Saturday, 08 October 2011 02:52

True Federalism; Attending to The Reality On Ground

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It is high time we found an indigenous solution to our common problems as a nation within the six geo-political zones and by extension to the states within the zones. It is clear that our togetherness as an entity is beyond us. Nkrumah once said “Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world”. Dwelling on the perception of this great Ghanaian Nationalist, his thought pattern could by application be used as a reed to gauge the present situation in the country. Until we understand the need for real unity as a people, we are still playing. But if we unite and harness what we have as a nation, the rest of the world will look at us with great envy with time. True federalism indeed could make that possible.

Looking at federalism as obtains in Nigeria, it won’t be out of place to reveal what it posits according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy which says federalism is the theory or advocacy of federal principles for dividing powers between member units and common institutions. Unlike in a unitary state, sovereignty in federal political orders is non-centralized, often constitutionally, between at least two levels so that units at each level have final authority and can be self governing in some issue area. Citizens thus have political obligations to or have their rights secured by two authorities. The division of power between the member unit and centre may vary, typically the center has powers regarding defense and foreign policy, but member units may also have international roles. The decision-making bodies of member units may also participate in central decision-making bodies. Much recent philosophical attention is spurred by renewed political interest in federalism, coupled with empirical findings concerning the requisite and legitimate basis for stability and trust among citizens in federal political orders.  

However, as far as the practice of federalism is displayed in the country, one would by virtue of the ongoing surmise that this practice is not really a true reflection of what it ought to be. It is not in doubt that in theory we play around with the concept but far away from the reality of federalism as practiced by the developed countries of the West. Federalism should ordinarily be able to help Nigeria out of its economic logjam but the dilemmas of ethnic or cultural cleavages, religious leanings and other social factors which ordinarily could be internalized and brought together by federal arrangements; are some of the issues that have to a large extent affected the polity, the intolerance at some point. But even at that, this situation is not really totally bad as it seems when you consider the fact that the country is geographically spread in the form of regions with their peculiarities  which of course could be tapped into to bring about the best in the country. Congruously, the practice of federalism ordinarily caters for the need of all component units or regions which in turn gives strength to the centre. True federalism brings about the unification of common interest of the people in the country irrespective of the regions or social differences, and with the peculiarity of this terrain, only this can create a true democratic political order in the country if well accessed.

The revenue allocation, the sharing formula and the rest of the talk on the economic state of the country ought by now to have changed from the doldrums – the usualness but a new order for the economic development and the well being of the people and country be given the centre stage attention to avoid the likelihood of an imminent breakdown that will never do us good. The desperation the country is presently grappling with on the basis of the crisis at different parts of the country and the militant groups springing up here and there agitating for one thing or another could be curbed when everyone is made busy with a thing or two from his state and not the expectation that is the regularity from the centre.

The concentration of power at the centre must be dispelled in order to allow for a release that will be a conduit of change for the rest of the states in the country to wake up to their responsibility. It is consequential that the states embarked on creative projects that make them cater for their people within the states and take whatever percentage agreed on to the centre. Every state in the country no doubt has one resources or another that could be explored and exploited to make for the good of that state. The absolute dependence on the mono-economic product, the oil, has made almost all the states to become lazy to the point that the monthly allocation is what everybody awaits. It was very popular in those good old days to hear of the Kano Pyramid which is the mountain of groundnuts available there as their cash crop, the cocoa of the West birthed the Cocoa House of Ibadan which automatically was the tallest building in West Africa at that time (25 Storey), the University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University came into inception by the purchasing power the Cocoa of the West gave the people. The palm was very popular with the South west, in fact the Mid-Western region had that in abundance and it was exploited. There are other places of the North that were renowned for their hide and skin which translated into economic power for them. There is no point while the country should not do a reawakening of this past experience. Someday the oil may no longer be available.

A question of some states going into oblivion by virtue of the payment of the minimum wage of N18, 000.00 is baseless and does not arise as some governors and some section of the people are claiming. It only goes to show how uncreative our people are and how totally dependent on the monthly ‘paddy’ from the Centre every month has made them lethargic to their responsibility. The office appears too juicy for those who are running for them when they get there and never willing to use their heads to do anything to better the lot of their people. Entrepreneurial skill is preached everywhere in the country but the custodians of the states where they are preached are mostly in a state of inertia and unable to engage in any entrepreneurial endeavour on their part to make a change that will be a line to be emulated by those they are governing in their states. The Governors should be able to look inward and generate revenue for the state outside the monthly allocation. If the man does not know the economic engagement he needs to undertake to look after his state, why is he then desperate to govern a state? The dullness, the lack of creativity and the total dependence on status quo has made a nonsense of the power wielded by most of the number one citizens of the states except for a very few who despite the challenge are forging ahead and their impact are visible as they speak for themselves.

It is so irritating when you hear at some quarters that Lagos State is richer than the rest of the states in the country, the case of how rich does not arise but the fact that the man in charge has been able to harness the revenue in the land to better his state. It is agreed that the possibility of the rest of the states not having as much revenue as Lagos state is keen but how have these other states been able to use what they have or improve on what they have? Better still, lest we lose track of the point, every state definitely has something within its coffers to exploit to help develop the state and not depend on the allocation. It is high time the states come together for a national summit to address this pernicious economic life style. The earlier, it is addressed, the better for the continuous existence of the country otherwise, the future portends pain but posterity will not forgive those in the helms of affairs today who refuse to purchase a worthwhile future for the coming generation by using their heads.

The country has downplayed on agriculture and this is one major economic spinner in other developed countries. Irrespective of the other economic platform in the West, agriculture is one thriving power of the United States. If the states and the rest of the country can embark on massive agricultural development and the use of hybrid products, the nation will be the better for it. If it is encouraging enough, the youths will plough their energy into it. Mechanized farming and animal husbandry have made some countries of the world leap frog into renown. This ordinarily is an untapped platform that could create the needed employment for the teeming youth in the country. Let the states do farming despite other economic avenues that could be developed to help them grow, it would be discovered that in no time, they will begin to break even.

The component states or units within this federated system ought to realize that the overdependence on the centre make nonsense of the authority they are supposed to enjoy reasonably. It is believed that the inability of the custodians of the states to attract business to their states and develop what they have to attract investors should be blamed on them. There is no point why they have to wait always for the centre to make available the money to be spent in the states. Disappointedly, these funds are not often used judiciously to meet the need of the state but seen as a national cake that is shared among a few in the states to satisfy personal concerns. It is no longer news that to run the government of Nigeria is becoming too expensive. And one of the reasons to curb these excesses is when all the states are made responsible and accountable and are able to exploit the resources within their states without that dependence on the allocation from the Federal government every month.

The case of one state generating so much revenue on the basis of their creativity and then expected to use their revenues for other states does not arise; in fact it should be done away with. A case in point is the VAT generated by Lagos State and some states are expecting the revenue accruable to Lagos be used to meet their own needs is hara-kiri. Raji Fashola should not be working his heart out and breaking his head in the state and some people sit somewhere and expecting to enjoy the proceeds generated by a counterpart governor.  It is not a popular view I would wish to identify with. Let every state work out a modality to generate revenue from within and among the people of the state to meet the needs and the capital project of that state. There is no doubt that in a situation where a state is undertaking a project and may be in need, the centre can come to the aid of such state; this is when true federalism begins to take effect, not when the states totally depend on the centre. It should be a-two way thing, the centre and states rob on one another.

In my view, it is just civil that you eat where you have worked. Even as it is, the Transformation and Change President Goodluck Jonathan has been hammering may begin to take effect if this is looked into. Apparently, there seems to be a dark tunnel in sight for that transformation giving the present happenings. As much as one is not willing to be pessimistic, what is on ground portends frustration and failure unless it is quickly addressed. However, there is a possibility that the ‘big man’ may have a joker in the pack to bail the country out but it has to be done fast as time seems to be running out. True federalism will only become true when the centre and the component states come to terms with the definition of their responsibilities and roles as concern their continuous existence within the entity not to be a burden to one another. And I think we should consider another constitutional conference on this matter.

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