One of the arguments against #TrueFederalism in Nigeria is that ‘given the fact that our state governors are corrupt, giving them more money will only make them more corrupt, so therefore we must fight corruption first while we maintain the status quo’.
People who use such argument as their attack on true federalism are ignorant of how true federalism works. Let me explain.
First, it is true that under a restructured Nigeria, the states will have more money than they currently have. They will have more money simply based on the fact that they will also have more fiscal responsibilities than the federal government. Also, because they are a government closer to the people than the federal government, they deserve to actually have much more money.
On corruption: Our present state governors are corrupt because of the ‘feeding bottle’ top-bottom system of federalism that we practice. Once we adopt a bottom-up system of government, corruption will become extremely difficult to perpetuate. Let me explain the difference between top-bottom and bottom-up system of government.
Nigeria currently practices a top-bottom ‘feeding bottle’ system of government whereby the entire country depends on the central government (Abuja) to survive. Both states, LGAs, communities and individuals depend on what comes from Abuja for their monthly survival. This is exactly what drives the national corruption in Nigeria. How does this system promote corruption among the state governors? Simple. Because the states derive its economic sustainability from Abuja (externally) instead of within (internally), it becomes extremely diffucult for the states and its governors to be accountable to its internal people. How can me, my community, and my LGA hold the state and its governor accountable when we do not contribute to the states revenue and even though we do, we have no statistics to show our level of contribution in taxes, royalties, etc? This is the effect of a top-bottom system of government. Allocations come from Abuja and the governor and his cabals decides how the allocations are spent at the government houses. The local people and their communities/towns/cities are totally cut off from the business of government despite the fact that it is their stolen resources and wealth that funds the states and FG.
How will true federalism fix this problem through its bottom-up approach to governance? What is bottom-up approach to governance?
Bottom-up approach is a system in which everything about government begins from the local level (communities, towns and cities) and moves to the upper level (LGA-state-FG). In a nutshell, under a bottom-up system of government, the villages/cities will have to fund the LGAs, the LGAs will fund the states and the states will fund the FG, not the reverse.
How will this bottom-up system help to fight the corruption that we currrently have in our present top-bottom system of federalism?
First, because the state governments and their governors will now derive their revenue and sustianability from within (no longer Abuja), their loyalty and accountability will be geared towards the local people. The people will now have the power to decide which project is most important and prudent to execute. Communities will be involved in the procurement and project execution process. Communities not satisfied with what they are getting from the state despite their taxes and contributions can easily withdraw from contributing in protest for the better. If 2/3 of the communities/cities/towns making up a state decide to repeat the Aba women riot of 1929 in their states, the government will be in trouble as its revenue will decline and it will be forced to change its ways.
Under true federalism, there will be a high level of natural, social and economic accountability. Everybody will have a role to play in government. Communities, LGAs, States and the FG will all have annual budgets and this budget will be funded by internal sources of revenues.
If you are honest, you will see that the bottom-up approach of government is far better than the top-bottom ‘feeding bottle’ system of government which Nigeria presently practices. The bottom-up approach has its internal mechanism to fight corruption unlike the top-bottom system.
This is another reason why we must support the call for a restructured Nigeria.