Two prominent nationalists and patriots, Professor Olutayo Adesina and Dr Yemi Farounbi who were Panelists on the popular BOILING POINT ARENA interview discourse have formed a consensus that Nigeria, the once acclaimed Giant of Africa, is in a confused state, needing total reworking.
Appraising developments in the country since attaining nationhood at Independence in 1960, both Prof Adesina, a history scholar at the University of Ibadan and notable Media Icon, Dr Farounbi, also aligned in their submissions that the structural drawing of the building called Nigeria is faulty, and therefore, everything deriving from that drawing might collapse.
The monthly BOILING POINT ARENA discourse, the 10th in the series, on governance and nation building, is the brainchild of the Initiator and Convener, Mr Ayo Arowojolu, a seasoned Media Professional with 33 years multi-varied career experience spanning the Media, Banking and Education sectors.
The interview session which drew a large global audience was transmitted live on an Abeokuta-based radio station, Sweet 107.1FM and via Google Meet for two hours duration. A traditional ruler, the Olowu of Owu Kingdom, Oba Prof Saka Matemilola, delivered a keynote address at the event.
Firing the first salvo, Prof Adesina said the military incursion introduced to Nigeria’s polity in 1966 by Aguiyi Ironsi irretrievably put the country in shackles resulting in the current admixture of unitarism and federalism which in itself has led to what he called complexities of difference.
Hear him: “It is the complexities of difference that led to the adoption of the federalism in Nigeria via the MacPherson Constitution of 1951. Since then, we’ve seen what went wrong with the federalism we are trying to practice. Ever since the Military came via Decree 34, what we have been practicing is a form of unitarism.
“We have not been able to get out of the shackles of the unitary government created by the military. Even though we call our country a federal government, we will see that we still run a unitary system. And so, it is a confused state that the country is. It is a confused thing that we are running in this country.
“We have equally moved too far away from federalism. It is now an admixture of federalism and unitarism that we are practicing today and that is quite unfortunate because,the country has the capacity to give the federating parts the needed powers capable of transforming the respective nationalities economically.
“As we can see, even the federal government today, is more or less running something like a command and control system, not too far away from the Unitarism developed by Ironsi. We need to look at that critically to be able to build a country that is good for everyone, that grants the federating parts the kind of autonomy that would give them that kind of atmosphere of positive competitions that allows everyone to grow at their pace in order that federalism would become actually proactive and productive for this country.
“But right now,we don’t have that kind of situation and that is why everybody is clamouring for one kind of change or the other, or one kind of autonomy or the other, or one kind of independence or the other. I must add that in the situation we are in today in Nigeria, Federalism has failed all of us. Yes, it is one thing for us to have a Constitution like we presently have but the people who run the constitution or those who interpret what is in the constitution is another thing entirely.”
As a way out of this current dilemna, Prof Adesina submitted: “Although we have a federal country in name alone but in reality for those who run the constitution we still practice what we call command and control. What Nigeria needs now is to grant the 36 states the autonomy to extract and utilize their own resources with a sense of purpose and a sense of direction under a framework that allows competition. That’s the only way we can move forward as a nation.”
For his part, Dr Yemi Farounbi, erstwhile Nigeria’s Ambassador to Phillipines and the Kingdom of Cambodia, aligned with Prof Adesina but differed on the issue of constitution review, saying only an urgent restructuring and total re-writing of the constitution can remedy our current dilemna as a nation.
Dr Farounmbi spoke at length: “The concept of federalism is multi-ethnic, multi-religious where people share different cultures. The real issue is not a function of whether it is parliamentary or presidential, what is essential in federalism is how do we properly handle the distribution of power and resources.
“In the past, we have had success in federalism in this country when there was equitable distribution of resources and power. Then, certain
powers were given to the federating units and they had the predominance.
“Today, what we currently operate in Nigeria is the root cause of our predicament. A situation where you concentrate 97 percent of the total revenue at the center can never produce development. Indeed, at the moment, there is none of the federating units that can boast of one percent of the entire earnings, compared to what we had before the 1966 coup of Ironsi.
“Today, those federating units which produce oil only get about 13 percent while the remaining goes to the central purse. Today, we have not been able to distinguish between what is a Natural resource and a Federal resource. The mistake there is that they think every money that comes into Nigeria is for the federal government which then begins to dole out this money as if it is a headmaster/pupil relationship in a central monopoly.”
According to Dr Farounbi,
“Those who designed federalism stipulated that there must be a counterbalance, but what we have currently is not a counterbalance but a master/pupil relationship which make our 36 state governors to keep going to Abuja looking for money for roads, primary schools, and even for ordinary things that should have ordinarily been a matter of the local and state government.”
He submitted further: “We have an overloaded federal government and when you look at it, we are talking about 774 local governments, over 3000 jurists and 300 ethnic groups and you want it driven from the center? No, it cannot happen it will continue to create problems.”
“Today, the country is in a confused state. We have not been able to have the kind of arrangement we need to move this country forward and if this is the type of federalism that Chief Obafemi Awolowo ran, he would not have been able to build a stadium or even the first television station in the region.
“What we have today is a distortion of what federalism is about. It is making it difficult for Nigeria to develop at it’s own pace, it is very difficult to release the innovativeness to develop the grassroots.
The structural drawing of the building called Nigeria is faulty and every other things derived from that drawing will continue to have problem.”
Dr Farounbi’s final submission is this: “If we
must be honest with ourselves, we need a rewriting of the constitution and proper restructuring. All these incremental amendments in our laws are disjointed and disjointed incrementalism will lead us to no where. Further to this is the fact that there must be a recognition that those who produce the golden egg, from the mining of crude oil in their domains, should have a say in the allocation of the proceeds and revenue deriving therefrom.”