- Buhari, Gowon, Saraki, others to attend deputy senate president’s book presentation wednesday
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Segun James in Lagos
In what could be a major constitutional restructuring, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, has called for the collapse of the 36 states of the federation into six geopolitical zones as part of a drastic measure to correct the country’s federation failing which has hindered development.
Even though he did not say how wieldy his suggested measure would be, given Nigerians penchant for ethnic loyalty, he however opines that abolishing the 36 states structure would release the latent potentials for growth by the regions, which he said, were over the years foiled by the reckless derailment of the country’s federalism by successive military governments.
Ekweremadu’s positions were offered in his new book, entitled: ‘Who Will Love My Country: Ideas for Building the Nigeria of Our Dreams,’ which is due for public presentation tomorrow in Abuja with President Muhammadu Buhari, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd); Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, expected to be in attendance
While praising the nation’s founding fathers, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello, for espousing federalism as the basis of the country’s federation at independence, he said suggestions that fiscal federalism would bring about distortive growth were untenable, affirming that even in a forest, not all trees are equal.
“The major blame for our fumbling and abortive federalism should always be laid at the doorstep of the military. From the first military coups d’état and the promulgation of Decree 34 of 1966 to the termination of the last military rulership on May 29, 1999, the Nigerian armed forces snatched away not only the nation’s democracy, but also her federalism.
“They then took deliberate steps to unmake or mar the nation’s federal arrangement. Decrees, policies and constitutions devised by the military all resulted in the termination of fiscal federalism, the balkanisation and distortion of federating units, and weird policing arrangements, among a myriad of anomalies that have not only left our federation like a bat, (neither a bird nor a mammal), but have compromised national development, unity and peace.
“Unless we reform the nation’s federalism, Nigeria might never recover again because the current arrangement results in underdevelopment, inequity, bad blood, corruption, maladministration, incompetence, ineptitude and indolence. Many things have gone wrong with our brand of federalism.
“I am a staunch disciple of self-determination. However, at the risk of sounding contradictory, we must be frank enough to admit that the number of states we have today, or plan to create, is simply not sustainable.
“They have put so much pressure on the scarce resources because the states, as we know them today, are not platforms for wealth creation, but for wealth sharing. The more the number of states and local government areas a people can boast of, the greater the chunk of the ‘national cake’ they take home every month.
“This act of robbing Peter to pay Paul, which I term feeding bottle federalism, is at the heart of poor governance, underdevelopment, indolence, and ineptitude in the Nigerian federation. It is also the reason financial trepidation grips the land each time there is a hiccup in the flow of free money, usually occasioned in the crash in oil price.
Ekweremadu called for a reduction in the number of federating units and the devolution of more powers to the federating units as the centre has obviously bitten off more than it could actually chew.
“It is best for the nation to return to the regional arrangement with six geopolitical zones as federating units. This will help us to shrink the size and cost of governance and to increase the volume of resources available to the regions. It will cut down the cost of governance drastically and help the federating units to benefit from economies of scale, particularly in mega-development projects.
“With just six regional capitals, the current states can serve as small provinces for administrative convenience. Through such an arrangement, we can do away with 30 government houses, state assemblies, and all their associated offices and paraphernalia.
“This redistribution of powers is expected ultimately to result in the reconfiguration of resource allocation formulas to provide for the new responsibilities of the federating units. The Federal Government of Nigeria should essentially concern itself with defence, foreign relations, and such key central roles as are normally the responsibility of the federal government in developed federal states.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd); Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, are among eminent Nigerians billed to grace the public presentation of Ekweremadu’s book tomorrow.
The presentation will take place at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja.
Briefing journalists on the presentation yesterday in Abuja, Chairman of the Organising Committee, Professor Offornze Amucheazi, said the presentation would feature a dialogue by academics and technocrats whom he said would share their views on the book’s thematic pre-occupation.
He listed the personalities to include Prof. Pat Utomi; Prof. Sam Egwu of the Department of Political Science, University of Jos and the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II.
According to Amucheazi, Ekweremadu in the book, made a modest attempt to dissect the problems facing Nigeria with a view to sharing his own ideas on the way forward.
He also said the book was designed to challenge leaders and all Nigerians to find creative solutions to the myriad of problems confronting the country.
He said: “The ideas he expressed in the book are generally to beseech Nigerians to engage in good faith discourse on how to make the Nigeria project work for all of us.
“It is hoped that this intellectual discourse will provoke ideas that will boost governance at all levels for the benefit of all Nigerians. We solicit your support to make the occasion a success.”
Amucheazi, who is a Professor of Law, further disclosed that whereas the book presentation was initially scheduled to take place immediately after the 2015 general election, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s non-assent to the Fourth Alteration Constitution (Amendment) Bill stalled the initial plan and propelled the author to revisit the book.