Commission partners media professionals on regional integration, federalism
As part of its efforts to confront the plethora of challenges beguiling the nation in a structured, coordinated and intelligent manner, the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission last week held a media workshop for journalists to help them avoid being instrument of divisiveness in the country through inciting reports and to engender a silent revolution of educating people on restructuring, federalism and regional integration among other key issues towards resolving Nigeria’s myriad challenges.
The commission brought media practitioners together to focus on critical issues that can affect the well being of Nigeria as a single entity based on its belief that there is a need to create a basket of collective actions towards delivering significant development outcomes to the people of Nigeria and the power of the media to set an agenda of peace by enlightening people.
DAWN, also known as Western Nigeria Regional integration agenda reiterates through the media workshop, aimed to create a forceful articulation of proper federalism in a country where the constituent parts have different priorities and orientation towards development. This is based on the belief that if properly harnessed, this could be complementary and mutually-beneficial.
And in order to direct conversations and influence policy space by prescribing a compelling roadmap for achieving social and economic development, DAWN sponsored a seminar tagged Restructuring, Devolution, Regional Integration and the debate on Nigerian federalism: Untangling the Gordian Knot, for journalists.
The workshop which was the maiden edition, held at the at the Dipo Famakinwa Conference Room at the office of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission at the Cocoa House in Ibadan and had a university Don, Prof. W. Alade Fawole of the Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University as the guest lecturer.
In his lecture, Prof Fawole stated that from inception, Nigeria had never had proper federalism, adding that for Nigeria to move forward, it is important to put in place a proper federal system that has autonomous federating units while noting that Nigeria is technically a federation of 36 states that operates on the basis of a unitary constitution.
“There is inequity and injustice in the lopsided federation and the agitation for redress can only grow louder as democracy matures in Nigeria. Tthe failure of successive civilian and military regimes to rectify the structural asymmetry and the sociopolitical as well as economic injustices of the Nigerian state is the immediate trigger for the increasing clamour for return to proper federalism, agitation for resource control, demand for self determination, call for secession and calls for confederation among others
“The embittered minorities who have borne the brunt of the injustices of Nigeria’s federalism have been the most vociferous in the demand for resource control while others have been calling for the convening of a sovereign national conference for the dispassionate discussion and amelioration of the country’s sundry national problems,” he said, explaining that combined ills and defects have engendered relentless agitations for structural change or reform of the nation’s political architecture and in the extreme case, of agitation for succession and separation from the federation, noting that the 36 states that are called federating units in the country did not come together voluntarily to form a federation and they lack proper autonomy and independence in their respective jurisdictions.
Further, the professor explained that the federating units lack fiscal autonomy as they are dependent on monthly allocations from the central distributable pool, adding that the 1999 constitution on which the constitution is based is more unitary than federal but cautioned that it is ludicrous if not utterly dangerous for the ruling elites to pretend that the current agitations for Biafra, Niger Delta Republic and similar centrifugal manifestations are mere inconveniences that will go away if they ignore them long enough, adding that it will not go away until addressed.
He said Nigeria is much better as a single country than if it is divided and all agitations for and threats of secession are unhelpful. He advocated that Nigeria be negotiated along the lines that promote unity, equity and justice for the benefit of its diverse people and not for the purpose of breakup because it is better for Nigerians to hang together.
Speaking on the reason behind the media workshop, the Acting Director General of DAWN, Mr Seye Oyeleye stated that the commission decided to train journalists in order to help them them carry out their responsibility of enlightening the public.
He said this is based on the fact that the commission had noticed that many people including the media use some terms interchangeably while their meaning is different
Those words he said includes federalism, regionalism, restructuring, devolution and regional integration, urging journalists to do more in enlightening the public and writing reports that won’t incite violence