A former Minister of Finance, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Malaifiah and a former President, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, have insisted that only true federalism can solve Nigeria’s socio-political quagmire.
They spoke in Lagos at a lecture titled: ‘Conglomerate Governance and Prebendal Politics: Is True Federalism the Answer? The Town Hall meeting was organised by a group, the Liberal Forum. Other speakers include; a University lecturer from Trinidal and Tobago, Prof. Richard Joseph, former Editor of The Guardian, Debo Adesina and the CEO RTC Advisory Services, Mr. Opeyemi Agbaje.
Kalu, who called for constitutional restructuring, said fiscal federalism was imperative, which according to him would enable each unit to have control over the resources in its domain. He also said that the reconstruction should give autonomy to the units.
According to him, for the country to get to the number nine position in the GDP, it must do much better than it’s currently doing. To this end, he called for restructuring, subset economic policy and the rule of law.
On the energy crisis, he said only those who have the funds, experience and competence should be engage in the business of power generation and distribution.
Malaifiah, who also called for true federalism said: “Our federalism needs to be rooted in historical experience, collective complement and understanding of ourselves and our place in the world, of which the way forward is a political reform.
“The kind of political reform we need is a new constitution because the existing one does not have moral legitimacy since it was fabricated in the small field chamber of the late General Sani Abacha’s brutal dictatorship,”
To Agbakoba, the blame of the country’s national crisis must not be heaped on the military alone but also political elite and colonial masters, who all contributed to the imbalance in the system.
While urging the youths to gird their loins, the legal icon said: “The problem is the political elite; the colonial masters imprisoned Nigeria in 1914, the independent masters and the military masters. We are in a large prison, a big zoo. It is a big joke to expect that the political parties can salvage Nigeria.
“We must think about the building blocks; the civil society must rise up. Civil society is absolutely dead. You youths and students should pay attention to your society. I visited Aso Rock Villa and saw why people don’t want to leave power. Power is sweet.”
Earlier, Prof. Joseph, who was the lead speaker at the event, had called for what he described as the re-configuration of the polity to give more expression to the practice of federalism.
He said: “The federal system is the only system under which Nigerian can govern itself,” advising that a regression to any form of centralisation or unity system could be counter-productive.
Joseph noted the calls for true federalism by stakeholders, but added that he could not comprehend its real meaning or interpretation.
He observed that the long period of military rule has affected the federal structure, pointing out that the military government, by its nature, was a centralised government.
Joseph said the disparity between the central and the state, in terms of power and resources, was a subject of concern, urging stakeholders to come up with discussions on the ideas, approaches and perspectives in a bid to arrive at the appropriate form of federalism.
He said: “There is a shift from agro-economy to petrol dollar economy.
The money goes to the centre before allocation. The centre has a disproportionate level of power, authority and revenue.”
Joseph urged Nigeria to build on its now stable constitutional democracy and the unfettered freedom it has offered to, unlike during the military rule.
Adesina, who doubled as the moderator, said there was no alternative.
To federalism, urging the government and other stakeholders to embrace the reality.
Noting that some people have misinterpreted re-configuration to mean balkanisation, he warned that there might be no unity, unless the national diversity is recognised and respected.
Adesina described the 1999 Constitution as a false document, stressing that the defective document cannot serve a useful purpose.
He stressed: “Is Nigeria working the way it is? No. The sensibility of Nigeria is offended by the false constitution of 1999. The constitution should be the autobiography of Nigeria. Once the foundation is faulty, there will be problem. The 1999 Constitution was hurriedly put together. The committee that put it together was not representative of Nigeria.
“Before 1960 and 1966, we had a semblance of federalism. Later, we had imposition by the military. The various agitations represent disaffection with the nature of the lopsided federalism.
Agbaje lamented that pseudo-unitary system has replaced federalism, urging a quick return to federalism, autonomy to states and regionalism to avert disaster.