True federalism and alleged doubtful practicability in Nigeria

(By Polycarp Onwubiko)

There is nowhere in the world where a body controls admissions in secondary schools (the so called unity schools) and institutions of higher learning where dafts who score 5 per cent out of 200 per cent and 100 per cent out of 400 (JAMB) respectively are given admissions to the denial of brilliant candidates. Ethnic groups’ aspirations in education are not the same and therefore the Federal Ministry of Education has to be abolished. Let states which want to admit candidates who score 5 per cent make policy on that while states which value competitive spirit and excellence move at their respective pace in education, scientific technological advancement so as to join civilised countries of the world. When this sane process is done, there will no longer be the strikes by lecturers nationwide.

PERCEPTIVE and keen observers of the deliberations of the various committees of the national conference would be wondering about the curious agenda and mindset of an ethno-religious phalanx pertaining to the prospects of realistic socio-economic growth and development of this seemingly accursed country, Nigeria. I believe that the national conference which was divinely berthed in spite of its tortuous journey and buffetings has exposed the devious design of the Northern establishment, that is, the leaders in that region, the core North, to hold the progressive minded ethnic groups in the southern part of the country to ransom.

  It has become apparent that there will never be a point of convergence in the realistic position of delegates of the southern geo-political zones with the quixotic posturing of their northern counterpart in the imperative restructuring of governance and public service in Nigeria. It is unfortunate that the Northern leaders have sealed the fate of the progressive mind of the ethno-religious groups in the middle belt of the country whose elite have not sufficiently demonstrated a resolve to free their people from the age-long mental strangle hold and internal colonialism of the northern Establishment masquerading to be protecting their interests in the platforms of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF). The northern leaders have foreclosed the exercise of independent mind of people of Plateau, Benue, Kwara, Kogi and Nassarawa states from articulating what will be beneficial to them and their posterity in the national conference.

   The core north leaders have as usual brainwashed these people before the commencement of the national conference that the “North would present one agenda” in the national conference. Of course the supposed one agenda has been their pristine well entrenched positions and preferences of which have been to sustain the lopsided structures and pseudo federalism which have hobbled the wheel of realistic technological and scientific advancement cum sustainable growth and development of ethnic groups in the southern part of the country. They have adroitly succeeded in brain washing some of the malleable elite who are slaves of the northern caliphate from the middle belt especially one of them who took it upon himself to disparage the internationally acclaimed legal luminary – Prof. Ben Nwabueze, who had expressed the view to reinvent the tenets of federal system of government as obtainable the world over and during the First Republic in Nigeria. The naïve posturing of the person in question and his co-travellers glossed over the killing of Christians, systemic ethnic cleansing in the middle belt, the obvious socio-economic and political marginalisation and manipulations of the security agencies to shield the religious fundamentalist and Fulani herdsmen. For instance, the many communities and vast agricultural land of Benue State are now being occupied by the aggressive Fulani cattle herdsmen who carry sophisticated lethal weapons without being arrested by the police while the indigenes of the communities have been languishing in refugee camps as their houses have been destroyed, even when the country is not at war with a neighbouring country or inter ethnic conflagration. It bears no sermonizing that true federalism is practicable as was done in the First Republic which will liberate the people of middle belt from the ethno-religious strangle-hold and intimidation of their captors since the abhorrent 1914 amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates.

   The core North leaders have deftly deployed the deliberately created lopsided creation of the states and local governments by their kits and kins in the military regimes wherein the supposed ‘north’ would always have its way in the national institutions like the National Assembly, appeal courts, supreme courts in addition to other adhoc establishments like the national conference in determining critical policies and directions in governance. Consequently, the fall-outs from the committees of the national conference on the agitation to restructure the largely flawed governance and institutions and rectifying other crucial matters have been in the primordial repulsive and ultra conservative stance of the Northern Establishment to live the country as it has been in terms of   retrogression and awry interpretation of federal system of government. In other words, the naïve perception and insistence of the conservation forces from the north is that Nigeria should maintain the awry definition of federalism and violate the federal principles in the name of home-grown version of federal system of government. This perception is untenable. This long tolerated retrogression must be resisted by the delegates, from the south so as to liberate their suppressed initiatives of their people in world view and all round development. The reports in the newspapers that “the north” disagrees with the south in some of the committees of the national conference on federal principles and some other matters must not be tolerated. It is either true federalism or nothing; the die is cast in the eventual meeting of the enlarged forum of the national conference.

Imperative of decentralising the security in infrastructure

    The editorial of a national newspaper Thursday, May 1, 2014 captioned NHRC Report on police stations with the timely admonition that “Security comes at a price; and that the police must be made comfortable”, is very illuminating and expository. The National Human Rights Commission in cooperation with Atlas Global Alliance undertook a study of 369 police stations across the six geo-political zones in the country and came out with a sorry and deplorable account of lamentable dilapidation of police stations never recorded in the history of any country in the world. The indicators in the research findings were community orientation, physical conditions, equal treatment of members of the public, transparency and accountability and detention conditions. It was appalling that police stations all over the country are in such gross deplorable condition.

    Corroborating the sorry situation, the wives of police rank and file had some years ago publicly lamented the ugly situation of police barracks which were devoid of good environment, aesthetic beauty, basic infrastructural facilities like pipe borne water, electricity, toilet facilities in addition to the danger of living with reptiles and living little above animals; all in the name of centralised police force which the northern caliphate insists on the status quo so as to be controlling the whole country.

   Nigerians can no longer afford to be living in fool’s paradise all in the name of striving for the ever elusive unity in diversity. It is naïve to expect that police welfare will in terms of living conditions and paraphernalia of office in this objectionable centralised police will improve. It is a well nigh impossibility and has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the federal government could not cater for the centralised police. It is illegal to continue to compel state governments to be injecting billions of their people’s money in meeting the basic needs of the police in the silly notion that security is the responsibility of all the tiers of governments. The state government public funds ought to be channeled to the provision of the basic infrastructures and welfare of the people of these states and not funding federal institutions. It is never done anywhere in the world. For instance, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa-Ibom built modern prison and handed it to the Federal Government which has been incapable of refurbishing the dilapidated prisons all over the county, how much less building new ones to reflect civilised standards.

  I do not know the ultimate end of the decisions of the committees of the national conference but I believe that whatever their respective decisions on issues assigned to them, the southern delegates must see it as a bounden duty which is not negotiable to effect the actualisation of the principles of federalism namely: decentralised security system (state police/prisons and criminal justice system), fiscal federalism/resource control, confederation or regional structure based on the existing six geo-political zones or more regions since the states are too constricted to constitute the actual federating units, making local government council as state/regional matter, abolishing of concurrent legislative list which has been a euphemism for centralised/unitary system like education policy which gave rise to JAMB. Concurrent legislative list is a ruse as state governments are cowed and threatened if they ignore federal policies on issues.

   There is nowhere in the world where a body controls admissions in secondary schools (the so called unity schools) and institutions of higher learning where dafts who score 5 per cent out of 200 per cent and 100 per cent out of 400 (JAMB) respectively are given admissions to the denial of brilliant candidates.   Ethnic groups’ aspirations in education are not the same and therefore the Federal Ministry of Education has to be abolished. Let states which want to admit candidates who score 5 per cent make policy on that while states which value competitive spirit and excellence move at their respective pace in education, scientific technological advancement so as to join civilised countries of the world. When this sane process is done, there will no longer be the strikes by lecturers nationwide.

   Above all, the federating units with the six geo-political zones is the ideal, (to be called Regional Governments) will have their respective constitution, public service rules and labour matters. The Federal Government should control only three ministries which are foreign affairs, defence and immigration as done in countries that operate a federal system of government. Nigeria must key into the global realities or remain stunted in growth and development in real terms.

• Onwubiko, a public affairs analyst and author, wrote from Awka, Anambra State.

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