“The national debate and calls for restructuring are nothing new, but they continue to grow amid economic stress, political uncertainty and recurrent violent conflicts across the country”
– Tolulope Ola-David, a Political Risk Analyst
The consistent clarion call for the holistic restructuring of the current contraption called Nigeria, before the attention-grabbing 2023 general elections, by die-hard patriots, including the leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo should ring a loud bell to the ears of the powers that be. But it doesn’t. That is unfortunate, given the rising tides of economic crisis, debt burden, insecurity and inter-ethnic disharmony worsened by the clamour by top politicians from each of the six geo-political zones angling for the plum post of the presidency. Perhaps, they should understand that it makes no sense to put the cart before any leadership drive or race.
Alarming too is that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party that used it as an oily bait; with the promise to restructure the country once voted into power back in 2015 and has blatantly refused to honour its pledge to the people. This is 2022, some seven good years after! Talk about the critical element of trust in the leadership-led majority relationship and you can understand exactly why we have found ourselves stewing in the present socio-political abyss. This sad situation throws up some fundamental questions.
What is the meaning of democracy, if the parochial and personal interests and wishes of a few political leaders override that of the good wishes of the large majority of the people? How can an over-bloated federal centre galvanize the competitive spirit inherent in the federating units controlling their resources? How can the crude oil and gas resources, most abundant in the South-South zone belong to the country but that of Zamfara gold does not? In which other country do we have state governors going cap-in-hand to the federal centre every month-end for peanuts called the federal allocation? This brings even more questions.
Would it have been possible for the citizens of the then Western Region to have enjoyed Free Education policy, good access roads, fruitful farm centres, the first television station in Sub-Sahara Africa under the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (of blessed memory) if the revenues from cocoa sales were paid to the federal centre? Would the then Eastern Region under Dr. Michael Okpara, the leader of the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and an advocate of ‘pragmatic socialism’ have boasted of the fastest evolving economy in the Commonwealth group of nations? Could he have boasted of great institutional achievements that developed agricultural facilities, made huge revenues from oil palms and built modern schools, if such revenues went to the federal centre? The answers should be obvious even to the nay-sayers.
But then the haters of political restructuring go about it as if it takes rocket science to achieve it. They should be enlightened that all it takes is for the lawmakers to amend Section 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Section 44 (3) states: “Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the entire property in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria shall vest in the government of the federation and shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.”
The way forward is for them to act with a unity of purpose and initiate a bill to abrogate Section 44 (3) of the constitution. They should make way for a new law that confers ownership and control of mineral resources to the states and local governments. This should be done in addition to the devolution of political power to the federating units, armed with true, fiscal federalism.
According to Tolulope Ola-David writing for OxPol blog of the University of Oxford which aims to promote leading academic research and analysis, Nigeria has a unitary constitutional arrangement despite being a federal republic, in which the federal government wields overarching powers. Though it copied its democracy from the United States of America, unlike it, the central government controls the revenues and nearly all of the country’s resources, especially oil and natural gas. Revenues accrue in the Federation Account, where it is allocated monthly to the states and the LGAs, by a federal executive body, the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation, and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). This is an aberration that must be retooled.
That explains why the Afenifere group in the United Kingdom and Europe has urged Nigerians to explore the 2023 general election to elect leaders that will restructure the country. Instead of developing a stiff neck or turning deaf ears to the call by Adebanjo, as made available in a state of the nation address titled: ‘Fixing Nigeria before the fall’ held in Lagos in November 2021, concerned Nigerians should join their voices to his voice of reason. Let the states control their God-given resources and pay an agreed tax to the federal centre. Let them decide on the priority areas for their developmental agenda in the areas of infrastructure, education, agriculture, healthcare delivery, transportation, tourism and the minimum wage to pay to their workers.