- Country could be stronger, with more autonomous states that are able to generate and control more of their resources
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the weekend, embraced restructuring, saying it is crucial to the growth and development of the country. Osinbajo, who spoke at the 59th Independence Anniversary lecture at Island Club, Lagos, though, chose his words carefully, as he reasoned that Nigeria could not be wealthy if all the states were poor.
Addressing the diverse economic and fiscal challenges confronting the country, Osinbajo said building a wealthier and more prosperous Nigeria required that more powers be devolved from the federal government to its constituent parts nationwide. He urged Nigerians to draw inspiration from the shared beliefs of the country’s founding fathers.
Speaking on the topic, “The whole is only as great as the sum of its parts,” the vice president stated that Nigeria “cannot be wealthy when its component parts, the states, are poor.” He pointed out that the standard of living of the federation “depends on the standard of living of people who live in the states. In other words, the federation can only be as rich as its richest state and as strong as its strongest state.”
He added that the country’s national indices “merely aggregate the realities of our weaknesses and strengths as present in all our constituent units. The most important transformative change we can make in Nigeria is to lift the majority of our people out of deprivation by speedily creating wealth and opportunity leading to the eradication of poverty.”
The vice president said Nigeria’s population and diverse ethnic groups demanded that states in the country should be strengthened to enable them contribute more to national productivity and development. He explained that the country could only be strengthened with “stronger, more autonomous states that are able to generate and control more of their resources.”
He said the federal government would only be able to build a stronger and more prosperous nation by building stronger and more prosperous states.
According to him, “Building stronger states means ensuring the devolution of more power to the states, enabling them to control more of their resources and make more of their own administrative decisions, such as the creation of local governments, the establishment of state and community police forces, as well as state correctional facilities; creation of special courts and tribunals of equivalent jurisdiction to high courts.
“The point I am making is that states must have more powers and more rights. The challenges confronting us now are about strengthening internal coherence and cohesion. It is about moving from affirmations of unity to the achievement of synergy in which the sum of our strengths exceeds the totality of our constituent parts.
“Opportunities for smart and visionary governance abound. So, for example, while states may not be able to right now establish their police forces, they can collaborate with the federal government on initiatives such as community policing, which also revolves around the idea of localised law enforcement.
“Our administration is currently pursuing this option. When we set our minds to solving problems, we will find that what is truly possible is not as distant from the ideal that we seek.”
Osinbajo asked Nigerians “to draw inspiration from the deep wells of our history. The founding fathers of our republic – Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello – differed on many things but shared a clear belief in Nigeria’s boundless capacity as a united country.
“Regardless of their keen rivalry, they agreed on the crucial necessity of Nigeria staying united despite the many centrifugal pressures that buffeted the young nation. On this matter of unity, their differences were those of degree rather than category.
“Each of them occupied different niches on the spectrum of national integration but they all shared the view that the idea l situation was one in which a united and prosperous Nigeria took its rightful place in the world as the most populous black nation on earth and as the foremost black power.
“From the foregoing, it is clear that the founding fathers were of one mind as far as Nigeria’s world historic significance was concerned. They also recognised that her ability to fulfill her destiny was dependent on her continued unity.”
Osinbajo said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was resolute in its fight against corruption, noting that two governors “have been convicted for corruption, and they are in jail today.
“It took almost 10 years, because our legal system is extremely slow, but we achieved it. The other thing I think we have to take note of is the fact that corruption fights back, and we also as citizens have to be more up and doing, because corruption fights back.
“They throw mud at everybody, give the impression that everybody is corrupt. If we do not control corruption, it is the worst possible cancer that any nation can have, and as we can see from anything else, it just destroys a country by installments.”