The cacophony of voices over the years on the issue of true federalism have not been able to marshal a way forward that could be said to be addressing the Nigerian state's political impasse with regards to the socio-economic interests of the states of the federation. The case of the federal/revenue allocation and the sharing formula have left so much to chance in the wake of the awareness that is replete in some states or regions that believe the goose that lays the golden egg is not fairly treated as it were.
Over fifty years of Nigeria's attainment of independence, the entity has been wobbling and fumbling like a rudderless ship with no clear direction in sight considering the running of the system both by the past administrators – military, civilians and the ones presently. The challenge is not farfetched but the concern of those saddled with the responsibility of running the state seem too far from being patriotic as the interest is self from all indications. The inability of these leaders to give this great country a clear direction and make it realize its potentials is subsumed in a vagary of illusion clouding the minds of the people from day one of entering into the race of governance with no blue print of what to do. It is difficult not to make recourse to the Awolowo legacy, the Nnamdi Azikiwe/Michael Okpara, the Sardauna legacy and a host of others because their impact in spite of the disparagements visible in all sectors of the economy and the political state, these nationalists sew the seed that gave birth to some of the structures we still can lay hold on as it is. The issue of free education in the south west will remain in the annals of history that it gave rise to the awareness that is very concerted in that region which is reflective in their way of lives, thinking, business and other aspects over and above other regions.
It is taken for granted that Federalism posits a system that brings the component units or states as the case may be together with the centre with an avowal aim of to collaborating without being a burden to one another. Here the idea of power sharing is upheld among member components and units based on understanding. Owing to this line of thought particularly from the angle of the units or states being able to take decision on their own and or self-governing in federalism, it behoves the states of the country in this present dispensation to be allowed truly to engage in the practice of federalism that brings into play its exactitude. By this, I mean that in the continuous existence of the federating states in the country to begin to manage their resources on their own. This will translate into a realistic development within these states which in turn will engender a positive competition among the other federating states to take a cue from developing states and move to do same or better the existing ones.
The issue of fiscal federalism as far as Nigeria is concerned, if it is brought to the centre stage for discussion more or less a summit or some kind conference, it will do the country good in that the issue of regionalism could be revisited considering the success the country was able to record in those days when cocoa was identified with the Western region, the ground-nut stuff for the North and the palm-oil for the East, Rubber with the Mid-West and other produce within the country which were the main stay for the nation. It was not in doubt that a huge success was recorded because there were tangibles visible as structures. Social welfare had life in an unusual proportion as the health, educational sectors and other social sector had life. But on the whole as vast as the resources are available in the country, it appears as nothing worthwhile could be displayed as the dividends accruable in line with the huge success is not visible.
It has been said in some quarters that the crude oil is a curse to the nation as far as a large percentage of the people is concerned within and internationally. The point being that with the discovery of the oil, all other viable economic platform by which revenue and foreign earnings could be generated for the country have been relegated and allowed to go otiose because of the total dependence on the black gold. Be it as it may, the regional development that allowed the nation to thrive in those days could be resuscitated on the basis of allowing for further development and greater autonomy for the federating states to minimize the dependence on the federal government for the monthly revenue allocation which has made some of the states beggarly as they wait for the monthly 'paddy' and unable to evolve any creative source of revenue generation. We cannot stop talking about the giant strides of Fashola in Lagos that he understands his onions and in control of the political endeavour he involved himself. His manifesto and mandate are clear to him, the reason he has been able to define it in such a way that the whole world is seeing what Lagos has become in less than Five years. This is a challenge to the rest of the governors to look inward and wake up from their reverie and try their hands on agriculture if not any other thing as the country has a vast land good enough for cropping. It is not out of place if the states in the North took animal husbandry to another level by partnering with the development institution, especially the ADB, World Bank and others to translate animal husbandry into the production of canned food such as corn-beef which will create employment and provide foreign earnings. Although, 'power' plays a dominant role in this matter but whether the country likes it or not this is what we should begin to look at in respect of fiscal federalism.
It is painful when you recognize the huge natural and physical resources that God has placed at the door step of Nigeria yet we live as a people as if it was a curse for God to have so blessed and endowed us. Until we get leadership right in Nigeria, we will still cry under this irreducible dim wit of the kind of people that have piloted this country. How we wish that Mr. President would be able to achieve his desire on transformation and change as he has been saying. As much as one would not wish to be pessimistic, what is going on as it were does not reflect that we may achieve that transformation soon enough. Quite piquantly as one has followed his rendition at different quarters, Jonathan Goodluck desires a great change but the might is another thing. We heard him saying during the appointment of the Special Advisers to the presidency that 'he does not want people he will be advising instead of the other way round'. A night ago, we heard him saying at the appointment of the new Economic Adviser to his office that 'he doesn't want people who are still learning to be his advisers'. This may translate to mean that the man desires to have the round pegs in round holes in order to move the country forward.
The ineptitude, corruption, heartlessness and unconscionable disposition of those in government towards their citizenry is nothing but a reflection of the fact that these people forget so soon where they were coming from that yesterday they were worse than some of the people they govern but further failed to realize that when they leave the coveted seat that they are coming back to live among these same people. The truth is that a large number of these people in government today are from very poor background who only made meaning in life through the free education and the free health care system of the past. It is so clear at this point to any ardent observer of the political terrain in the country that cheap money is in the government and that in the government, that is where you can make so much money and get away with it because the structures that are in place to give the check and balances are equally sleeping. There is no doubt that budgets are made regularly for all the MDAs every year but no one can say specifically what they are translated to as far as the country is concerned. And the challenge is that with this huge sum of money yearly budgeted, the pertinent question is that why are we still at this point still reckoned as a third world country.
The values that have put Nigeria in the glare of the world on the positive plain is fast ebbing as it appears internationally that we are a nation of jokers considering the non sense exhibited by our leaders. The damage done to our polity and people has made us of no effect, meanwhile the rest of Africa awaits our revival for us to come and take the God given place. If we genuinely ask ourselves the truth, "where exactly did we get it wrong, how did we arrive at this point we are as a nation with everything in place for us but nothing worth mentioning again?" our public institutions have almost if not all gone moribund, our hospitals, our schools, our roads and so many others have gone into shambles yet billions of Naira are voted every year, regular supplementary budget every now and again and still nothing to show. If the states are allowed to decide their destinies by themselves with regional development thrust on them, the story may change in no time.
There have been policy inconsistencies over time within the system. There was Obansanjo/Ihonvbere's bitumen project somewhere around Okitipupa in Ondo state. But where has that ended today? Without much ado, the way forward may be in considering regional development and the fiscal federalism which will allow every region and state to develop what they have and translate it to revenue generating venture instead of Abuja sitting on the vast resources of the states.