Opinion: Third Epistle to the APC Committee on ‘True’ Federalism: Summary for Action, By John Abhuere

In the first epistle, I advanced reasons to reject pre-1967 regional structure, called for a review of the Revenue Sharing formula in favour of the states and local government and cautioned against having a weak centre in the name of restructuring.
In the second epistle, I discussed the leadership and development crisis that had mitigated against national unity and development over time. The imperative of doing meaningful development for all, good governance, justice, fair play, and equitable distribution of resources were stressed. It was observed this would require the production and deployment of good hands to run the economy.
In this final letter, we draw from previous discussions to offer a summary of ideas for action to move the country forward in the right direction with stress on developing capacity for able leadership, meaningful development, good governance, Justice, fight against corruption, commitment to nation building and a strong centre.

Making Correct Diagnosis and Walking in the Right Direction.
After many years of walking in the wrong direction , the most appropriate thing to do now is to correctly identify the problems, make the correct prescription and move the country in the right way to national development and unity. This requires not a return to pre-1967 regional structure but the development of due capacity for leadership, good governance and meaningful development for all citizens and places.
It underscores the importance of patriotic, altruistic, development – oriented and national unity – conscious elite to produce able leadership for the country. This is important because history shows all nations that have become great had able leadership and patriotic, altruistic and development – oriented elite and capable hands to help implement plans and achieve collective dreams and shared vision over time. Luckily this can be achieved even within the present structure
There has been endemic leadership/ elite failure in Nigeria, serious development crisis and gross inability to solve identified problems of the country. Nigeria has lacked the good hands and capacity for meaningful development for too long now. Able leadership, and sincere commitment of the ruling elite to national unity and development are critical to the well being and progress of any society. In the absence of such people, one million times of restructuring will not yield the desired
Understanding the Nature of Development and Related Problems of the Country .
Development is a continuos affair that requires constant attention of the ruling elites. There is no one best approach to nation building. It is an ongoing business in which one problem solved tends to generate its own set of problems. For instance, investment in health and education had produced healthy men and women without jobs- unemployment for short. The task is thus to be constantly working and searching for correct answers to societal problems..

Physical Restructuring not the Answer.
The country’s problem is not structural but poor governance, mismanagement of resources, development neglect everywhere, huge infrastructural deficiency, embarrassing leadership/elite’s failure and incompetence over time. Let us learn to solve problems because the lack of meaningful development for all places and all peoples or majority of them due to poor governance, leadership/ elite’ failure has been the bane of the country. It has been the cause of most of the agitations for self determination. Thus, physical restructuring Is not the answer to the many problems facing the country today. In the final analysis, structures are often not better than the people who use them.

Doing First Thing First
Basically, the absence of good governance, visionary and able leadership and dedicated elite to do meaningful development, justice, fair play, and equitable distribution of resources has held the the country down over time. Corruption which oozes and fouls the air today was planted in the regional structure. So let us learn to correct what has been wrong with the country for so long a time now by doing the first thing first- good governance, effective resource management and justice for all. Here we must fight corruption and other social ills by enforcing our laws without fear or favor.

Good Hands on Saddle
With good hands on the saddle, the present state structure can be made to deliver the good for the entire country. For me, the starting point is with having effective leaders and development oriented elite to set the right vision and resolve the endemic crisis of development due to leadership failure in Nigeria. It will also require the cultivation of the correct attitude for nation- building, raising of dedicated, disciplined and development oriented crops of elite with ability and capacity to do the needful for society.

Fix Economy
Work hard to fix the economy and follow the right path to development as charted in chapter two of the 1999 constitution. Develop appropriate skills for solving problem and get good hands on deck. As history has shown, the most thorny issues today in Nigeria are revenue sharing formula, agitation for resource control and failing economy
This should be obvious from the uproar over the issues at the last two national conferences in 2004, and 2014 and agitation for better life across the country. It proved nasty, emotional and difficult to resolve. While some called for outright individual ownership of the resources in his land as is done according to them in the USA, others wanted an upward review of the present sharing formula in favour of the states.
According to late Ken Saro Wiwa before the military government of General Yakubu Gowon, the revenue sharing formula was: regional government paid 15% to the Federal government, 35% to local councils and retained 50% based on the principle of derivation. Largely the regions controlled the resources within their territories.
While this has been observed to have encouraged agricultural production, Gowon is said to have reversed the principle of derivation in order to strengthen the structure of administration. This was done because the pre-1967 arrangement made the Federal Government too weak even financially to promote national unity and development. There is need to strike a balance between the needs of states and necessity for a strong centre and to get good hands to fix things. The pre-1966 status allegedly made the regions strong and buoyant but it made the centre to be too weak and unstable.

Strong Centre
As history has shown we cannot afford to have a weak centre. This calls for care and compromise, creative thinking and hard work on the economy. Luckily, the 2014 National Conference paid considerable attention to this problem and reached what seems to be an acceptable formula. Here there must be a upward review and devolution of power and resources in favour of the states and LGs. In short, I support the idea of more resources to the states and by implication the LGs.

Take Advantage of Globalization to fix Niger Delta poverty and underdevelopment
We must search both within and outside the country for experts to help tackle the development challenge. For instance, the Niger Delta crisis of development has lingered for too long a time. In a globalized world where some cities are reportedly built on top of water, I always wonder what has stopped us from seeking some professional and technical help on sustained basis from such countries to build and transform our delta area.

Intensify Rural Development Efforts and Establish Marketing Boards
There has been much rural neglect and acute shortage of infrastructure. There are some communities that make the heart bleed and to make one wonder if they are truly part of Nigeria. But these communities are only a metaphor for our collective failure, poverty, underdevelopment, policy neglect of rural areas of the country, and the huge infrastructural deficiency staring us in the face. Though not satisfactory due to poor implementation, the present structure has addressed the problem of rural development far better than the old regional structure. A return to the regional structure of pre1967 and removal of direct funding of LGS would worsen the situation of rural areas of the country.
Our rural areas need urgent and rapid development through positive policy intervention and not rapacious demand for a return to an ill- fated regional structure. Provide the rural areas with basic infrastructure and you will be amazed by the rapid transformation that would become of our country. For now establish marketing boards to buy and mainstream rural production into the national and international markets.

Develop Capacity for Recruiting Good Hands for Governance and Execute Plans
Nigeria is immensely blessed with resources of wealth – both human and material. What she has lacked over time is the ability to select the right people and capacity to do the needful. Its ruling elite had proved a huge disappointment in using available resources of wealth for the good of all citizens across the country. This has given rise to a feeling of injustice and unfairness in the distribution of goods and services .

Do Development for All.
Most of the national problems can be resolved by doing development for all especially by engaging the right elite for service. The problems have largely persisted for so long because of poor leadership, selfish and uncommitted ruling elite and the deployment of incapable hands to developmental tasks. This is to say that the lack of able leadership and patriotic elite have been the bane of the nation. It has made national development and unity the hardest nut to crack in Nigeria.

Modernizing Elite and Promotion of Patriotic and National Sentiments .
We do not need to break down the walls to solve many of our problems including revenue sharing formula, state police, local government status. All that is required is a set of able and modernizing elite to make things happen properly. Most of the problems are administrative and not structural. They require positive action by those in charge- the political and administrative elite. Some honest dialogue could produce good results.
History ought to serve as guide to strike a satisfying compromise. The imperative of effective nation building should be upper most. And this requires high level of patriotism.Truly, what Nigeria lacks most today is right attitude, strong patriotic feeling and national sentiment- a precondition President Abraham Lincoln believes must exist for national unity, growth and survival to happen.

Tackle Problems Frontally
The country lacks men with the right attitude, ability and determination to do development in the interest of all citizens rather than for a select few. And this can happen within the present structure without having to collapse states into big regions of the distasteful past. All that is required are able and women to tackle problems frontally. Truly rather than physical structure, poor leadership, greed, ineptitude and unpatriotic attitude of the political elite have been the main problem and greatest obstacle to national unity and development. But these are largely psychological in nature which can be corrected by improving the skills and attitude of the leader and associated elite.

Correct Mistakes
Take necessary administrative, managerial and operational steps to correct mistakes in good faith and insist on doing good governance and making the right decisions. Here check endemic corruption through effective consequence management, ensure justice, fair play and equitable distribution of resources to all corners and people of the country, effective management of materials of wealth in each of the states.

Observe Rule of Law, Provisions of Constitution and Effective Consequence Management
Let us learn to observe the rule of law and the provision of the constitution. It should be backed by effective consequence management systems this is important because corruption is prohibited in the present structure but it thrives all the same due to the weakness and failure of man to check it by punishing those involved. Payment of workers is a requirement of the law, but some states have not lived up to expectation because of mis priority and greed of the few ruling elite.

Geographical Size not Problem but Ineptitude of Ruling Elite.
Those who cite geographical size and lack of funds as reasons for demanding a return of regionalism may like to recall that the federal government reportedly released about N1.6 trillion to states within the last two years, yet some of them have not paid salaries for months even as their political and bureaucratic elite are seen gallivanting the globe at public expense. No one is demanding for accountability from our rulers.
There is constitutional provision of funds for Local Governments, but many states are known for their failure to release funds to LGs to meet their developmental obligation. We all know that the Nigerian Police Force is poorly manned, funded and empowered to meet the gigantic security challenge of the country but not much is done here. In stead with eye more on control of power than maintenance of security, we have heard incessant demands for the creation of state police force. We can go on unending but the point remains same: our elite are not doing the right thing today. They are inept.

Not All Reforms are Beneficial: Not Process of Birth, But Post Natal Mismanagement
It should be stressed that not all reforms are beneficial or done in the public interest. We do not need to talk of several reforms that failed and deformed the country. The Structural Adjustment Programme is good example. Till date the wound it inflicted on the Naira is yet to heal- after over two decades. Nigerians do not necessarily have to renegotiate the basis of their existence for the fun of it. The problem of the country is not with how it came into being but with how she has been managed after birth.

Calls for Regionalism not Driven by Sincerity
There are grounds to feel that the calls for restructuring are not driven by honesty, but by insincerity and selfishness. At least two items on their demands list are known to have been informed by the narrow interests of the sponsors. Issues such as state police and six geo-political zone are regional pet agenda of their sponsors and promoters but paraded as national imperative.
According to records, the idea of the six geo- political zones was manufactured in the East allegedly to square up with West in terms of number of states. The demand for state’s police is generally believed to have started in the West and was part of the issues rejected during the protracted negotiations for independence in the1950s which culminated in independence of 1960.
There is also the suspicion that it is a ploy by the big tribes to hurt the minority groups by denying them due access to political power and returning them to that sad era of their perpetual political bondage or enslavement and to resume the old habits of savage regional cut- throat competition which inevitably ended in the civil war of 1967- 70.

State Police, Withdrawal of LG Autonomy
The 1999 constitution is a product of our history. The present NPF and status of the LGs were inserted into the constitution to check past mistakes. Based on the lessons of history, I do not support the establishment of state police, withdrawal of local government autonomy or changing their status as contained in the 1999 constitution. We must learn to solve problems and not run away from them to erect new structure. Such move is not the solution to their problems. Basically the problems of the NPF have been under-funded under-manned and of course corruption. As for the Local Government Council, the problem is non- release of due allocation and misuse of available resources.
Each coin has two sides. The present NPF has its good and bad sides and litany of problems that affect performance. For instance, the force requires adequate staffing, funding, training and technological backup. While I do not expect the state police being contemplated to be free of problems, it should always be remembered that the NPF is made up of Nigerians from different parts of the country and not peoples from the Mars.
It is true that the fear of the West about the possible misuse of the police especially to rig election or for other selfish reasons has been proved to be true. But we have all been guilty of the offence: both the centre and regional governments have been guilty of misuse of security forces especially for political reasons.First, the Native Authority’s local police men became a thorn on the flesh of those in opposition at the local government area. The NPF was no better in terms of taking side with power at the state and federal levels. Both were largely misused by the politicians.
But such is normally the case with any structure in the hands of bad people or the absence of good hands to do the needful. It is about men, their abilities or inabilities, beliefs, values, attitude and orientation not the structure per se. However, there are reasons to be hopeful for a better tomorrow even under the present structure. For instance, when security men were alleged to be wrongly used during the last Ekiti governorship elections, a young military officer with patriotic and moral sense of what is wrong and right blew the whistle.This is important for it shows that with good hands a system can be made to be good while with bad hands the best system can be mangled. This has been the the problem of the country- the lack of good hands to do the needful for the entire country.Yet we say we are interested in building a great nation.

Train our men.
Today, when animals especially dogs are trained on security matter, the argument about an indigene being a better catcher of criminals does not hold waters. All that is required is sound training and appropriate motivation. Many states operate some quasi security forces today and experience with them including extortion does not offer great hope for better security in the country. Beyond providing some marginal more jobs for the youths , I really do not believe that state police will ensure better security as long as corruption has not been checked and as long as we lack the will and ability to equip the force well. So let us not be too hopeful of heaven in the name of state police force that would sooner than later be turned into a harassment force at the grass roots by the ruling elite.

Structures, Not to Blame
Chief Obafemi Awolowo demonstrated how a leader can use a given structure during the heavily lopsided structure of the first republic by working hard to make the Western region the lodestar. Lagos state since the time of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu through Babatunde Fashola to Akinwunmi Ambode, as Governors, has shown us the progressive direction to go and the correct steps to be made under the present structure.

Respect for Tenets of Democracy
While good governance is the answer to most of our problems today, we should learn to respect the tenets of democracy. It is significant to recall that Awolowo the Democrat accepted the majority decision not to create state police even though he strongly pushed for it initially. Rather, he worked hard for the emergence of the ‘independence of one Nigeria, one constitution and one law for all and expected “statesmanship of the highest order to manage Nigeria” after independence. But it was not to be. Forces of regionalism tore things apart. Awo became a victim. He was sent to jail with some of his able hands.
When a political party wins an election it wins power on behalf of the party members and not tribe or region. However, it would go ahead to use political power for the benefit of all citizens. It should be clear that once a political party wins power it dispenses powers and favours according to party manifesto and membership. As it were, those in opposition would be in the limbo for the period while working hard on how to win the next election. Today there is a lot of impatience on the part of politicians.We must learn to be patient with political change of power and stop crying of marginalization citing ethnic, religious or regional reason.

Let Say No to Corruption
Corruption is the greatest threat to the well being of the nation, cause of our poverty and underdevelopment. It must therefore be combated with all our strength. We must fight corruption to a stand- still. We must learn too to address human failure that had stalled our progress over the years since independence. Unfortunately, advocates of restructuring often ignore this serious negative factor – human failure. They give the impression that corruption and the like would disappear the moment the old regional structure returns. Thus, how to do things right should be our major concern today having experimented with nearly all the systems in the world but to no avail.

Promote Culture of Accountability.
Let us learn to hold all governments and their agencies accountable. Public Officers must be held accountable and be made to imbibe the culture of accountability, good governanc, justice, fair play and equitable distribution of resources. This is the bedrock of stability, growth, development and unity of all nations that are doing much better than Nigeria. The states should look inward and explore the resources therein following the Lagos example today.

Do Good Management
It is sad to recall that within the last two years the sum of N1.6trillion was released to the states, yet some of them have not paid salaries to their workers. It should alarm the heart as Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, has alleged that “55 Nigerians stole $6.2b” – a handsome amount of money that could have been used to deal with poverty and under development issues.

Build Nigerian System on Historical Experience, Think Less of American Way
There is really the need to caution against two dangerous tendencies or beliefs. First is the belief that Nigeria must of necessity follow the USA model since she practises the presidential system. The two countries have different orientations informed by two opposing values of individualism and communalism- the idea of one’s brother’s keeper.The second is the assumption that desired results can only come when people of the same tribe or religion are made to work. Again, this is not true because history shows that Nigerians of different ethnicity had worked in cooperation to do corruption. Unfortunately, these beliefs or assumptions inform most of the clamour for restructuring. However, they are wrong and misleading and do not help in building the Nigerian system. They should be avoided.

Commitment to Nation Building
We must be serious with the task of nation building and be committed to it with all our hearts and might. One of the standard ways of building a nation is central hold on certain institutions such as the Army, police and others. It is the right way to go.
The country needs a strong centre today but the latter has taken too much of what is available . It must be made to give up a part of its powers and resources to the states and local governments but not to a point of its impotence.
Finally, as observed in earlier, the way forward is not in going back to regionalism, but in moving forward on the path of Good governance, justice, fair play, heightened citizenry participation, equitable distribution of resources, effective consequence management, zero tolerance for corruption, good management, able leadership, dedicated elite to the cause of nation building, patriotism and nationalism.

Author: News Editor

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