Restructuring: It is High Time Advocates Faced Realities. -
There is need for advocates of restructuring to put forward, without semantics and verbiage, what it intends to obtain by retooling the Nigerian federation. At different time in different fora, we have heard and read of 'true federalism'. What is true federalism? Is there anything between good and bad? It is either good or bad! We have also heard and read of 'deeper fiscal federalism'. What was the constructor of the term implying?
Universally, if we debate to restructure our federation to entrench 'true federal-practice, are we stating boldly that our federal-practice is flawed? If it is flawed, it best for us to revert to a federal status as it is practised in other federal governments across the globe. If we persist with the appending of adjectives to federalism, we may be introducing a Nigerian form of federalism which still has berth what we have today, a lopsided federation.
When we clamour for the restructuring of our federation, we are talking about bringing changes to our existing federal arrangement, it doesn't entail introducing a new system of government or creating new nations from Nigeria.
We must appreciate the fact that a federation is a political arrangement where federating states and the central federal government have partially self-governing statuses or privileges.
Get this straight, under a federal arrangement, the self-governing status of the component states as well as the division of power between them and the central government, is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of either party, the states or the federal government. This makes it clear that no state can pull out of the union by their own volition and the federal government can not declare a member state out of the federation without the alterations of the constitution.
It may be understood why those who introduced 'true' to federalism and 'deeper' to fiscal federalism. But, it doesn't worth conceding to as they dismiss the kernel of restructuring as so much agitated for in Nigeria.
Though restructuring the federation is not a magic wand that will miraculously turn the country for good by the blink of an eye, it is worth knowing that getting the structure right is much more important than the activities to be carried out on it because should the structure be a failing one, the result of the activities will wear the same look.
When we succeed in restructuring our federation, sovereign power shall be formally divided between the central federal government and the 36 federating states so that each state retains some degree of autonomy over its internal affairs and resources. Though, many will contest this status but how long shall we continue with bearucracy in governance yet long for an ease in doing businesses in Nigeria. We must get our government first. The horse should come before the cart.
Restructuring our federation will allow federal practice where states governors will no longer visit the Federal government to share and allocate to them proceeds from resources which were derived from their backyards. Same to say thet Nigerians will stop begging for what belongs to them from the president of the country.
It was in this country, Nigeria that a sitting President withheld Local Government allocations due to Lagos State. This happened! We are also having a case in Rivers State where the Federal Government's agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is seeking to investigate the allocations withdrawn by the state government. The court ruled against the Obasanjo government for starving the state of its rights. The government paid to the latter.
It is obvious that policing is local as a stranger cannot effectively police a community but should be policed, restructuring our federation will berth state policing against the practice of having a central command from the central government. There has been arguments that the state governors will abuse State police but I ask, who is it at its best to abuse, the federal government? We have to look beyond intangible sentiments and face true realities.
Izuoma Ibe is the convener of Join The Restructuring Campaign (JTRC)