‘Without restructuring, Nigeria may break up’
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Chief Lanre Razak, in this interview with Kehinde Olatunji, says Nigeria must restructure to avoid break-up. Excerpts:
At 57, what is the way forward for Nigeria?
Fifty-seven years is a milestone in the life of any nation or individual. In another three years you will be retiring if you are in the public service because the retirement age is 60 years. So definitely one will not want to pretend that we are not matured enough at 57 yet when if you are in service you have only three years to retire. As a nation, we have a lot of things to do to ensure we preserve those things that will unify us. Take a look at the way the federal system has been structured and you will discover that we have 774 local government areas while the arrangement favours some federating units to the detriment of others.
Lagos State for example that was created the same time as Kano has 20 local government areas. But out of Kano the military created Jigawa with 34 local governments and Kano retaining 44 councils giving you a total of 77 councils; Lagos has only 20 local government areas and when they share revenue from the Federation Account to states on the basis of local governments, while that geographical unit will be receiving the benefits of 78 local governments, Lagos will be taking the benefits of 20 councils. I strongly believe that is not fair and justifiable. There are several other issues like that.
When we were in the regions, it was the North, East and West and later Midwest region. But today out of the 36 states in the country, the majority is in the North thus giving the region unmerited numerical strength in the National Assembly. It looks like they used the military to do that and people are not happy about it and they are grumbling loud today. They have shown it in their thoughts, in their behaviors and in their reactions to national issues. We should not allow the injustice to continue so we must sit down to discuss the unity of this country; we must practice true federalism; we must sit down and agree on new revenue sharing formula including the derivation principle.
We must agree that a reasonable percentage of the resources produced from each state should remain in that state to finance the state. States should contribute between 20 to 30 percent of their revenue to the Federal Government because right now we have too much money at the federal level hence they are wasting a lot of it. That is why a few individuals are able to steal as much as they have stolen. Let the money go back to the states where the resources are being produced for the nation.
Is corruption a result of an unbalanced polity?
Yes, it is one of the factors responsible for that magnitude of corruption. Since the perception is that the Federal Government belongs to nobody, people will strive to go to the centre and take what they believe is their own share of the national cake. It is because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s attitude to corruption, that the people now know that 75 percent of the total money available to the Federal Government was being stolen. The centre doesn’t need such huge resources that will end up in private pockets at the end of the day.
Which path should the country take?
Because of the problem in the National Assembly we may not get justice except its members are patriotic enough. You can imagine a situation when somebody in the National Assembly is saying that Lagos State does not deserve any special attention in the scheme of things when he knows too well that the state was a former federal capital; that a lot of federal infrastructure in Lagos still requires a lot of money to maintain. For instance the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA is in Apapa, Lagos and you can see the stress on Lagos roads, the inconveniences it causes to us in the state; the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Ikeja is here and Lagos State government still services a lot of federal infrastructure in the state. Instead of members of the National Assembly to be patriotic enough and do that, which is right and just, they are playing politics with the issue.
The Federal Government does not deserves more than 35 percent of the nation’s earnings and the rest revenue should be shared between the states and the local governments so that they can meet the needs of the people. I believe strongly that the best approach to actualize restructuring is to either look at recommendations of past constitutional conferences or Mr. President should convoke another conference which may be very expensive and may not economically be in the best interest of the country but desirable when you consider the economic benefits ratio and the long lasting achievements it will bring to the nation. So we either take the reports of past conferences or convoke another one.
But that would require a lot of political determination
If we are patriotic enough we should be able to do it but people are self-centred and they are serving the needs of their regions, states and zones and there lies the problem. I give you an example; the South-South geo-political zone accounts for about 65 percent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account. How much do we give back to the region in terms of road construction, education, health and other sectors? So if we cannot remember that we should address these issues now we are making a serious mistake. The reason for such attitude is not political alone it is also selfishness on the part of some politicians and I appeal to them to avoid anything that will create problem that may lead to a breakup of the country.
Are you saying without restructuring Nigeria can break up?
The country may break up because you cannot force people to remain in a marriage that is not convenient for them. They have options and my own believe is that members of the National Assembly and the citizenry should take constitutional means to address all contending issues. I don’t believe in violence and I don’t believe in war. I was old enough to know what happened during the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970 and I pray it will never happen again in this country. As a country, we should be able to redress these issues without resorting to violence or war.
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