Emmanuel: Nigeria will do better under true federalism



FEMI EMMANUEL was a former Deputy Speaker of Oyo State House of Assembly. He is also the Presiding Pastor of Living Spring Chapel International, Lagos. In this interview with OMIKO AWA, he spoke on why restructuring is the way to move the country forward.

What’s your reading of the state of the nation?
It’s pathetic and we are retrogressing. We are losing grip; everything is in abeyance. This uncertainty is not what we desired and voted for. The government of the day seems to have lost grip of what governance is all about and the citizens are suffering. The economy is down; Naira is in a free fall and nothing is moving. All the states are in redundancy mode, as they cannot pay salaries and businessmen are crying, because things are not working as expected.

So, what is the way out?
Yes, let’s restructure and have a true federalism. The national conference of 2014 talked about this, and it is amazing that the president has not looked into the document. Nigeria cannot continue this way. The national conference has the blueprint on how to go about it. We may not be able to accept all the recommendations, but there are the good ones we cannot overlook.

For instance, we can’t accept such recommendations as 18 additional states, when most of the existing ones are struggling to survive. But Community policing, state police and each state generating its resources, weaker central and more powers to the federating units are good to embrace. The last administration was using 80 per cent of the resources to pay salaries. How do you survive with that?

Since the National Assembly can determine these issues, why not refer that to the national conference?
The truth is that democracy, especially the presidential system, is not meant for us. We can’t run it. It’s meant for mature minds, for people who are humane and who value integrity and their names. Everybody wants what he can steal. Look at the huge money stolen from the system. It’s surprising that Nigeria could still be sustained to date. Was it not President Ibrahim Babangida that said he was surprised that our economy hadn’t collapsed?

He’s an insider. He saw the looting that was going on. How could you be stealing from the store, when you are not replacing the goods? It would definitely finish. I knew we would come to this point, if corruption were not checked. But corruption cannot be checked with the kind of system we are running.

So, what is good for us?
We have to adopt the parliamentary system. Let’s reduce the size of government, so we can have money to develop infrastructure and give people decent lives. President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration ended up borrowing to pay salaries. How can any system survive that? When I was Oyo State Assembly Deputy Speaker, I moved the motion that we should return to regional government and people laughed. The truth is that our political leaders are feeding us with tribal sentiments.

One of the issues I had with former Senate President David Mark was over the deception of creating more states, when those we have are not viable.

He played on people’s emotions, because we are over 250 tribes and we are suspicious of each other. We just want state for its sake, so that it could be our own son or daughter there. We are not thinking of the resources to sustain the states and he was encouraging it all the way.

You remember there was this unending visit to all the tribes and he was saying, ‘we would give you states; we would give you states,’ when he knew he was deceiving the people. Real leaders don’t do that. They don’t play on the people’s intelligence, ignorance or sentiments, just to sustain their seats and keep on grabbing the money. Where would it end?

So, this presidential system of governance is not sustainable. There is the Nigeria factor. There is this tribal, religious card we play, once we get into public office.

But would we ever rise above the sentiments?
We would never get over it with our current system of government. We are not wired that way. Remember that what is called Nigeria is a contraption. It is a lie. We are never the same people. This nation is never one. It was Lord Lugard’s creation. The British people knew and saw that we were never one, but they forcefully merged us. Remember the north was having indirect rule. How do you merge people that don’t see thing the same way; people with different values, orientations and mindsets? There’s no way it would work.

Can’t we eliminate our current system?
If we are not careful and if we didn’t restructure the way we have explained it, we shall be heading for Dooms Day, because we are not of the same people. So, let people who have the same history, background and orientation be together. I mean let us have a United State of Nigeria like we have in the USA.

There’s this fear that if we go for a referendum, people will choose to go their different ways…
It’s not possible because the military will still be federal. We would have stronger federating units with weaker centre. That is the only way we can handle these agitations for self-determination. For instance, Niger Delta Avengers and IPOB can have their resources to themselves and use it for their regional development. They would only send a percentage to the centre. Let’s have a weaker centre and stronger constituents.

The southwest can generate money from agriculture. What does Great Britain produce? For instance, Sweden produces nothing, but they are living. They are catering for their people. Intellectual product is there. Agriculture is there. The present system has made everyone lazy. How can a country have a mono product? A product whose price you can’t control? Oil price is falling and that is what we all depend on. It’s unfortunate.

So, Nigeria must restructure?
We have to. If we don’t do it peacefully, we would do it by force. The government has lost grip. Do you see the government in control of anything? It’s all fire-fighting approach. We can’t stop kidnapping. We can’t stop oil pipe bursting. The oil is down. We can’t fix electricity; we can’t fix road. Do you think we can continue this way for the next 10 years? Except something definite is done to reverse this negative trend, it would be disastrous. This is why the earlier government of the day swallowed its pride, the better of all of us.

Government should return to the 2014 National Conference documents to move the country forward. I believe that conference was divine, though Jonathan might have had a hidden agenda. But whether Jonathan had a hidden agenda or not, we were fairly represented. What we have in the National Assembly is not a representation of the people.

An average member of the National Assembly is a stooge. An average member of the National Assembly bought his/her way there. So, they cannot make laws that will benefit us, but their paymasters.

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