Without restructuring, there can’t be federalism –Adeyi

Dr. Major Adeyi is a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Jos. In this interview with ISAAC SHOBAYO, he speaks on a wide range of issues on the concept of true federalism and the recent position of President Mohammadu Buhari on federalism. Excerpts:

 

Sir, what do you make of the recent statement by President Mohammadu Buhari that Nigeria needs true federalism now, in view of serious challenges confronting the country?

There is no straight jacket of federalism, federalism evolves and is being practiced base on the history of each nation. The America federalism is different from what we have in Nigeria, just because our take off points differ; our values differ.

When President Buhari was talking of true federalism, he might have realised the challenges facing our federal system or he was saying let us see how we could satisfy the federating units and how best we could make use of our federal system. But nobody can tell you this is how federalism should be practiced; each nation develops its own approach and what it considers as federal system.

So, true federalism, in this concept, is how can we make Nigeria work; how can we make the federating units have the sense of belonging; how can we integrate those who are been denied the right of citizenship and how can we give equity and justice to everybody? That is true federalism in our own case.

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Is this really possible in Nigeria?

A workable federal system might be difficult because of our artificial creation as a nation. Now, these artificial creations, we can make best use of it by the fact that all of us should realise that we are coming from different ethnic backgrounds. We can make it work by the time we recognise our diversities. That is the first step. The Igbo, Youruba, the Ijaw and others need to resolve to work as a nation. Things that can unite us are what we need to put together. But in a situation where a particular group or ruling class is dominating affairs of the country, you will not have true federalism. The way to true federalism is for us to recognise our diversities.

After this, we need to see how we can amend and make it work by integrating everybody; not a situation where some people would be producing and others would be eating. Some people may have monopoly of power, others may have monopoly of the economy and some people will be treated as non-existent. Until we recognise these differences, we can’t move ahead.

That is why the last conference held under the former President Goodluck Jonathan is very important. If we can have a look at it, there is the possibility to have a true federalism.

 

Are you pushing this forward as an advice to President Buhari for implementation?

It is very crucial; if you look at it, people met and deliberated on the problems confronting this nation and how they can be tackled them. So, that constitutional conference report is very crucial to our survival as a federal nation. When we look at the work of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, it is very important, because you cannot do away with ethnic nationalities. They exist and that should be done in a way that people will be recognised and given equal status.

You should also take this into consideration; creation of states and local government areas in Nigeria were done by the military and they did it with myopic and parochial agenda, not with national interest. We have a lot of imbalance. Take for example Akoko Edo in Edo State is the oldest local government. Since it was created, there is no local government created out of it. Lagos and Kano states, in terms of population, can be classified together, but see the number of local governments created out of Kano State. Jigawa was created out of Kano state and nothing has happened to Lagos state and the population is increasing.

These are imbalances which must be addressed, if you are talking of true federalism.

Dr. Major Adeyi is a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Jos. In this interview with ISAAC SHOBAYO, he speaks on a wide range of issues on the concept of true federalism and the recent position of President Mohammadu Buhari on federalism. Excerpts:

The president should conceptualise what he meant by true federalism. Are we operating fake federalism? What we are doing in Nigeria is our own kind of federalism which came up from the way we were brought up or amalgamation of 1914 and since then, we have moved from regions to states. All these were done by the military and when we are talking of true federalism, what people think of true federalism is resource control; the right to natural resources; not a situation where some government or state governments will not have a say.

Then, apart from resource control, people are also talking in term of access to power. So, if the president is talking of true federalism, he should tell Nigerians what he means. Chieftains of the ruling party, from the North, are talking or saying power will not leave the north, you talk of federalism in terms of federal character too, in relation to our diversities by giving every federating unit a sense of belonging.

So, if these are not done, it would be difficult. For example, now, we have insecurity and this is prominent allover Nigeria now and there is a particular ethnic that is involved in this crisis anywhere you hear of violence. What happened to the immigration? Are they not checking people before they come in? There is no local government in Nigeria today without illegal Fulani settlement. The question is ‘are they citizens’? If we want to talk of true federalism, we should ask who true citizens of this country are. Those who came in through Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) protocol are recognised. But when people came from other countries and become domineering and have weapon to harass indigenous people, then, something is wrong.

The issue of citizenship must be properly addressed before we talk of true federalism. And in a situation whereby you have the president and the government dialoguing with Fulani leaders and there are reports and counter reports of N100 billion in the pipeline to be given to settle those who are involved in criminal activities when we have organisations like the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that have legitimate claim which is not settled; when you have hospitals that are there without drugs; they are just like consulting clinics. When all these criminals are kept protected because they are not being prosecuted, we cannot talk of true federalism without addressing these problems.

 

Is Nigeria operating a federal constitution, in view of the happenings in the country at present?

Our constitution is a federal constitution. As I said early, you don’t have a two-plus-two-equals-four federalism. Each country determines what its federal system is, but one of the major defects of our federal constitution is that the constitution does not recognise the local government. But people assumed that local government is the third tier of the government, yet, in our constitution, local government is not given a proper place as third tier of government. That is one of our problems.

The states see the local government as their extension. That is a problem in a federal system. A state that has about 30 local government areas, collecting allocation, would take more and contribute less to the federal recourses.

 

What do you think can be done to strengthen the constitution?

We need proper restructuring. Every ethnic nationality, either big or small, must come to dialogue. We must go to the drawing table, because Nigeria is just like salad bowl where you have all sorts of things. And you cannot say you are addressing salad plate without involving the necessary ingredients.

So, for us to have an enduring federal system, all the stakeholders must be allowed to make input and there are so many things that need to be put in place. Those who are taking advantage of the resources may not want restructuring and without restricting, this country you cannot have true federalism.

 

Insecurity is one of the major problems confronting this nation currently; in what ways do you think this can be tackled?

So many factors are attributed to insecurity ravaging the country. Some people would say it is as a result of uprising in North Africa; that since the collapse of the Muhamar Gadafi, they have no job and they moved in. Whatever it is, we know Boko Hara is the problem, but how do we solve it? We need a strong will, because you can’t address insecurity by integrating Boko Haram into the Nigerian military. You can’t solve insecurity by not fighting them effectively. Negotiation is important in conflict resolution, but the level at which we are now, they are attacking on a daily basis and these people are known.

When it started in Zamfara and the police wanted to wade in, some people said don’t touch them; they are people coming to buy foodstuff. But now, it is beyond control.

So, until government stamps its feet on the ground and takes drastic action and prosecute them accordingly, we are going nowhere. When you use kid gloves to handle them, definitely, the government will find it difficult to solve the problem. And again, there is imbalance in the leadership of the Nigerian Security Council that cannot solve the problem. When you have people of the same geopolitical and ethnic group there, they can’t solve this problem, because they would look at it with emotion. There is nothing wrong in having other people involved in addressing the insecurity.

Recruitment into the security organisations is no longer balance. And definitely, there is problem which needs to be solved. Look the service chiefs who are due for retirement. They are shortchanging those that are due for promotion too. So, the later cannot be committed. Soldiers with low moral cannot win battle. If we want to win this war, the government must ensure that the military is properly paid.

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