Federalism: The brand ambassadors

Martins Oloja

Martins Oloja

Fellow countrymen, let not your heart be troubled anymore about some adamant ‘principalities and powers’ who do not want to listen to any homily about the imperative of federalism. Behold, the bogeyman also known as restructuring has been sneaking in to the polity but curiously even we in the media and political circles are not noticing this evolution. We are still waiting for some revolution from Abuja.

I mean that we should stop looking up to the hills in Abuja where federalism cannot come from. We should remove the scales from our eyes to see the triumphant entry of federalism, specifically into Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Kebbi, Ekiti, Kaduna, Ondo, etc.

And here is the thing, instead of mounting too much pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to give us what he doesn’t have or cannot give at the moment, we should encourage our governors in the 36 states and Abuja to borrow a leaf from one another, notably from seven state governments that are leveraging on the “value chain” from agricultural products available in the states. In 1985, Michael Porter, a Harvard University Business School professor who did a seminal work (book) on “Competitive Advantage” in business, popularized the concept of the “value chain”. And that (set of activities that a firm operating in a specific industry performs to deliver a valuable product or service for the market) is the magic wand that those who seek profits from business now have to learn how to achieve.

I am fully persuaded therefore, that all of the influential citizens who have access to their representatives and governors should encourage them to swallow their pride and vanity and begin to exploit any natural and unnatural resources that are available in their states. And so any obstacles that the central government is refusing to remove from the way of federalism should be identified for restructuring through legislation and policies. What is more, in these desperate times, that require desperate thinking, it is time to encourage ‘law breaking’ of the federal laws, especially on the obnoxious, exclusive legislative list. The starting point is state legislation just as Ekiti state has done on the controversial grazing reserve. No matter what the world is saying, the Ekiti state’s law is exemplary. That is value added to federalism.

Enter Lagos state:
What Governor Akinwumi Ambode is doing is curiously exciting. The man has quietly begun the evolution of ‘state police’ without joining the bandwagon of callers for state police. The smooth operator who does not make noise about operation-touch-everywhere in Lagos now has also ‘acquired’ federal roads in the state without asking for official release by the authorities. He has been maintaining all the critical federal roads that litter the state. Even in the night, the state’s road maintenance agency works on terrible portholes all over the place without shouting.

The Lagos State Governor who presides over the economic capital of West Africa, is also harnessing agriculture to increase internally generated revenue (IGR). He has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Kebbi State (North West) to invest heavily in agriculture.
Specifically, the Lagos and Kebbi State Governments on March 23, 2016 signed the (MoU), which they said would culminate in the production of 70 per cent of Nigeria’s annual rice needs.

In February this year, Africa’s richest man and President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote whose company is among the 26 firms that have been involved in N117 billion worth of rice import, lamented that Nigeria spends nearly $1.8billion (N700 billion) per year importing (approximately 3.2 million) metric tons of rice to feed its population.

The Central Bank of Nigeria too confirmed this when it disclosed that Nigeria was using about N800 billion to import rice annually. So, if the Lagos and Kebbi’s deal on rice production works, they will make about 70 per cent of N800 billion per annum.
Besides, the Governor of Kebbi State who was in Lagos when the agreement was signed noted that the MoU covered other crops production. He said the agreement, principally centred on boosting the production of wheat, groundnut, maize, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, cows among others. Accordingly, it was the first state-to-state relations in agriculture in the country since democracy returned in 1999.

If this experiment succeeds as expected, this will be a pragmatic step in restructuring, and that will reduce dependence on the centre for monthly allocation. This is a critical factor in federalism.

Akwa Ibom State
This is the state where the work slogan used to be, “so government can work?” One story that has not been told enough in this federalism construct is that of the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Godswill Akpabio who actually did a lot to promote federalism in the state. One doesn’t have to be a citizen of the state to acknowledge how the man transformed the state through massive construction of quality facilitators of tourism such as good roads, hotels and even a hospital that is set to be second to none in Nigeria. From the airport to the Le Meridien Hotel to downtown Uyo, what you see will blow your top even as an enemy. The very specialist hospital project he began that his predecessor is completing is a world-class facility that will very soon become another source of big income.

What is more, Akwa Ibom is said to be investing in local rice production too in collaboration with Aswani Group in Iri Local Government in the state. The Aswani Group is said to have started construction of 17.5 kilometres road to the rice production site. Besides, there is a very ambitious Coconut Oil Refinery and 11,000 hectares Plantation in the state. Besides, this has stimulated rapid development of coconut farming (of outgrowers) in the state. It is said that in value chain, there are 360 uses of coconut from research. And in the international market, a barrel of coconut oil is said to be more expensive than crude oil. The state is also said to have engaged some consultants from Ghana that are helping in cocoa plantation. Wale Omole, a professor of science of agriculture, former vice chancellor of the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University) at The Guardian Conferences & Master classes on Agriculture in Lagos on Thursday this week, confirmed a recent disclosure that Cote d’ Ivoire made $2.5 billion annually from exporting cocoa while Mars, a coffee production firm that imports from the West African country made $18 billion in 2015. So, if cocoa producing states can attract investors to make coffee and other products from cocoa beans here, there will be much more than we expect from crude oil. And this way there will be nothing to expect from Abuja.

Now Boastful Anambra
At a time exporting foodstuffs such as beans have been criticized for poor quality and sub-standard packaging, it has been reported that Anambra State has, in four months exported vegetables (ugu, green, bitterleaf, okro), avocado pear and fish directly to the U.S and European countries.
An Instagram post “agrihubng” that recently posted this feat noted that an international report rated Anambra vegetables as the best. A report said in just four months, the state made $5 million from exporting vegetables.

Kaduna State
In the same vein, Kaduna State Government is reported to be investing heavily in qualitative and quantitative education. Just at it was done in the Western Region of the legend, Obafemi Awolowo who invested heavily in human (and intellectual)
capital development that the region is still reaping from.

The Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai who actually began serious implementation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) in Kaduna before the federal government activated its own, has enacted a flexible tax law. The law prohibits the collection of cash revenues and‎ automate the operations, harmonise and centralise all revenue collections, simplify payment‎, introduce investor friendly tax code‎, promote transparency and accountability, eliminate multiplicity of taxes,‎ encourage voluntary compliance,‎ ensure improved and professional service delivery, provide taxpayers with information on precise taxes payable.

Education in Kaduna is being implemented as a compulsory social service with heavy investment. It seems like a fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy.

Kano State too
This compulsory education policy is also a state policy that the Kano State Governor Dr. Umar Abdullahi Ganduje published in October last year. This is what a state government should do to enhance evolution of federalism. They need a “competitive advantage” of some sort.

Ondo State
In the same vein, the Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko who has been promoting the Mother & Child Hospital brand around the world should enhance the brand equity of the hospital with world-class diagnostic centres, among other modern equipment that a 21st century Abiye Hospital should have. He is a trained physician who knows what modern hospitals should look like. What he is promoting now is quite good. But the brand equity should be excellent enough to curtail medical tourism of citizens who still rush their children, wives and mothers to India. This can be a major source of revenue to complement what can be obtained from the cocoa industry in the state. This too can add so much value to health-care delivery federalism in Nigeria.

All told, we have a responsibility to encourage all our state governors and representatives all over the country to note that the building blocks for promoting federalism should begin with them. That is what Governors Fayose, Ambode, Bagudu, Udom, el-Rufai and Mimiko should be: excellent brand ambassadors for federalism in Nigeria.

Inside Stuff Grammar School:

People Vs Persons
Please, do not use people with words of number, especially in place of persons. For example: If out of “five people” four went away, how many people would be left? Answer: one people. Use persons when you are dealing with numbers. Note: People is a word with many meanings (polymorphic). The People is a political term, not to be confused with the public. From the people comes political support or opposition; from the public comes artistic appreciation or commercial patronage (Strunk & White, 2000,1979).

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