A fresh look at some major problems of Nigeria
AS I wish Nigerians a happy 2019, I want to discuss afresh some of our country’s major problems with a view to finding solutions to them. It is my hope that the authorities concerned will examine my views with an open mind and not a fixed disposition to assist them in taking the right decisions and coming up with appropriate actions to make Nigeria better for all of us. Politically a multi-national and multi-linguistic country like Nigeria needs a federal system of government to run smoothly.
Our founding fathers in their wisdom opted for it at Independence in 1960. We had initially three regions which a few years later in 1963 became four. Not that everything was all right but the federating regions ran independently with some measure of autonomy each one having control of its resources and developed at its own pace, setting its priorities. The West had its cocoa and timber, the North its groundnuts and cotton, the East its petroleum products and coal. Power resided in the regions each one controlling its security through regional and community police.
The regions only paid royalties to the government at the Centre which had responsibilities for the currency, foreign affairs, defence, immigration, among others. The regions were stronger than the Federal Government and were responsible for the basic needs of their citizens. There was healthy rivalry. In short, Nigeria worked and had the best lease of political life and arrangement so far.
But with the incursion of the military into politics through the coups of January and July 1966, the whole scenario changed. Federalism in all its ramifications was abolished while the unitary high command system the army is used to was imposed on Nigeria.
Although we remained the Federal Republic of Nigeria in name and on paper, for all practical purposes we became a unitary State. Most powers and resources were ceded over to the central government while the regions were left unproductive and dependent on the Federal Government for virtually everything. Meanwhile more states were created by military fiat to satisfy the personal egos of the military leaders without any rational basis.
The states grew fast to 12, 19 and now we have 36 of them with the federal territory of Abuja also run like a state. So in place of the 5 centres of government of the first republic, we now have 38 with no corresponding increase in productivity and revenue. The country became dependent on just the oil revenue which in turn was diminishing and subject to the instability of the world market and politics.
The resultant effect is that most states cannot run their services without recourse to the Federal Government. They now go to Abuja cap in hand every month for the peanuts of Federal allocations which are never adequate for their needs. Most states owe an average of six months workers’ salaries. Political parties now engage in bitter struggle for control of power and pause of the Federal Government, where selfishness greed and corruption dominate activities. Niger-Delta militancy, Massob, Ibob, Kidnapping, ritual killings, mistrusts, disaffections, herdsmen/farmers clashes and other crimes are a fallout of the political development.
Even Boko Haram can be traced to it. The supporting staff of the National Assembly were on strike over non-payment of their allowances such that the presentation of the 2019 budget by President Buhari was threatened; the universities have been shut down because of the strike of ASUU, Labour had gone on a nation-wide warning strike over demand for a new minimum wage and the matter remains unresolved.
The country appears to be stagnating if not retrogressing. I am not apportioning blames here to either present or past governments. It is a cumulative effect, the stack realities. So what is the answer: Restructuring.
Those who claim not to understand what people mean by it or what we need is restructuring of the mind, are either being ignorant or naïve or are just downright dishonest and insincere. You restructure when you change what is not working or delivering to that which will give results.
The problems now bedeviling Nigeria are a result mainly of a faulty political system and no matter what good governance is thought of the warped structure cannot allow it to be effective. The arrangement in the first republic worked, so Nigerians are clamouring for something similar.
What Nigerians want are houses to live in, food to eat, potable water to drink, steady reliable electricity to enjoy and to do their business, good roads to ply, efficient medicare of well-equipped and staffed hospitals, qualitative education for their children, security of their life and property, jobs especially for their young graduates etc.
The Confab of 2014 and Chief Enahoro’s Pronarco document had made recommendations as to how to go about delivering these dividends of democracy. It is hypocritical for any group to say they do not believe in the Confab for the States controlled by all the major political parties sent delegations to the conference.
Restructuring will surely pave the way for providing solutions to our nagging problems. One major point to think about is how many federating units we need. This vital factor is not being addressed and yet it is basic. Do we use the six geopolitical zones or the 12 states structure of the Gowon era with the minorities being allowed to decide where they want to belong?
With a true Federal arrangement, the federating units will, like the four regions of the first republic, be able to provide the basic needs of the people through diversified economic activities of resource control, state police etc. This way the bitter struggle for control of the Federal Government with the corruption and selfishness it brings will be a thing of the past.
We will be able to change from spending 80% of our revenue on the re-current expenditure of maintaining the huge size and cost of governance on less than 5% of the population. With government providing for capital projects of infrastructure and social services the agitation for increased wages by the workers will no longer be there. Nigeria will be a better place for all of us as we will all have a sense of belonging. Perhaps we should think of such restructuring before any general elections to build on a solid foundation.
Specifically on Boko Haram, I want to suggest that we raise a powerful diplomatic team of Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Aliko Dangote, Father Matthew Kuka, Tony Elumelu and Dr. Christopher Kolade to dialogue with the leaders of the insurgents. I am sure we will make good progress with these eminent Nigerians held in high esteem worldwide. Finally, we have done it again.
We ignored six DIGs to appoint an AIG as the new Inspector-General of Police. All the DIGs will have to retire. It has now become a norm but it is not good for the psyche and morale of our senior police officers. It is also wasteful. If we find the DIG posts redundant or superfluous, let us scrap them but if officers get there on merit, then we must no longer bye-pass them to appoint their junior to boss them in the true spirit and practice of the public service. It is another form of official corruption.
- Dr. Olasope, a veteran broadcaster, lives in Efon-Alaaye, Ekiti State.