The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has advocated a restructuring that will cement the unity of Nigeria and engender a perfect union among its peoples, irrespective of their ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic differences.
He also suggested an equitable revenue allocation formula that will speak to the federalism Nigeria has adopted and give more resources to states and local governments, which carry more responsibilities.
In his view, a review of the sharing formulae to 43 per cent for states, 35 per cent to the federal and 23 per cent to the local governments will go a long way to devolve more responsibilities to constituent units and reduce the concentration of powers at the centre.
The Governor made the remarks, yesterday, while speaking as the guest lecturer at the 50th Anniversary of the Centre for Historical Documentation and Research (Arewa House) in Kaduna.
Speaking on the topic: “Unfinished Greatness…Towards a More Perfect Union in Nigeria,” Fayemi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said building Nigeria to the status of a country that commands global respect is a continuous work in progress.
Fayemi, who insisted that the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by the British was not a mistake, as some have argued, said the country could use the diversity to achieve greatness, if Nigerians would utilise the inherent opportunities.
He appealed to Nigerians to come together and urgently tackle issues that divide them, if the dreams of the founding fathers, including the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto were to be realised by the present generation.
The Ekiti State Governor said all ethnic nationalities should be made to feel important in the Nigerian project; hence preference should not be given to a particular ethnic group over others.
Fayemi explained that Nigeria, with over 250 ethnic nationalities, has managed its diversity, whereas some countries in Eastern Europe had balkanised into smaller nations, while Britain is yet to find a definitive answer to the Irish, Welsh and Scottish question.
He, however, identified sincerity in handling the issue of restructuring as a means of giving assurance to stakeholders of the Nigerian project that achieving greatness through unity in diversity was still possible.
He argued that issues of devolution of powers, decentralisation, restructuring and such other concepts should not be clothed in ethnic or regional toga, but be used as an opportunity to re-imagine and reinvent Nigeria to make it work well for everyone.
He said: “In essence, our desire to build a more perfect union should be anchored on the principle of devolution of powers – that is, re-allocation of powers and resources to the country’s federating units. The reasons for this are not far-fetched. First, long years of military rule have produced an over-concentration of powers and resources at the centre to the detriment of the states. Two, the 1999 Constitution, as has been argued by several observers, was hurriedly put together by the departing military authority and was not a product of sufficient inclusiveness.
“Part of the focus of such an exercise should be: what items should remain on the exclusive legislative list and which ones should be transferred to the concurrent list? Other topical issues include derivation principle; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; land tenure, local government creation and autonomy, among others.
“All points considered, the fiscal burden of maintaining a largely inefficient and over-bloated bureaucracy is a metaphor for shooting oneself on the foot.”
According to him, the evolution of Nigeria’s federalism has not served Nigeria’s best interests and it is not surprising that the polity has witnessed protests at every attempt at constitutional reengineering.
Alluding to the nationwide protests by youths, Fayemi said it was high time the nation’s leaders looked into ways to solve problems, which turned an innocuous online protests over police brutality into an avenue to challenge perceived failures to meet demands for good governance
“… In responding to the challenges that this moment imposes on us, we must recognise that a business-as-usual approach will no longer be sufficient. What we need is a fundamental re-engineering of our governance system in a way that will make our country work better for everyone…”
In his address, Governor El-Rufai said Nigeria could only attain greatness if she restructured. He critised leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for failing to implement the report of the committee he chaired on true federalism in 2018, which if implemented, will be a roadmap to the nation’s greatness.
To him, restructuring the country is an opportunity that should not be toyed with, as it will allow each state to be independent in managing its affairs without relying on the Federal Government.
El-Rufai called on federal legislators and the National Assembly Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitutional Review to take advantage of his committee report and initiate constitutional and legislative amendments to take care of restructuring without further delay.
He expressed happiness over the vision of the six governors of the northern states, who decided in 1970 to establish the centre that has become a research centre of international repute.
He said: “I will not hesitate to admit that I am passionate about what constitutional framework will best enable the promise of this country to manifest…
“As its report show, the APC Committee on True Federalism produced clear recommendations to strengthen federalism and achieve national cohesion and healthy subnational competition. The committee also made efforts to accelerate the implementation of its recommendations, by producing draft bills that incorporate the recommendations either as proposed amendments to our Constitution or our national laws…”