‘It is time to re-configure Nigerian federation’
Professor of Law and Chairman, Office of International Relations, Partnerships and Prospects University of Lagos, Akin Oyebode, responded to 10 questions sent to him by AJIBOLA AMZAT via e-mail on the recent visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States of America.
This is somewhat unusual and a definitive imprimatur of his credibility and support as well as collaboration by the world’s leading power.Coming as the visit was just before Obama’s trip to Kenya, it was designed to smooth roughened feathers regarding the accusation that President Obama had tended to sideline and ignore the world’s largest Black Country and to assure that Nigeria now has a leadership it can and is ready to do business with.
Significance of Buhari at Blair’s House Well, putting Buhari in Blair House is another indication of the esteem Obama has for Buhari. The residence is usually reserved for the most highly honored guests of the White House. It is very symbolic of the high prospects for US-Nigeria relations; bearing in mind that the last Nigerian leader bestowed with such honour was Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
Exploring new frontiers in US-Nigeria economic relations The US has long-standing business relationships with Nigeria, although hitherto concentrated in the oil sector. Now that the US has virtually ceased from oil imports from this country, it would not want to lose out from participation in an emerging economy that claims to be the largest on the African continent.
Besides, there are able competitors from elsewhere that would like to take advantage of investing in the Nigerian economy. As Nigeria begins to look beyond the oil export market, there are tremendous opportunities available for those willing to take the risk of venture capitalism in what is, perhaps the most vibrant economy in the developing world.
Return on investment is as rosy as can be found anywhere and American businessmen having a nose for profit would definitely not wish to be excluded from investing in very profitable ventures here.
I honestly believe that the times warrant a re-configuring of Nigeria’s federation. It is simply unwieldy and untenable to have a coterie of 36 mostly unviable states, in different levels of financial distress. We now need to revisit what Senator Ekeremandu once called “feeding bottle federalism” by collapsing the states into 6 or 8 geo-political units in order to give our country a new lease of life.
Aspiring Nigerian business people here too, should be ready to export goods and merchandise to the US market, more so on account of the African Growth and Opportunities Act.
Non-inclusion of lawmakers on the trip The non-inclusion of members of the National Assembly in the President’s entourage is to me a reflection of Buhari’s discomfort with and distaste for a Legislature that is unorganized, disorganized and appears to be perpetually at war with itself.
I believe it is about time the National Assembly got its act together and start functioning as a credible, effective arm of government instead of assailing the nation’s sensibilities with inanities symptomatic of a theatre of the absurd. Nigerians, I believe, are getting sick and tired of this odious spectacle. Tackling insurgency and terrorism Insurgency and terrorism generally are a global phenomenon.
Even as we speak, the US has its hands full in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere but it has to be acknowledged that it is in a provision to furnish Nigeria with much needed counter-insurgency know-how, expertise, intelligence and more especially, military hardware and materiel.
Providing us with, say, drone assistance, training and satellite pictures would go a long way in stemming the tide of the gravest challenge Nigeria has faced in recent times.
It is heart-warming that Uncle Sam has now agreed to supply the Nigerian military with things like Apache helicopters but a lot more is needed if we have to turn the tide against these heartless enemies of the fatherland masquerading as religious zealots.
The Boko Haram challenge Not being a military person, I am afraid I may not have much to add to the literature on insurgency and counter-insurgency.
However, if history is anything to go by, we have to adopt a multi-pronged approach in confronting the situation on our hands. Luckily, we have some of the finest officers and men on the continent.
All we need to do is provide them with the wherewithal and they would surely deliver the goods. Negotiating with Boko Haram I am aware that President Buhari has declared that he has not foreclosed the option of negotiating with the BH but he needs to be most careful in sitting with the murderous gang as the road to hell, it is said, is paved with good intentions Expected change in Nigeria’s foreign policy The Buhari government, I agree, rode on the crest wave of change but it is too early to discern its policies.
We do not even have a list of the high functionaries of government, including the SGF, CoS, not to mention ministers and other prime movers. So, it seems precipitate to talk of a paradigm shift in foreign policy.
What we know is that foreign policy usually follows the thrust of domestic policy and Nigeria cannot be an exception in this regard. Priorities of states in a new global economic order I honestly believe that the times warrant a re-configuring of Nigeria’s federation.
It is simply unwieldy and untenable to have a coterie of 36 mostly unviable states, in different levels of financial distress. We now need to revisit what Senator Ekeremandu once called “feeding bottle federalism” by collapsing the states into 6 or 8 geo-political units in order to give our country a new lease of life.
While agreeing that all politics was local, it is glaringly dysfunctional and counter-productive to continue pretending that the states as constituted at present can be the building blocks of a viable Nigerian federation. It is only after this is done that we can then begin to seriously consider the role and place of the federating units in the context of globalization and emerging markets in the 21st century.
Recovery of loot stashed abroad The recovery or repatriation of our stolen wealth abroad has become a lot easier as a result of the UN Convention against Corruption, 2007 which has since been transformed into the municipal law of many countries.
Countries such as Switzerland, which used to be the haven of such loot have since done away with their secrecy banking laws and offered to repatriate foreign-owned loot in their vaults. All Nigeria has to do is to trace such loot and demand surrender and return of same.