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Wither Nigeria’s Federation Dream? (II)

As the states are presently composed, they cannot work. They are created largely based on political expediencies.  Let me give an example. Only about a third of the states created for us today can provide the basic tools, resources and capacities for self-sustenance, if their shares of the crude from the federated accounts are unavailable. There are states that will be unable to run their bureaucracies, not to talk of running schools, hospitals, health care and even paying salaries unless money comes from the centre. There are states in Nigeria today that have not been able to work our strategies for running effective and effective taxation regimes or generating revenue from internal sources. Their creativity has been numbed or killed by easy money being shared from crude oil, which is a perishable extractive resource. Now, in spite of Canada’s abundant natural resources endowment- as the world’s six largest producer of oil with 3 million barrels a day, as well as harbouring the world’s third largest oil reserves; the second largest producer of uranium, the third largest producer of hydro power and natural gas; owning nuclear power technology, Canada still generates 76 per cent of her annual revenue from public service sector, mainly from taxation. Everything is taxed in Canada. If you buy a pint of beer in Canada, you will pay about 8% tax. Don’t forget, taxation compels accountability.

Now, let us examine another example of state creation being based on the political whims and caprices of the governing elite and on reasons that are besides economy or adjudged functional expediencies. When IBB wanted to create new states out of some existing states in the North Central zone, he slashed the most endowed part of Kwara State and added it to Niger State. He also excised the present Western and Central Senatorial Districts comprising the Yoruba-speaking and Igbirra peoples of Kwara to make up Kogi State while returning the Igala segment of Kabba province previously annexed with Benue State to Kogi State. Now, what is the survival potential of Kwara and Kogi States as they are presently constituted? Jigawa, Yobe, Adamawa, Zamfara, Kebbi, and so on, were slashed off states that were themselves struggling for vitality and constituted into states that cannot survive, ab initio.

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Again, this is why I cannot agree more with the Distinguished Senator, whom I am quoting for the last time, in spite of areas of disagreement, when he asserted that our new federal structure must be based on economic strength, survival and viability potentials, not on whimsical exigencies and unreason political expediencies and calculations that will not stand the test of time in a competitive global economy;  ‘The argument has been made that the present structure of Nigeria was necessary to curb the strength of the regions, and ensure the stability of the country. The result has been an over-kill. We now have states that are clearly incapable of meeting even the elementary requirements of organized modern government, and not to mention preparing its citizens to compete in the global economy. Every federation succeeds on the strength of its federating units, to create a federation where the federating states have no capacity, authority or freedom to deliver is a tragedy.

In our search for true (that nebulous word again!) federalism, besides global economic competitiveness, we must consider governance deliverables to the electorate and the citizens. What is the value of a democracy in which the citizens derive no basic benefits that are essential for their happiness and comfort within the borders of their nations? Some of the Nigerians we met in Canada carry dual citizenships as the government of Canada is very liberal with its citizenship offered to responsible people from across the world. Yet, some of these Nigerians may have come from societies in Nigeria which alienate them on the basis of constitutional obfuscations with nebulous clauses and dichotomies on citizenship and settler-ship. People have lived in places in Nigeria for over five decades and they are still regarded as non-natives, aliens and settlers. They cannot compete for elective offices because they are not indigenes. They are meted differential treatments in matters of rights and privileges. Their children cannot gain admissions to universities in the states which are basically the only homes that their children have grown to know as their states of origin. They have to go to their so-called original states, where they never lived in, to obtain certificates of origin or citizenship before they can obtain admission into schools, colleges and universities. Part of the causative factors of the violence and insecurity in our country today results from such non-definitiveness of the citizenship of Nigerians because our constitution is unclear or is simply grey on such matters. Thousands of lives are lost or such needless and irresponsible constitutional silences.

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We must never make the mistake of thinking that Nigeria is more important than its citizens; the future of Nigeria as a united country is meaningless and unachievable except it guarantees the safety, security and prosperity of its people.

In the end, no matter what amendments we bring to our constitution and the thoroughness of the Bills and Acts that emerge there-from; no matter the level of participation, either through referendum or through elective representative participation in arriving at the reviewed Constitution; no matter what policies are thus extracted to run the various tires of government from the Constitution; no matter what strong structures emerge from the federal constitution; not much will happen if we do not remove the scourge of unsustained policy implementation in the nation’s body politic. Nigeria has always been short on structural continuities because governments in Nigeria have functioned as discontinued structures with each emerging governing leadership acting as if it met a vacuum and thus must create its own convenient structures to a government. There are no sustained and operated frameworks for planning and monitoring strategies of governance in Nigeria. We have no workable and working designs for measuring progress or lack of progress of sustainable development in our system such that transparency and accountability in government can be ascertained and evaluated. Yes, we need strong structures but we need a political system that will bring to power visionary and committed leadership that will ensure implementation of the content and spirit of a constitution that ensure full involvement of all Nigerians in the way we are governed and the way we derive social and welfare benefits from the strong structures that will, hopefully, be put in place through this ‘almighty’ constitution review for a truly federated Nigerian Republic.

There is a lesson that we can take from Canada as we consider workable options in this direction. It is called the Federal Sustainable Development. It is in itself at its formative stages and we can evolve our own independent strategies from its broad plan. It proposes a ‘single (or) overarching set of goals for the entire government….to help set Canada on a sustainable development pathway and to ensure policy coherence. If a country that is First World, among the G8, and a high-tech industrial society in the trillion dollar class still seeks accountability, responsible sustainable governance through policy coherence, how much more Nigeria, which many evil talkers believe is heading toward dismemberment by 2015! But we need leaders with commitment to the vision of achieving the Nigerian dream project; leaders with genuine humility in leadership. In June 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada apologized on behalf of all Canadians for the legacy of Indian Residential schools. He backed this up by creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to engender a process of forgiveness and healing. The country laid out constitutional regulations, agreements and treaties to redress generations of deprivation meted out to the aboriginal communities in Canada. In August, 2010, the Prime Minister again apologized for relocating Inuit families (another aboriginal community). Do we have a leadership which will bring out the Oputa Panel Report and implement it, even when certain sacred cows failed to subject themselves to its sittings? Do we have a leadership that is humble enough to apologize to the perpetually marginalized communities in our country and summon the political will to embark on reconciliation, cleansing and a healing process? That will be the day.

 

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