- Says budgetary process must not remain exclusive affair of executive, N’ Assembly
By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, has said that the difficulties and challenges facing the country are not insurmountable, as they can be addressed within the framework of “One Nigeria”.
He added that a constitutional amendment that critically addresses the issue of devolution of powers might be the panacea to the challenges facing the country.
The governor disclosed this Thursday in Abuja at the national flag-off campaign for the registration of 20 million Nigerians.
Tambuwal, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, Hon. Akibu Dalhatu, said the country’s founding fathers were very conscious of the complex nature of the country and tried to build an inclusive and egalitarian society where people will have a sense of belonging and enjoy freedom to the fullest.
The former Speaker of the House of Representatives stressed that in the First Republic, the different regions developed at their own pace and made remarkable achievements, but lamented that the inability to manage political differences cut short the democratic journey and led to the unfortunate civil war.
The governor said that the military intervention in politics reversed the gains of the democratic journey, leading to decades of authoritarianism, while freedom took the back seat, good governance hardly got any mention.
He added that with the advent of the civil democratic dispensation in 1999, good governance returned to the centre stage.
According to Tambuwal, “But how well have we fared? I would say with all sense of responsibility that it has been a mixed bag. The nation is yet to develop a framework for effective engagement of the citizenry in governance. This must never be done on an ad hoc basis. In the development of government policies, we must factor in citizen participation. Their input gives legitimacy to whatever we are doing.”
Tambuwal said when he was the Speaker, the House organized town hall meetings in all the federal constituencies to collate the inputs of Nigerians in the constitutional amendment process, adding that that was the first time the constitutional amendment process was truly participatory and transparent.
He said that the people embraced the process with enthusiasm because they felt that their voices were beginning to count in the affairs of government.
Tambuwal stated: “Our nation is at the crossroads. There are different forces jostling for attention. There are different forces battling for the soul of the country. Some of the forces are pro-people and pro-development. Some of the forces are pro-national unity. Unfortunately, some of the forces are pro-disintegration. They hide under the guise of certain agitations to set our people against each other in order to achieve a pre-determined devious goal. We must be vigilant.
“Nigeria is a potentially great country. Our difficulties and challenges are not insurmountable. We can address them within the framework of one Nigeria. Other countries envy us. Why should we destroy our country simply because we want to create fiefdoms for ourselves. A constitutional amendment that critically addresses the issue of devolution of lower may be the panacea to the challenges we face as a nation.
“But if we effectively follow our current constitution, which contains the major characteristics of good governance, the tension that has enveloped our country will subside and we shall place our dear nation firmly on the path to sustainable development.
“One key area we must address if we hope to have peace and stability in our country is poverty and youth unemployment. The welfare and security of the people must be our major priority. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has rolled out many programmes aimed at lifting millions of Nigeria out of poverty. This is quite commendable and the intention must however be matched with sustained action.”
Tambuwal also pointed out that one major area that the country has not been able to effectively engage the citizenry is in the budget making process, stressing that the Appropriation Bill at the federal level must not remain an exclusive affair of the Executive and National Assembly.
He said there is need to adopt the participatory approach to budget making, adding that before the Budget Office of the Presidency and the Ministry of Finance and Budget Planning finalize any budget, they must organize town hall meetings across the country to gather the inputs of the people and determine priority areas.
The governor said that if the people participate in the budget making process, they would also follow how the appropriated money is being spent, they would demand transparency and accountability from government officials, adding that the people’s engagement in these processes strengthens and deepens democracy.
Tambuwal decried that the rule of law and due process are major characteristics of good governance, saying that all persons, institutions and entities are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated.
He said it was sad to note that government has been following the rule of law and due process in the breach.
Tambuwal noted that court orders are disobeyed with impunity, institutions of democracy have come under sustained attacks, while there is steady erosion of fundamental freedoms in the land.
He also expressed worry at the sustained cries of exclusion in the governance of the country by some sections of the country, which he said has been going on for many years without any conscious or deliberate effort to assuage their feelings.
The governor said that when people feel excluded and those who are supposed to address their concerns continue to treat them with contempt, certain forces alien to democracy and national unity may rise up in those areas and take firm control, stressing that moderate voices would be driven underground, and described it a dangerous development for the country.
He said: “We must join forces to prevail on those in charge of federal authority to change their approach. They must engage sections of the country who feel excluded from governance. The country belongs to all of us. When elections are over, you must unify all Nigerians and proceed to deliver dividends of democracy.”
Earlier, the Director General of Project 20 million, Mr. Okechukwu Chukwunyere, said the project was aimed at raising 20 million Nigerians who desire good governance, accountable leadership and making Nigeria great.
He said the country is faced with banditry, rape cases, corruption, mismanagement of funds, nepotism, insurgents and so many issues that threaten the unity of the country.
According to him, “We are so divided on concepts, like honesty, value for life, equality, excellence etc that we can hardly achieve consensus on the instrument for evaluating them and the sanctions to give for infractions. Two monsters we have in the room are zoning system which breeds mediocrity and nepotism and electoral system which foists incompetent people on the people. The citizens are not only powerless but castrated. Impunity is so entrenched that we have lost our sense of shock and outrage on so many daily occurring aberrations.
“The recent #EndSars protests that rocked the country and even beyond is a wake-up call to our leaders, and a fact that they have pushed us so much to the wall that Nigerians are ready to start pushing back.”