On the 17th of March 2014, in accordance with the increasingly agitated will of the free people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; President Goodluck Jonathan convened a national conference of the leaders of the geo-political zones that constitute the country, and other individuals bureaucratic or otherwise, with a vested interest in proceedings. It was the first such gathering in almost a decade, the last of its kind having come in 2005 under former president Olusegun Obasanjo. The 2005 conference had been an unmitigated disaster ergo a repeat scenario was to be avoided at all costs seeing as many saw the outcome of the current conference as germane to the progress of country and citizen.
High atop the list of critical national issues were such topics as the de-centralisation of government powers and subsequent amendment of the appallingly flawed 1995 constitution. Presiding over the conference was the former Justice of the Supreme Court, Idris Legbo Kutigi with the President largely an observer in the ensuing proceedings as all 492 attendees were divided into committees and handed issues to tackle and solve satisfyingly. This was to be the beginning of a painstaking five-month re-assessment of the nation’s constitutional innards, the results of which were condensed into a comprehensive 20 volume report and submitted for review. After much fractiousness and disagreements based on differing views, the Chairman recommended an immediate implementation of most of the policies introduced or re-introduced in the confabulation report. The President promised to do this and Nigerians finally allowed themselves to hope that better days lay ahead.
Three years on, and hindsight makes a mockery of it all. A different ruler holds the reins of power these days and despite initial promises to the contrary, President Muhammadu Buhari is clearly not interested in the brain-child of his predecessor. However, neither absence nor ignorance will do, in answering the national question.
And on that note, we examine the nature of the term “national question.”
Chief Obafemi Awolowo once famously called the country “a mere geographical expression.”, this coinage concisely describes the multi-layered melting pot of cultures, languages, ethnicities and religions that were amalgamated (peremptorily and without any consultation from the local populace) to form the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria.
From time immemorial, all of the aforementioned factors have always defined and influenced the human race. They give man a sense of identity and belonging, thereby making the merging of different peoples a very tricky business. The President of any multi-ethnic country will tell you that for free. And so, in grotesquely trying to marry over 300 unique cultures, and peoples, the polycultural Frankenstein that is Nigeria was formed.
This was the first major error.
Upon gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria was projected to undergo massive reforms and re-structuring as it tried to find its feet. Incredibly, our founding fathers and legislators didn’t do much to overhaul the unfair incumbent laws which were put in place by the British, to further imperial interests. Which brings me to my second point? The previous government being colonial; land and mineral wealth were expropriated from individuals in the name of the Crown. After the abolishment of the British, ownership of land assets and mineral wealth should have reverted back to the citizens, instead it stayed firmly in government hands where it remains to the day.
After their ruminations, the assembly came up with these fairly viable options. Under the United Nations resolution 1514, it is implied here that the existing state is but an aggregate of willingly allied states and as such, any group within the state who feels dissatisfied with the dispensing of polities can opt to leave the union at any time subject to a plebiscite. This is called the right of self-determination and Nigeria is a signatory. The committees jointly rejected taking this option instead proposing the total de-centralisation of powers. This approach involves draining the Federal government of much of its current monarchical power in order for individual states (confederacies) to become more autonomous, this is the system of governance employed by countries like USA. Consequently, this course of action lays the groundwork for the introduction of fiscal federalism.
Under ideal fiscal federalism the highest revenue-generating states accordingly get the largest shares of the public revenue ensuring that each state gets what it worked for. The initiation of this policy should not only stop unfair allocation of revenue, it will also enable under-performing states to step up to the plate to provide for its indigenes.
Thirdly, we examine the issue of security or the lack of it in the country. With the implementation of the 2014 confab report, states will become responsible for providing their own security forces and policing systems. This long-overdue referendum will enable states more efficiently tackle crime by delineating crime-prone zones and systematically sanitising them. These state-run security forces may be run simultaneously with other specialised Federal or state sponsored crime-fighting organisations and has long been the method in use for most of the first world.