The Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi with his Kaduna State counterpart, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, yesterday, reiterated the need for restructuring the Nigerian state as the only way to go if there was any sincere intention to make the country work better for everyone.
The two governors spoke in Kaduna at the 50th anniversary of the Centre For Historical Documentary and Research otherwise known as Arewa House.
While Fayemi described the country as an unfinished greatness and warned that the growing youth population had become a ticking time bomb if not invested in, El-Rufai regretted that the nation’s electioneering calendar presented only a narrow window for significant and consequential action to reform the political and structural framework that could enable rapid, peaceful and inclusive development of the country.
In the same breath, a former Minister of Information and one of the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Professor Jerry Gana has tasked the current political actors to do everything humanly possible to ensuring that Nigeria did not break up, because that’s not the intention of the founding fathers whom he would describe as patriotic.
Fayemi: Nigeria’s Unfinished Greatness
Delivering his paper titled: “Unfinished Greatness: Towards a More Perfect Union in Nigeria”, Fayemi, who was the guest speaker declared that, the evolution of Nigeria’s federalism has not served the best interests of Nigerians and that it was not surprising that there had been protests and attempts at constitutional reengineering of the country.
According to him, the events of the past few weeks had brought the contradictions of the Nigerian state into a sharper focus, stressing that, “This is why anyone who holds a semblance of power or authority in this country should be deeply worried by the events of the past few weeks.
“What started as an innocuous online protest over police brutality snowballed before our very eyes into a mass movement that assumed more frightening dimensions. From the demand to #EndSARS, we have seen vigorous demands for greater accountability, and greater efficiency in government. What I understand the youths to be saying is that we the older generation has failed them by our inability to create a system that supports their dreams and accommodate their aspirations.
“From the language of their protests, we can see clearly that our youths feel pushed to the margin of our nation’s socio-political and economic structures. It is incumbent on us to listen to what they are saying and a lot more that they are probably not saying yet.
“For over a decade, several analysts have noted that our massive youth population could be a major demographic advantage to our country if it is properly harnessed. Years of neglect and failure to make the right investments to support this population is now, quite predictably, turning it to a major disruptive force and a time bomb. I am afraid that the bomb has started to tick; we must therefore act fast and start now to create systems that provide opportunities for our young people and make it possible for them to attain their God-given potentials.”
Speaking specifically to the issues, Fayemi said, “Whether your immediate concern is police brutality and the need for police reform or you reflect upon the rationale and the challenges of those who insist that unless and until Nigeria becomes a theocracy, there shall be blood and tears unlimited; whether you look towards the Niger Delta where, despite the amnesty and the industry of graft and greed that it has re-produced, there is a continuous and bloody demand for justice and equity;
“Or you examine the endless pretexts for ethnic strife and blood-letting between the so called indigenous people and the ‘settlers’ in the Middle Belt; whether you scrutinise the regular apocalyptic predictions of highly placed Nigerians about the fate of the country, or you contemplate what would happen if measures are not taken to arrest the drift, you cannot but come to the conclusion that Nigeria needs to be re-created”, he contended.
Fayemi, however, said “What we need is a fundamental re-engineering of our governance system in a way that will make our country work better for everyone,” noting that in the quest for a more perfect union, the main challenge is re-creating the union and the basis of its fundamental national association.
“Unfortunately for us as a people”, he continued, “it is a challenge that has been affected by mutual suspicion and unnecessary brickbats. Caught in our politics of difference and otherness, devolution, decentralisation and restructuring often used as synonyms and such other epithets have come to mean different things to different peoples, depending on the ethnic and regional toga they wear.
“Our age-long distrusts and suspicions of one another are now being tested and contested on these epithets. The evolution of Nigeria’s federalism has not served our best interests and it is not surprising that there have been protests and attempts at constitutional reengineering.
“Two prominent examples were the 2005 Constitutional Reform Conference convened by President Obasanjo’s administration and the 2014 National Conference at the instance of President Jonathan’s. In the two conferences, one recurrent and topical issue remains how to remake and allocate powers and resources.
“However, the truth is that in a democratic dispensation, roots and branch structural changes (like region or state creation) would appear to me unrealistic as we cannot easily go back to the pre-1966 regional structure nor is the 54 federating units proposal of the 2014 conference realistic, no matter the appeal or attraction.
“Rather, our preoccupations should be, how can we better organise, mobilise, and collaborate for the inevitable task of stability, nation-building and economic productivity. Even at that, the more contentious parts of our quest for a more perfect union resonates/revolves around devolution of powers – that is, re-allocation of powers and resources and reconfiguring the country’s federating units.”
Throwing more light to the discourse, the Ekiti governor explained that, “The reasons for this are not far-fetched. First, long years of military rule have produced a concentration of powers and resources at the centre to the detriment of the federating units. Two, the 1999 constitution, as has been argued by several observers, was hurriedly put together by the departing military authority and was not a product of sufficient inclusiveness.
“The focus of the reconfiguring exercise should be: what items should remain on the exclusive legislative list and which ones should be transferred to the concurrent and residual lists? Other topical issues include derivation principle; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; land tenure, local government creation and autonomy; etc.
“Again, in arriving at a position on what ought to be in the quest for a more perfect union, I wish to further say that my sentiments are more associated with strengthening the sub-national units in the re-allocation of powers and resources.
“The assignment of functions that would be consistent with a devolved but strengthened federal system would have a short, exclusive federal list focusing on national defence and security, macro-economy, foreign affairs, customs and excise; joint responsibility in respect of certain functions that are currently assigned exclusively to the federal government (for example, internal security and policing) and primary responsibility of the sub-national governments in respect of the other functions in the second schedule of the 1999 constitution whilst the remaining powers devolve to states.”
On Revenue Collection and Sharing
On revenue collection and sharing, Fayemi said the position of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum was that it should be reviewed in favour of the states, “especially given the argument of devolved responsibilities to the sub-nationals.
“In the context of the proposed new Federal structure, governors have argued for a formula along the lines of 42% to states, 35% to the federal and 23% to local governments. Remaking Nigeria through devolution of powers and re-organisation of the federating units is an idea whose time has come,” he maintained.
El-Rufai on True Federalism
On his part, El-Rufai, who claimed to be passionate about a constitutional framework that would enable the country to manifest, said, “I will not hesitate to admit that I am passionate about what constitutional framework will best enable the promise of this country to manifest.
“I had the privilege of chairing the All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism with membership across the political and demographic spectrum to lay out our party’s roadmap for our nation’s greatness,” adding that the committee, in its report, defined the values that, in its opinion, promoted and connoted ‘True Federalism’ therefore and proposed a clear roadmap for implementing the recommendations.
In his words: “As its report show, the APC Committee on True Federalism produced clear recommendations to strengthen federalism and achieve national cohesion and healthy subnational competition. The committee also made efforts to accelerate the implementation of its recommendations by producing draft bills that incorporate the recommendations either as proposed amendments to our Constitution or our national laws.
“It is a matter for regret that for some reasons, the consequential action by the APC leadership to adopt and implement the report has not happened since it was submitted in January 2018. The urgency of our challenges dictates that we should move fast with a sense of purpose to remove the structural bottlenecks that hobble our country.
“There is very little time left to secure and begin to implement the necessary constitutional amendments. While the report of our committee was well received, some people complained that it was coming too close to the 2019 elections, for a report submitted in January 2018.”
El-Rufai, however, captured the thrust of his submission, when he argued: “The point here is that our electioneering calendar presents only a narrow window for significant and consequential action to reform the political and structural framework to enable rapid, peaceful and inclusive development of our country. The Committee on Federalism recommended that the federation be rebalanced, with more powers and responsibilities devolved to the states.
“The committee also clarified that the federation is a relationship solely between the states and the Federal Government, and that each state should be allowed to operate the system of local government that best suits its circumstances, culture and diversity. It was the committee’s considered opinion that in a country as diverse as ours one size or structure of local governance does not fit all.
“The Committee’s recommendations also cover how the states can generate the resources that will fund their envisaged expanded burdens, responsibilities and authority. This includes a holistic review of the share of federation revenues accruing to the states and federal government.
“Our report also upheld the derivation principle as a primary component of fiscal federalism and recommended that control of mineral resources be vested in the states who will then pay applicable royalties and taxes to the Federation Account for distribution between all tiers of government.
“To make this work, we proposed and drafted the amendments of extant laws such as the Petroleum Act, the Nigerian Mining and Minerals Act, the Land Use Act and the Petroleum Profits Tax Act. Our report regarded derivation as being applicable as well to hydro-power, solar, wind and other forms of renewable power generation.”
Further to this, he recalled that the APC Committee on True Federalism proposed significant devolution of powers between the national government and the 36 States, and recommended further devolution of responsibilities between the States and Local Governments depending on local circumstances, culture, capacity and capability, even as it “suggested a remedy for the anomaly of a federation that has a more or less unitary judiciary.”
Concluding, El-Rufai, posited that, “I am firmly convinced that restructuring our current constitutional and statutory framework on the lines proposed by our committee is a unique nation-building opportunity. I am not aware of any significant constituency that is against the idea that states should exercise consequential powers; assume more responsibilities and control resources to enable them deliver better outcomes for those they govern.
“In the last 20-25 years, Nigerian citizens and political groupings have used different registers to convey their demands for a loosening of the centralised arrangements that have increasingly prevailed since the military disrupted our parliamentary democratic order in 1966.
“They have consistently asked for devolution of powers to the states, and see subnational competition as the path to rapid progress. We are all witnesses to the regional competition in the 1950s and 1960s that gave us universities like ABU, Radio and TV stations, stadiums, generous scholarships and affordable yet quality public education.
“The report of our APC True Federalism Committee puts in one place the recommendations, and the legislative amendments to give life to a restructured polity. I, therefore, call on our federal legislators and the National Assembly Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitutional Review to take advantage of our report and initiate the constitutional and legislative amendments in either a piece-meal or comprehensive manner without further delay. Our report and draft bills are all available online. Just Google APC True Federalism Report and download it today.
“We therefore have no excuse not to seize this moment and do the heavy lifting for our country and our people. It is in our hands to make the structures, laws and constitutional arrangements in our country conducive to modern governance that will ensure our nation thrives in the 21st century.
“We must move from a century of being ‘a nation of great potentials’ to summoning a determined national effort to achieving near-developed country status. Singapore, South Korea and China did it in a generation. Rwanda, Botswana and Ethiopia in Africa are well on the way. Why can’t we do the same? Our progress is in our hands,” he maintained.
Jerry Gana: Nigeria Must Not Break Up
In what seemed like a shared position on the state of the nation, Gana, who urged that everything must be done to keep the nation together, said the founding fathers of Nigeria were inspired towards the founding of the country and as such, called for an immediate signing into law of a credible electoral process that would guarantee a free and fair election in the country.
He said the idea behind the founding of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was to sustain the continued unity of Nigeria as a sovereign nation.
“The G34 that formed the PDP were essentially patriots. They love Nigeria tremendously – every single one of them. I would like to say a few words on their behalf to you young ones. Nigeria must not break! It is extremely important for you to take note of what I am saying now on behalf of the elders,” he said.
Gana, a former chairman of the social mobilisation and reorientation agency in the days of Military President Ibrahim Babangida, who spoke in his house in Abuja during a courtesy call by VITALDI, a leadership development initiative of patriots from all parts of Nigeria, seeking the intervention of credible elder statesmen to help preserve the peace and stability of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, said Nigerians needed each other to survive.
His word: “The founding fathers, who came together and put Nigeria together as a federal republic, were very highly inspired. Highly inspired, because we need each other. At the last count, for example, as at two weeks ago, there were 14 million people, men and women from Igbo land that are in the northern part of Nigeria. Over 14 million and this is real.
“In my village, if you remove the Igbo community, then, the place is lifeless. If you now come to the Southwest, the number of people from Yorubaland in the whole of northern Nigeria may also be nearly double of that 14 million, because they are traders and have settled down peacefully and living together. You can’t even separate them anymore. This is the reality.
“So anyone staying abroad and talking don’t know the reality. It is not possible. In this city, I am talking about Abuja, 80 per cent of properties in this city, does not belong to us – those of us who come from here; it belongs to other Nigerians, because this area was selected. This is Sahara area.
“I was teaching in Suleja that used to be Abuja, Abuja Secondary School in 1966-67, and Gen. Gowon, who selected this area deliberately chose this area as a place, where all Nigerians can be as one and at home, because those of us who belong here, we are very welcoming.
“The communities that were here love people and therefore Nigeria must not break, we must be together. I have mentioned the big groups now: the Igbo, the Yoruba, the Hausa Fulani and the ones that Nigeria was created for because they can’t be a nation. The Igbo can be a nation. They have big people and they have big language. Yoruba can be a nation. The Hausa Fulani can be a nation. We cannot be a nation,” he stated.