Nigeria Must Be Immediately Restructured
The Richards Constitution of 1946 introduced regionalism into the political structure of the pre-independent Nigeria. The country was balkanized into the Northern, Western and Eastern Regions.
It was the Lyttletons constitution of 1954 that made it possible for Nigerians to be at the helm of affairs in the various regions as the independence process was done piece meal. Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello became the Premier of the Northern Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo became the Premier of the Western Region and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the Eastern Region’s Premier. Each region controlled their resources and sent some to the centre in Lagos.
In the western region, Awolowo built the Cocoa House, Liberty Stadium, Western Nigeria Television, instituted the free primary education scheme, gave scholarships for post graduate studies to indigenes abroad amongst many ground breaking projects from what the west generated from cocoa sales. Azikiwe did the same in the east from the proceeds of oil palm and coal while Bello built the famous groundnut pyramids, the textile industry as well as the leather and tanning industry from what was generated from groundnuts and agricultural produce.
The Independence Constitution of 1960 was autochthonous as it had a major input from many of the Nigerian stakeholders still advocated for regionalism as well as a Westminster style parliamentary system of government.
The regional system of government worked well when independence finally came with the lowering of the Union Jack on October 1st that year. Azikiwe ensured the building of the University of Nigeria in Nsukka that same year though it was Dr. Michael Okpara who was in power as the region’s Premier. Awolowo used his influence to ensure the building of the University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University in the ancient city of Ile Ife also through the efforts of the then Ooni of Ife, Sir Adesoji Aderemi who was the then Governor of the Western Region. Ahmadu Bello built the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna.
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There was healthy competition amongst the regions and the centre which was then in Lagos wasn’t as strong as the regions as they depended on them for its economic sustenance. The weak centre was the major reason why Ahmadu Bello sent his deputy in the Northern Peoples Congress, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to be the nation’s Prime Minister while he continued as the Premier of the northern region. The regional premiers never went cap in hand to beg the Prime Minister for handouts to govern their regions. The parliamentary system also ensured that the cost of governance was low as the parliamentarians did their job on a part time basis and were only paid sitting allowances. They had their day jobs, professions or businesses to fall back on and so didn’t see politics as a do or die affair to bring home the bacon.
One of the greatest tragedies to befall the nation was the first military coup of January 15 1966 which saw the brutal termination of the First Republic.
The military government under the leadership of the late Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi changed the structured into a unitary one and that decision has haunted the country till date.
Another gargantuan error in the build up to the Second Republic during the drafting of the 1979 constitution was the switch from the parliamentary system of government to the American style presidential system. The fallout of that decision is one of the reasons why politics in the most populous black nation on earth has been surreptitiously reduced into a dirty game as the stakes are extremely high since it offers a one way ticket out of the debilitating scourge of poverty which they ironically created through their anti-people policies.
The chickens have come home to roost as many states can no longer pay their workers salaries and some even borrow for that purpose. We recall the extremely pathetic state of things in Osun state during the Rauf Aregbesola led administration where the civil servants were owed for months and it got so terrible that some concerned adherents of the Living Faith Church a.k.a Winners Chapel collaborated to send succour to them via truckloads of essential food items. The then Senator Ben Murray-Bruce also pledged some part of his salary for that purpose. The government had borrowed to no end to fund white elephant projects like the Opon Imo and the airport and they couldn’t borrow any longer since they weren’t in the good books of the money lenders. Many states cannot even pay the thirty thousand naira a month pittance that masquerades as the minimum wage at a time when Switzerland wants to pay her citizens the equivalent of 20.5 million naira as the minimum wage.
There is too much power at the centre which explains why there is an insane rush to get and die in Abuja. The 1999 constitution designates the Governors as the Chief Security Officers of their states without making them in charge of the police there as they cannot give instructions to the commissioners of police there making a cruel mockery of that status.
There is the need to return to true federalism. The states should be given the power to control their resources. Though I am not a fan of former Delta State Governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, I share his views on resource control. The states need to have full control of their resources and powers should be devolved from the centre to reside in them so that the embarrassing situation of the governors running to Abuja like cursed mendicants will cease forthwith. States like Benue dubbed as the food basket of the nation, Osun, most states in the north should be food producers and exporters. These states have no business with battling to pay the minimum wage when they can generate hundreds of millions of US Dollars in foreign exchange earnings. California has Hollywood and the Silicon Valley which makes them bigger in terms of revenue earnings than many countries of the world. The same goes for Texas with its vast oil reserves and New York which is the economic nerve of the United States and by extension the world since the US is the globe’s most powerful nation. Their governors don’t go about begging Trump for handouts. The Governor of Washington DC, Jay Inslee once revealed in an interview that he hasn’t seen Donald Trump in the White House since he came into office over four years ago because there is absolutely no need to. It is high time the President stopped seeing the governors like recalcitrant and errant school boys to be whipped in line when they falter.
The only states that are economically viable are Lagos, Rivers, Akwaibom which shouldn’t be so as it is setting a dangerous precedent for the polity. A state like Ekiti with the highest number of Professors in the country with the sobriquet ‘Fountain of Knowledge’ should be the thinking hub of the nation – something akin to building a knowledge bank there. Seaports should be built in Ondo, Anambra and Rivers so that Lagos can be decongested and development greatly diffused to as far as the hinterlands. The states should feed themselves rather than wait endlessly for the overwhelmed centre to do so. Politics will also invariably be made less attractive at the centre and this will weed out the professional hustlers and any government in power apologists for serious minded public spirited service oriented individuals.
The cost of governance is also too high and the current presidential system of government should be jettisoned for the parliamentary which should have a part time legislature with minimal sitting allowances. It is scandalous that our legislators are among the highest paid in the world in a country that is now the poverty capital of the world. How tragically ironic!
The cries for secession will abate if only we can hurriedly restructure along the above given lines. It is only restructuring that can correct the ‘mistake’ of 1914.
The Muhammadu Buhari led government should do this as a lasting legacy which would guarantee the future of the generations yet unborn.