By – Ugochukwu Amasike
Nigeria has a foundational problem; a flawed political-system that sustains rent-seeking, a situation which breeds and nurtures corruption. Beneficiaries of this system have turned a blind eye to the folly of maintaining a tragically flawed system, choosing as it were to postpone the evil day. But, our current economic mess shows that the chickens have already come home to roost.
This quasi-federal system which was bequeathed to us by our erstwhile military dictators was crafted specifically for the purpose of weakening the then regional governments and to maintain a command and control structure in the aftermath of the Nigerian civil war. It was never intended to deliver the dividends of democracy, since it was not designed for that purpose.
There are those who in defending this system of governance, suggested that it were to ensure the unity of Nigeria by extinguishing separatist fires. A noble objective, yes, but today’s Nigeria faces an entirely different set of challenges that require different set of solutions. And, assuming but without conceding that “Nigeria’s unity” was what bred this system, as late Professor Chinua Achebe once opined: “Unity is only as good as the purpose for which it exists”.
To remedy the situation is to accept the failure of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution. The Constitution ensures that states remain appendages to the Federal Government, in direct contradiction to the most basic tenets of Federalism, which envisages that states or regions are to be economically self-sustaining, whilst contributing to the maintenance of the government at the center.
The reverse is however the case in Nigeria, where state governments cannot function without the monthly stipends coming from the central Government. One of the primary causes of this aberration is captured by Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides thus:
While sub-section (1) states that “The Federation shall maintain a “special account” to be called “the Federation Account”, sub-section (2) states that “The President…shall table before the National Assembly “proposals” for revenue allocation from the “Federation Account”, and in determining ‘the formula’, the National Assembly shall take into account, “the Allocation Principles”.
Sub-section (3) then states that, “Any amount standing to the credit of the “Federation Account” SHALL BE DISTRIBUTED…”on such terms and in such manner” as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
The foregoing section of the Constitution effectively rendered Nigeria’s erstwhile productive regions (now states) into becoming dependant’s of the center, which ultimately stifled the economic development of Nigeria.
It can be said that this constitutional provision is among the cause of poor leadership in Nigeria, particularly at the State level, with politicians getting elected and knowing that no mental input is required of them in the economic development of their states, because frankly speaking, there is no incentive to think or work when there is free “oil-money”.
Politicians now focus their energies on “legacy projects” and grand schemes to attract a larger cut of the “national cake”. And so, Nigeria may never achieve greatness if it persists in practicing this flawed political-economic system that stifles economic growth and political maturity. The current system patronizes and rewards the indolent and has given rise to a society that places premium on doctored population figures, state of origin, and other general “Allocation Principles” rather than on enterprise and merit.
The current administration is advised to reconstruct our national political-economic architecture along the lines of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference Report. It’s true that not all the recommendations contained in the report are perfect, but, its progressive and nationalistic thrust leaves no one in doubt. In its pages, we find a good template for the reconstruction of our national political-economic architecture for the attainment of growth and development, under terms that are just and agreeable to all Nigerians.
In conclusion, I’d like to borrow a quote from President Muhammadu Buhari’s inaugural speech: “…Our situation somehow reminds one of a passage in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries.’… We have an opportunity. Let us take it.” MA
Amasike, a lawyer, is a patriot and advocate for good governance. You can connect with him via firstname.lastname@example.org