Tuesday, 31 January 2012 20:39

Great Caution Is Required In Reducing The Concentrated Power In Abuja

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Every day one reads of calls to decentralizeNigeriaor as is often defined; the introduction of a confederate system of government in the country. The former Managing Director of the Nigerian Daily times Mr. Tola Adeniyi just joined in advocating the con-federal concept. There have been many voices before him and those who are shy of calling for decentralization of every thing have limited their calls to decentralization of the security services especially the police.

They have argued that local policing (by which they mean making the Police Force responsible to the State Governors) would be the cure for Boko Haram and other quickening of the leprosies of the societal sins. Some have called for the reintroduction of former regionalism and if that is too difficult their replacement with zonal governments in the form of six zones in place of the three regions.

It is nearly impossible to summarize the various forms of the call for decentralization. Whatever the form or nature of decentralization is demanded one thing should be clearly understood: the problem is not with the structure; the problem is with the people, we the people, as individuals, as opposed to the collective.

If the problem is Yoruba people, decentralization would solve the problem for we would isolate the Yoruba to the 6 states of the West and the rest of the zones would match forward in peace and tranquility toEl Dorado. If the Igbo made up all that is wrong withNigeria, confederation would be the required panacea. Ditto for Hausa and all the other 400 ethnic nationalities. The evil virus that is destroying the nation is found in the DNA of all Nigerian tribes and if you separate them into tribes, zones, religion, combinations of religions and tribes, what is happening in Abuja would resurface in whatever configuration that finally emerges.

State creation would provide proof that decentralization or con-federal arrangement may not be all it is supposed to be.

Old Awgu Division of Enugu knows what marginalization means. In the old dispensation they were part of Wawa that was marginalized in theOldAnambraState. Just as they were part of the Igbo that was marginalized in the biggerNigeria. There are many Awgu’s in every state inNigeria.

The same can be said of the new police that would be appointed by the governor of Kogi state in place of the one appointed by President Jonathan forNigeria.

What I am implying is not that it is useless to consider defusing the power concentration inAbuja, but that we reduce the expectation of the possible results. I am also suggesting that the way to get there might take us to reducing the power concentration inKadunaorEnuguorLagosorKano. Put differently we would have to expand the power of Oji River Local Government and all 774 of them that currently exist at the expense of state government before we can achieve decentralization land of milk and honey that we look forward to.

Increasing the power of local government by assigning them authority to do more things and giving them money to do those things will not make much difference, in fact such devolution of responsibilities would be counter productive because whoever pays the piper would call the tune. The first step is to let the local government have the power and where withal to raise their revenue independent of the state and federal government. In the period from middle 1950’s to just before the war, local government had the power to collect taxes called levy in Eastern Nigeria in form of water levy, education levy etc. I paid them. From these levies they provided amenities to the community they served. The LG still received substantial amount from the regional government, but had independent revenue sufficient to make them not just the extension of theEnugugovernment. Today 100% of LG revenue is from the Federal via the state government.

And any wonder they are mere stooges of the first two tiers.

Another thing that should be explained clearly to people is that in thinking of such things as local policing, that the Federal government and the state government retains considerable powers as things such as the training of police would still be a federal responsibility. The men and women would apply and meet the police college entrance requirements for admission but would not be federal employees. They would almost be the same as one gaining admission to a federal university but upon graduation would seek employment in the local governments. So the chief of police at Zungeru would not necessarily be from Zungeru or even from the North. The LG would higher from any of the applicants who have passed out of police training college atOjiRiverwho could be from Ozubulu or Igumale or Inyi.

Gaining entrance into a police college would not mean automatic employment as is now.

The power concentration inAbujais magnified by just one thing: the concentration of 95% of national revenue. Without decentralization or confederation a state could declare independence of FG by merely generating enough internally generated funds that is not subject to federal control. Suppose thatEnugustate could generate enough revenue from agriculture, industries, state taxes, etc? Mr. Chime would immediately find that he does not need to do the bidding of President Jonathan as his trips toAbujacould be cut by half. Suppose also that he could get the FG to invest on coal and other FG controlled solid minerals. His independence would be further enhanced for his people would gradually settle for jobs inEnuguand not have to go to the rough and tumble that isAbuja.

And if Ekiti,Anambra,Bornuetccan do the same, we will see the FG power gradually whittled down. It is the same thing that happens in any family. When my children all lived at home I was the most powerful man on earth. I could dictate who goes to movies, who can have sleep-over, what is for dinner. But today I have zero power. Each of them can do whatever they want, because they have achieved economic independence. Those who want less power atAbujamust first figure out how to live withoutAbuja.

To summarize we need to expand the power at the local government area before engaging in confederation or we would merely move the abuses of Abuja to Sokoto; we must figure out a means by which each state and LG could generate internal funds that does not rely on Delta oil; we must remove the greed DNA in many Nigerians of all tribes and religions or smaller geographic space would not be different from the larger one; We must inculcate in our citizenry high levels of patriotism or the sins of Abuja would be visited on Oduduwa Republic or Arewa or Biafran Republics or what ever name we give to the units.

All these are sine qua non.

Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba


January 31, 2012

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Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba

Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba  currently lives in Medfield, Massachusetts.