"ON ABURI WE STAND"

INTRODUCTION

I am thankful to our Great God, the Merciful God of Nigeria, for bringing us here today. That we have a Country called Nigeria today is essentially by His grace, because we have done so much against this Nation, both by our actions and inactions, that it could have been dead. I am grateful to the leadership of this great bridge building organisation- South East, South South Professionals of Nigeria for the invitation to be part of this important dialogue. Let me start by asking the Permission of the Estate of the late Dim Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi and the former Biafran Leader, to borrow the title of my speech which was the title of a speech he made in 1967 at the heat of the Nigeria's Political crisis.

"ON ABURI WE STAND"

Mr Chairman, your excellencies, the choice of this title is not to evoke memories of the Nigeria-Biafra war, because for many, the memory is mixed. The reason I choose this title is that the spirit of the cure of Nigeria's lingering problem is encapsulated in that historical document drafted at a time like this when our Country was in dire distress.

In my Book: Nigeria, Time for the Evolution of a New Nation, I had surmised that Nigeria has underperformed over the 54 years of its existence as an independent Nation or over 100 years since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates. We have wobbled from one crisis to another and have been quite busy putting out fires which come up so frequently that we often get distracted and in the process undermine our progress. Can any body calculate the amount of resources we are currently wasting on containing the insurgency by Boko haram or dealing with the current unwarranted killings in the middle belt of Nigeria. Trillions of Naira!. If this kind of resource is invested in developing our infrastructure or our Social welfare system, the Country will have been much farther in its economic development and the improvement of its human development index.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH NIGERIA ?

Pre Indepedent Nigeria enjoyed relative peace and progress . Nigeria after Independence enjoyed significant Economic growth which derived essentially from the focus of the Regional governments who exploited its comparative advantages to drive its economy. However the fault lines of the political arrangement began to be visible as evidenced by the 1964 general elections. Nevertheless, the Political Leaders then, managed the cracks with maturity, given the high level of independence they maintained with the Regional Autonomy. The scrabble for power at the centre was not as rabid. If it were, Ahmadu Bello will not have preferred to remain as a Regional Premier than become Prime Minister at the Federal level.

Nigeria became destabilized in 1966 when the Military abolished the regions and concentrated power in the central government. That was when Nigeria ceased to be a federal Republic in its true sense. Indeed that was when the Federation died. Much of Nigeria's instability since then has been due to the stress of running a federation that is highly unbalanced. Indeed we became a federation without real federating units. And the Federation has been struggling since to create Federating units which is a reversal of the normal order of things. And since then the centre has failed to hold. Today what are the federating units? The States or the local Governments or both?

Now with the death of the regions, the central government took over all the assets and hopefully the liabilities as well of the original and proper federating units and began to determine who gets what, setting up the biggest scramble for power as who ever occupies the centre determines what everybody else gets. It led to a series of coups and counter coups . Thereafter we began to have elections that were rigged and manipulated, elections that have become so violent that those who lose resort to all kinds of subterfuge and sabotage including insurrection as we are currently witnessing. The scramble for power in the centre has led to a rise in Corruption as many people try to get some pieces of the assets willy nilly, by crook or by fraud.

In the meanwhile the surrogate federating units called States can neither stand on their own nor fend for their citizens adequately. Every month, they carry their begging bowls to Abuja and when they come home,they split what they got somehow. Some are well fed but many are hungry. Those who are hungry make little effort to help themselves except to raise the cry of marginilisation, poisoning the minds of its citizens against the rest of the Nation. Some of whom then think that the way out is either to ask for more States or more local governments or higher derivation,failing which, they form Militant groups or militia or terrorist groups that try to get their own 'fair share' of the federal wealth through essentially criminal activities. When people are struggling for new States you would think they have been enemies forced to live together over many years, further polarizing the people. The growing divisions among our Peoples today have arisen from this splitting of the Country into States and the demand grows!

THE WAY OUT

To us there is nothing really wrong with Nigeria except its structure and administrative arrangement which has spewed several other problems that are now threatening to destroy the entire country. Nigeria was largely in this situation in January 1967 when the Military leaders of Nigeria and their advisers met in ABURI Ghana at the invitation of General Afrifa and agreed that it was better to discentralise and survive than to sustain the centralization and collide and be destroyed.The ABURI accord which essentially called for a restoration of the structure and autonomy of the Regions which existed before 15th January 1966 would have saved Nigeria from the interminable political crises it has faced since then and certainly will have prevented the Civil war, if General Yakubu Gowon and his advisers had kept fate with the accord as fashioned out in ABURI.

Therefore it is the considered opinion, of most of our People in the various conversations that we have had over the last several months that to stop the drift and political instability that has dogged us since 1966, we have to return to where 'the rain started to beat us' captured stringently by the spirit of the Abuja accord:

First is to return to the original Regional Political structure. And where this is not feasible, then we need to adopt the Six Geopolitical Zones structure that we currently associate with. This is a fundamental step that We must take. The current fragile 36 state structure will not work and we need to understand that, no matter our sentiments and attachment to this.

Second, we need to allow the different zones to work out their own constitution and then they will then RE-FEDERATE, and then evolve a new constitution for the Federation. In effect, the federation as constituted now may have to dissolve relinquishing power to allow a new federation to emerge with the Geopolitical zones becoming the federating units. With this move, so much will be achieved in one fell swoop. Power will automatically devolve to the federating units who will now decide what roles and power to give to the Centre. That is how a true federation is organized so that we can restore stability, orderly and sustainable growth.

Following from the above the following will be included in the new Constitution of the New Federation:

1. The Federating units will have the freedom to create their own States, Provinces, Districts or local governments or what ever administrative and political structures that are agreed.

2. There will be individual property rights and this should cover resources of land and what ever is below the ground, including mineral resources. The properties and resources will have to be taxed by the Regional or Zonal governments who will pass an agreed portion of the tax to the Central government. By the way that should be the name of the government. Not Federal government. It should be the Central government. By so doing we will whittle down free money available to the governments and leave the money in private hands and operate with tax revenue. Not only will the scramble for Political power decline, corruption in the Public sector will also decline. Additionally, the governments will have to work for their money. They will compete for investors and tax payers. It will change Nigeria and clean its image .

3. To deal with security, we should have at least three tiers of Police, the Regional, the Central and the local( state or Province or District). It has been proven beyond all doubts( reasonable and unreasonable) that only a Central or Federal Police formation is grossly inadequate for a large country like ours. There will of course be one Military formation for the entire federation along with a short exclusive list for the Central government.

4. There should be equal citizenship rights for all Nigerians, wherever they may decide to live. All discrimination about State of Origin, ethnicity or Religious persuasion should cease. Because if we want a united Country then, People should be free to live, work and procreate and die wherever they may desire. That is what is applicable in progressive Countries.

5. We may have to rethink our system of Governance. Having tried both Parliamentary and Presidential, it is certain that the Nigerian mood is more amenable to Parliamentary system. It is more participatory, more accountable and less expensive.

6. We should adopt a unicameral legislature to save cost and remove too much delay in law making. If possible, make legislative work part time, so that the legislators can Practice their professions and make the office less lucrative.

7.We need to make the Private Sector, the dominant sector in the economy and drastically reduce the size of the governments-both Regional or Zonal and local. There should total Privitisation and complete deregulation.The Private sector should be assigned the role of developing infrastructure and supplying goods and services to the economy since much of the National Wealth will be left in their hands while the government should use the tax revenue to focus on Social well being- Security, Education, Health care, Environment, Population Control and Regulation.

CONCLUSION

Nigeria is a country blessed by God with so much resources carefully placed in different parts of the Country. After 54 years of Independence,Nigeria has failed to realize its full potential. Much of the time it has had to deal with one crisis after another, distracting the Country from focusing appropriately on sustainable growth and development . Our thinking supported by our findings is that much of these problems have arisen because of the structure of the federation where the 'tail seems to be wagging the dog'. Since 1966, Nigeria has been running an inverted federation, which is very unstable, thereby stirring up several problems which are stifling growth and giving the Nation a wrong image.

The kernel of our proposition here today is that we need to restructure the Federation. Indeed we need to Re-Federate. Surely, that will not solve all of Nigeria's problems. But it will be a major step to restoring our Nation to a true federation and eliminating most of the contradictions and irritants that have bedeviled us since 1996. I believe that with the current National Conference going in Abuja, the opportunity has presented to correct this anomaly and begin the process of regaining our Nation which the Military hijacked in 1966.

Thank you and God bless

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR



Comments

  1. This is truth. The truth is bitter but secrets speaks to them that listens. Our greedy corrupt politicians would not be ready to choose this path of light. They prefer the dark side where they can hide while stealing.

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