Where Nigeria got it all wrong

The foundation of Nigeria’s problems is its flawed political-economic system, a system that sustains vested interests and rent-seeking, a situation which naturally breeds and nurtures corruption and inefficiency.

The primary beneficiaries of this flawed political-economic structure, who mainly happen to be our political taskmasters and their business associates, have chosen to turn a blind eye to the folly of maintaining a tragically flawed system, choosing as it were to postpone the evil day, but the chickens are already coming home to roost, as exemplified by our current economic fortunes, nay misfortunes.

This quasi-federal system, which was bequeathed to us by our erstwhile military dictators, was crafted specifically for the purpose of weakening the then regional governments and the maintenance of a “command and control” structure in the aftermath of the Nigerian civil war. It was also probably designed for the purpose of feathering their nests, by having controlling powers over the goose that lays the golden eggs in Nigeria, that is: the oil fields of the Niger-Delta, and the ports, amongst others. This system of governance was never intended to deliver the dividends of democracy to us simply because it was not designed for that purpose.

There are those who have in the defence of our erstwhile dictators suggested that the primary motivation for the creation of this system was to ensure the unity of Nigeria and blow out separatist fires; a noble objective, yes, but today’s Nigeria faces an entirely different set of challenges and these challenges require an entirely different set of solutions, and assuming but without conceding: “Nigeria’s unity” was the primary motivation for the design and adoption of this system of governance, as late Professor Chinua Achebe once reasoned: “unity is only as good as the purpose for which it exists.”

Nigeria’s unity, as sacrosanct as it is, must be maintained not for the purposes of subjugation or exploitation, but for the purpose of harnessing our resources for our good, under just and equitable terms, and our current unitary system of governance, which we dishonestly term “federal” cannot facilitate such positive development and thus should be discarded.

To correct the situation we must begin by accepting the failure of Nigeria’s current 1999 constitution. This Constitution ensures that states remain appendages of the Federal Government, in direct contradiction with the most basic tenets of federalism, which envisages that states or regions are to be economically independent, and self-sustaining, whilst contributing to the maintenance of the government at the centre. The reverse is however, the case in Nigeria, where today, state governments cannot function or exist without the monthly stipends from the purse of the government at the centre.

One of the primary causes of this aberration is captured by Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which provides thus: “The Federation shall maintain a “special account” to be called “the Federation

“The President…shall table before the National Assembly “proposals” for revenue allocation from the “Federation Account”, and in determining ‘the formula’, the National Assembly shall take into account, “the Allocation Principles…”

Any amount standing to the credit of the “Federation Account” SHALL BE
DISTRIBUTED…”on such terms and in such manner” as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.

The foregoing section of the Constitution effectively rendered Nigeria’s erstwhile productive regions (now states) into dependents and ultimately stifled the economic development of Nigeria. It may be said also that this constitutional provision is also the cause of the poor leadership that Nigeria has been burdened with particularly at the state level, with politicians simply aspiring to get elected into office in the knowledge that no mental input or industry is required of them vis a vis the economic growth of their states, because frankly speaking there is no incentive to think or to work, when there is “oil money” to be “distributed”, by Law. The politicians would rather focus their energies on “legacy projects” and grand schemes to attract a larger cut of the so-called “national cake”.

Nigeria, even with the best of intentions and with the best technocrats as federal ministers and permanent secretaries may never achieve its famed great potentials, If it persists in practising an obsolete and flawed political-economic system that has outlived its purpose and now stifles our economic growth and political maturity.

This current system we practice, patronises and rewards the indolent and has given rise to a society that places premium on doctored population figures, religious subscription, ethnicity and other general “allocation principles” rather than on enterprise and merit.

This current unitary system is unjust and unsustainable and an exercise in folly. We have tried it and it has failed us, it is time to move forward, by adopting an ennobling system that engenders healthy competition, regional integration and cooperation and the maximising of each states or region’s competitive advantages in order to effectively diversify our national economy, and that system is Federalism and its derivative – fiscal Federalism.

The current administration is humbly advised to see to the reconstruction of our national political-economic architecture along the lines of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference Report. Whilst appreciative of the fact that not all the recommendations contained in the 2014 National Conference Report are perfect, its progressive and nationalistic thrust, leaves no one in doubt, and in its pages, we find an excellent template for the reconstruction of our national political-economic architecture for the attainment of growth and development, under terms that are just and agreeable to all Nigerians.

In conclusion, I borrow the closing remarks of President Buhari which he spoke during his inaugural speech, “…Our situation somehow reminds one of a passage in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries.’ …We have an opportunity. Let us take it.”

• Amasike, a lawyer lives in Abuja, Nigeria.ugoamasike@yahoo.com

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  • emmanuel kalu

    great article, however It is unfortunate that we don’t have the leadership that would move the country toward that. we also have a group of people that are benefitting from this and have no desire to change it. To make this change, it would have to be done by the people, it would have to be led by wise and smart state governor, who start cooperating with each other and begin to demand change. our nation is in the hands of the people, and we need to take it back.