True Fiscal Federalism will Resolve the Biafran Agitation
There is a simple way to solve the Biafran issue and every other secessionist movement/agitation in Nigeria without necessarily splitting the country. Simple as it may sound, the federal government must be willing to play its part if it truly wish to restore peace to the country.
First, we must agree that the present skewed unitary ‘feeding bottle’ federalism that we practice in the name of federalism is the cause of our unity troubles. Once this foundational issue has been resolved, we can then proceed to the next phase of the process.
We must agree that the structure of Nigeria’s federalism is faulty and should therefore be restructured so as to promote regional/state fiscal competition and save the centre of this over concentration.
What does restructuring mean? It simply means that the bulk of what we have on the exclusive list should be sent down to the concurrent list and the FG should stay clear of the concurrent list. In a nutshell, the states should be given more powers and more money to allow them embark on their new ‘fiscal’ responsibilities. The states (or regions as the new arrangement may have it) should be allowed to build, own, operate and distribute their own electricity and other critical infrastructures. The FG should take its hands of such issues like basic education, health, infrastructures, and other issues that are currently on our concurrent list. Nigeria is now too abstract for us to be looking up to Abuja all the time, but our state and local governments are not abstract, they are here with us, we can hold them to ransom if the need arises, unlike our abstract Nigeria.
Under a restructured Nigeria, there will be six economic/political regions in Nigeria. Each region will have its own government, will be in control of its own economy and and people pay the agreed tax to the federal government.
How can the states have money to meet up with their new fiscal responsibilities? First, the monthly ritual of sharing allocation at Abuja MUST stop. The federating units must stop sending all their revenues to Abuja. All monies generated in Lagos should be spent alone in Lagos and by Lagos government, same applies to Kano, Bayelsa, Imo, etc. The states should be allowed to manage their own economies and pay an agreed tax or percentage of their revenue to Abuja for Nigeria’s upkeep. Let us not forget that it is only when the local federating units of Nigeria are developing that we can actually say Nigeria is developing. GDP that does not reflect the economic realities of our local people and impact on our local population is meaningless. This is a problem we have always had in Nigeria. States that cannot afford to cope with this new arrangement should either go bankrupt or merge to survive. We do not need thirty-six lazy, redundant and unproductive states to make up Nigeria going.
Under a restructured Nigeria, there can be a ‘Biafran Region of Nigeria’, ‘Niger Delta Region of Nigeria’, ‘Oduduwa Region of Nigeria’, ‘Arewa Region of Nigeria’, etc., or the old regional names that we had. Under this kind of arrangement, Nigeria’s unity will never be threatened again. Each region will have its own government, take care of its own infrastructures and its own people, have its own police, and develop its own regional policies at its available resources. Nigeria (Abuja) will simply be acting as a Big Brother and depending on the taxes it shall be getting from the regions. If the regions fail, Nigeria fails, if they succeed, Nigeria succeeds. There will be less corruption and interest at Abuja.
Under a restructured Nigeria, nobody will blame President Buhari if there is no electricity in Port Harcourt or Lagos or Aba. Nobody will blame President Buhari if Lagos-Ibadan road is bad, that road becomes an issue for regional governments to fix.
Under a restructured Nigeria, states and regions will be competing to survive. If the Oduduwa Region of Nigeria has the best universities, Nigeria wins. If the Biafran Region of Nigeria grows to become the best technological products producer in Africa, Nigeria wins.
Under a restructured Nigeria, Nigerians can live and work anywhere in Nigeria. If the laws of the Biafran Region says 14 years jail term for those who practice homosexuality, and the laws of Oduduwa Region says Homosexuals have full protection and equal rights, Homosexuals can migrate to the favorable part without leaving the country. Nigeria wins.
If majority of Nigerian youths from across the country can join and increase the tempo for True Fiscal Federalism, I am sure President Buhari and the National Assembly will have no option than to call for a sovereign national conference or amend the constitution to meet the new wish of the majority.
Abuja has too much money and power, yet it is too far from the people. We need to send the bulk of that money and power to the smaller governments. Under a restructured Nigeria, if there is no electricity in Port Harcourt, the people of Port Harcourt can walk down to the government house and shut down the place until electricity is restored. The same thing can happen in Lagos, Kano, Owerri, etc, but under the present structure, we do not even know who to hold for lack of electricity, Abuja is too far away.
Nigeria needs to be restructured.
It is interesting to note that intelligent leaders like Senator Tinubu, Fashola, El-Rufai, Okorocha, Ekweremadu, Atiku, etc., all support that Nigeria needs to be restructured into a True Fiscal Federalism. Even the APC in its party manifesto promised to support True Fiscal Federalism once elected into power, although a promise it is yet to respect.
Present day Nigerians do not need to be politically united under a pretentious and contentious ‘One Nigeria’ mantra before they go into social and economic relations with each other. Social and economic relations are born out of necessity and interest and not out of forced political marriages. Socio and economic relations are what propels political unity, not the reverse.
True Fiscal Federalism provides a perfect solution to Nigeria’s unity challenges without anybody leaving the marriage. In fact, under a True Fiscal Federalism, like I said before, we can have a ‘Biafra Region of Nigeria’ without Nigeria losing a single section or people of the present day South-East. That is what a compromise can do. Returning back to regionalism might be the solution to Nigeria’s threatened unity.
Until Nigeria gives True Fiscal Federalism a thought, its political unity will continue to be threatened till it reaches its elastic point from which self-destruction of the present day Nigeria might become inevitable. True Fiscal Federalism becomes the major solution, if not the only solution.
Nigerians need to sit down to discuss this marriage of its different constituents and renegotiate its terms.
True Fiscal Federalism becomes the major solution, if not the only solution. The earlier the discussion begins, the better.