Devolution of power will transform states to development centres


Immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole speaks to COLLINS OLAYINKA of Abuja Bureau on why devolution of power to state will transform states to development centres for a sustainable economic growth.

What does restructuring mean to you?
Restructure to where? My view is that Nigerians are not confused. I do not believe Nigerians are confused. I think Nigerians are facing very challenging times that border on the realm of economy and cost of living. That, to me, is what is of concerns to Nigerians. Those issues should be unemployment, rising cost of living, infrastructural deficit and all of the other things that impact on the polity of life.

For me, I am confused when talk about true federalism. Where do you have true federalism? What is the model? Every federal state is unique. The truth is that every federal nation has its peculiarities. Can we say that America is not a true federal state? Until the last election that produced President Trump, most people did not know that minorities in terms of numbers could win election in the US. Also, that although Clinton won the majority of the vote but with the electoral college, somebody else won, which is a sense, it is not one man, one vote. It is not a game of numbers. So do we want to copy that? Is that a true federal system? Also, I understand that in forming the United States, the smaller units had fears that the more populated states might continue to have their way so they had to craft a system that will compel you to ensure that you get votes even in those small states using the Electoral College. Nigeria also tried to address by adopting the two-third model.

To my mind, I think what we need here is a strong division of power. If that is adopted and canvassed for, then it becomes clearer as an idea. That will only mean reduce the powers of Abuja in favour of the states. The question would then be how far should we reduce the powers; what do we want to devolve? What we have now under the disguise of restructuring is return to the regions. What do we do with the current states? And if we are not, are we not going to create another layer of government? So, we now have federal, region, states and local government leading to additional overhead to further increase our recurrent expenditure and overhead cost. Therefore, restructure can mean everything it can mean nothing and that is why I prefer to speak to what I think is the real issue. I therefore see devolution of power and review of revenue allocation formula as issues that are practical. I think there is some level of consensus on the need for states to have more resources so they can become centres for socio-economic development irrespective of political parties Nigerians belong to.

I don’t see what is the business of the Federal Government with agriculture. If you have no land, what are you appropriating the kind of money you appropriate for agriculture for? Let the states handle those with their farmers. There are no federal people so there can’t be federal roads. All the roads are in the states. So, once you do review of revenue formula and the roads are bad, the governor is held responsible. That way, there will be healthy competition. States who want to crawl can crawl while those who want to run can run and those who want to snore can do so.

Do you believe granting autonomy to local government councils would speed up development?
I think that the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) needs to go beyond the struggle for autonomy. Autonomy to do what? Financial autonomy does not mean more money only; it means that you control what comes from Abuja. So, if what comes from Abuja is not enough so what do you do? The crisis in local government is a very complex one. While as governor of Edo state, I never ever spend one Naira on behalf of local government. I never do any procurement for local government but I insisted that if local government cannot do anything at all, they should be able to at least pay the primary schools’ teachers salaries. The state government pays the junior secondary schools, the senior secondary schools, the colleges of education, the technical colleges as well as the universities.

But my final argument is that neither the President nor the governor nor local government can enjoy absolute autonomy. We are also there to checks and balances because of the possibility of abuse. I believe every nation has enough to meet the basic needs of its citizens. So, dealing with the portion of greed is to deal with the issue of corruption and if you don’t deal with that, nothing else will work.

What is the place of character and value in the rebirth of Nigeria?
We have value system in Nigeria and government and governance are valued through these value system. Universities are established to where subjects and rudiments of professions are learnt. No one teaches leadership and values in the universities. In our traditional values where you and I come from, if they say that man is a thief, everybody runs away. You won’t marry from the family. People will be asking if you did not hear what was happening in the family. We use to have those things. We know that those values have collapsed.

We do not need to enact those ethical values. I am sure that once people can abstain from what they know is wrong and society stops celebrating what are wrong, things will change. For example when I look at the number of governors and of Ministers who have been given awards by media houses, I ask myself some basic questions as to what influenced those awards. What were the criteria the organizers used in determining who were best performing governor? So, the society must make up its mind the kinds of people that are recognized and celebrated.

I believe we need the environment to survive and that the environment does not need us. If these earthly champions have their way, no investor is going to come here while those already here will begin to export their capital and everybody will become refugees.

In this article:
Adams Oshiomhole

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