Lamentation, anomie and the imperative of federalism – Part 2
There are other collateral issues that must be examined in the extent governance system. It is axiomatic that education at all levels is the bedrock of effective development of countries worldwide. But in Nigeria, certain educational policies are antithetical and nugatory in this regard. For example, it is bizarre that for many years, until recently, history was removed from secondary school’s curriculum depriving the youth of the benefits of hindsight and disconnecting them from historical development processes. Many of our youth may not know the immediate and remote causes of the Nigerian civil war and yet they are not too young to rule! Against what background are they to rule? That the policy was upheld by all states of the federation is a sad comment on the travesty of a unitary governance system masquerading as federalist in Nigeria, education being an item in the Concurrent Legislature list of the 1999 Constitution.
Anchored on quota system, the disparity in cut-off marks, by states, for admission into Unity Schools, is counter-productive and negates the competitive spirit for promotion of scholarship. Thus, the admission of a candidate with a score of 2/300 and denial of the one with 138/300 on the altar of quota system is unjust and institutionalizes mediocrity. The candidate so admitted is guaranteed access to university by the admission criteria in this regard, namely, Merit (45%), Catchment (35%) and Educationally Less Developed State (20%).
The low percentage allocation to merit even for university admission is a metaphor for the ascendance of mediocrity in every facet of our national life. The recognition of ‘Educationally Less Developed States’ as a criterion for admission fails to repudiate governments of the affected states for lack of commitment to education. In any case, the application of the policies, over the years, has failed to address the educational imbalance in the country. There is the need therefore to accord greater premium to quality education at all levels through adequate funding and to encourage the competitive spirit in our youth.
In this regard, I commend the courage, audacity and candour of the former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who reportedly said: “I have for a long time advocated the need to restructure our federation. Our current structure and the practice it has encouraged have been a major impediment to the economic and political development of our country. In short it has not served Nigeria well, and at the risk of reproach, it has not served my part of the country, the North well.”
Our President, General Muhammadu Buhari, is reportedly averse to a paradigm shift in governance architecture on grounds that it is antithetical to the Constitution – a dysfunctional Constitution that is not autochthonous and which lacks the imprimatur of the people, the sovereign. There is no doubt the 1999 Constitution, as configured, confers certain advantages on the North. But the fact is, the North lags behind the south in many development indicators, notably the economy and is evidently the poorer segment in the geographical dichotomy. Yet, the North has comparative advantage in landmass, largely arable, that can sustain agriculture and its value-chains for industrialization, in addition to solid mineral endowments.
The question is: whose interest is being served by the President’s objection to restructuring of the governance system. There is no doubt that from 1966, there has been failure of governments to meet the basic needs of citizens and each step of the way, there have been so many carry-overs of things undone because of systemic failure of leadership, policy somersault and reversals. Thus, the extant governance system holds no promise of a bright future for the citizens.
Therefore, the call for restructuring of this system of governance to one of fiscal federalism, to wit, centrifugal federalism, is patriotic. Clearly, this form of governance system holds enormous promise for unlocking the creative energies of Nigerians across the board and for harnessing their latent talents, subdued over the years, for national development and cohesion. Inherent in it is devolution of power and responsibilities to the constituent states to handle matters of local interest more effectively and to develop their material resources without encumbrance.
It will promote differentiation in a positive way rather than uniformity of the constituent states, the bane of attempts to forge unity in Nigeria. It is, surely a governance system, which holds the key to unity in diversity.
Professor Ighodalo Clement Eromosele is a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
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