Agbakoba Writes Buhari on Nigeria’s Stability, Proposes Power Devolution

Dr. Olisa Agbakoba

By Alex Enumah

Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba, has proposed the return to regional system of government to prevent a break-up of the country.

Agbakoba in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari dated February 2, 2021, traced the challenges confronting the nation to the absence of a fundamental policy that enhances cohesion of the diverse ethnic and religious groups that make up Nigeria.

In the letter titled: ‘Missing Fundamentals and Regional Autonomy for Nigeria,’ the former NBA President lamented that Nigeria has no national fundamentals that would unite the people.

He said, “Nigeria’s diverse religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds severely impair our ability to work together”.

While explaining that national fundamental policies are necessary to achieve political cohesion, he noted that “our policy choices have resulted in every divisive dialogue”.

According to him, Nigerians continue to raise issues around their differences making it difficult if not impossible to agree on a mode of a federal political system.

He said, “we can only make progress by understanding and embracing our challenges”.

He pointed at countries like the United Kingdom and Switzerland that have successfully managed their diversity through devolution of power and suggested that Nigeria should emulate same.

“The UK provides a perfect example of managing unity in diversity. The UK is made up of at least four ethnic nationalities, the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish. But by managed devolution, the UK has grappled with the challenge of their missing fundamentals”, he said.

The senior lawyer noted that Nigeria would continue to have issue with her diversity foisted on her by the amalgamation of 1914 if the country continues to practice the current central system of government where “political power resides in Abuja to the almost complete exclusion of the 36 states and 774 Local Governments”.

To resolve the challenge, he suggested that President Buhari should push for a bill that would see power return to the various regions that make up the country.

“We must return to the notion of devolution of powers and regional autonomy. Regional autonomy resolves our diversity challenge. More important, it allows subsidiarity to deliver public service at the base of the nation.

“I was intrigued by the extent of devolved power in the western region under self-rule in 1951 . According to the author of a lecture on regional autonomy, devolution of powers in western Nigeria was substantial and devolved from the regional government to the provisional, divisional, district and native authority.

“Public service was taken to the roots of the region. In order to resolve the challenges of our diversity, it is clear that we must adopt region autonomy and massively devolve power from centre to the grassroots.

“The term regional autonomy refers to the governance and administration of a federating unit in the interest of the local people, according to their aspirations.

“Nigeria has been engaged in the federalism question. It is clear that our diverse nature and large size means that, the political system best suited for Nigeria is a federal system. But the challenge has been what type of federalism. I believe that this must be devolution of powers and regional autonomy.

“In my opinion, the process of regional autonomy and devolved powers can be achieved by virtue of an enactment styled, Constitution Alteration (Regional Autonomy and Devolution of Powers) Bill.

“This is the only way to stabilise Nigeria”, he said.