure Projects; 25% for the Federal Government; 20% for the States and 15% for the Local Governments.
Although, as against, Mr. Enwegbara’s 25% for the Federal Government, I would prefer it goes to the States; and that 20% goes to the Federal Government.
- A foresighted reconfiguration of powers, as contained in the Constitution, which would shed some load off the Federal Government and vest more responsibilities on the States and Local Governments. This is because those are the places where Nigerians live, and not in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
More funds at the State and Local Government levels would bring development closer to the people; while the Federal Government concentrates on developing and consolidating the national infrastructure framework that will ensure that each state maximizes its productive potentials for the overall benefit of the nation.
- A reconfiguration of the national security structure, which would allow for the creation of State Police services to complement the effort of the Federal Police, which would have the entire federation as its beat.
As for the modus operandi of this structure, according to Professor K. Mowoe in her “Constitutional Law in Nigeria”, “… there can be a central training point from where transfer is made to the states, either on the basis of the state of origin or domicile, with the consent of the states. After that, they become state-owned, and would relate to the central force only when there is need for further training, on the basis of co-operation in the area of detection and apprehension of criminals across state borders…”
That central platform can also be used for nationalist orientation purpose for the police officers, so that their first allegiance is to the sovereign state of Nigeria; and then to the safety and security of their respective states. Not only will this structure vastly reduce the menace of unemployment as it would employ millions of able-bodied youths; it would also reduce crime, as the abundant energies of these youths would have found productive use in the important enterprise of national security.
Still on this point, it is a fact that Nigeria is grossly under-policed; and way behind the United Nations (UN) prescription of 1 policeman to 400 persons. With a population of about 180 million, going by the UN prescription, the ideal police personnel strength of Nigeria should be 450,000 minimum. The country currently has about 300,000, a short-fall of 150,000 which the creation of State-owned and State-funded police services would more than make up for.
The combined effects of a two-tier police structure financed and equipped by the Federal and State Governments respectively would better facilitate a more secured Nigeria.
- A conscious detachment of Local Governments from the apron strings of State Governments in terms of financial autonomy.
Since the Nigerian Constitution has, in its wisdom, recognized Local Governments as a third tier of government in the federal arrangement, their access to funds and the liberty to utilise same for grassroots development purposes should be unfettered. This would require a review of the current constitutional provision as contained in section 162(5)-(8) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).
As against current provisions, why should the amount standing to the credit of Local Governments in the Federation Account not be directly allocated to them; and the States be given the powers of audit, oversight, investigation and prosecution of any alleged misappropriation?
What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. While States deserve more control over their resources, because that’s where citizens reside; Local Governments deserve more direct access to, and increased capacity to use, finance because that is where citizens live.
These are only a few of the fundamental changes that should be effected in the polity called Nigeria if she would fulfill her immense potentials; and for the political economy of her democracy to be made to work for the greatest good of the greatest number of her citizens.
Now, let us hear the conclusion of the matter.
These times are rough. Our belts are increasingly being tightened, and the entire political economy groans heavily under the weight of paucity of funds, occasioned by the seemingly unending slide in the price of oil- that is to say the least.
But in every challenge is an equivalent opportunity. According to the Tuesday, 26th January, 2016 Editorial of The Guardian, “…these times are auspicious for Nigeria to rediscover a new sense of urgency or direction and restructure the economy for good…”
It further posited that, “…urgent steps to restructure the polity and the economy are inevitable especially so that regions or states can begin to create their sanity zones or pockets of efficiency and become centers of development…”
Truly, necessity is the mother of invention; and the necessity that has come upon us for rebuilding a non-oil-dependent economy should birth the statecraft invention of a true federal structure for Nigeria. The Guardian Editorial again asserts that, “…The governing elite in Nigeria should wake up, redeem itself from irredentism and allow a government structure that the people need to unleash their productive capacity…”
That “government structure” is none other than a true fiscal and structural federal arrangement, which would unleash the giant in the nation called Nigeria, to the prosperity of her citizens, the security of her borders, and the admiration of the world.
These are my thoughts on the workings of the political economy of our democracy; and I hope the ‘Change’ Government of President Muhammadu Buhari would find some sense in them; and in similar ones that have been shared by established authorities on this subject, to the end of working to bring about this fundamental progressive change to Nigeria.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. May it be truly one!