#TrueFederalism; Restructure Nigeria to end Marginalization
A lot of ethnic groups (if not all) complain of marginalization in Nigerian politics, both majority and minority ethnic groups. All groups perceive alleged marginalization in two forms; non inclusion of their tribesmen in the politics and absence of government presence in their locality in form of development projects.
Some ethnic groups do not feel marginalized if they have their tribesman in power. To them, since nepotism and prebendalism is official in Nigeria, having your tribesman in power will invariably mean getting government presence to your locality. Once you have your tribesman in power, developmental projects will come to your region/tribe. If you do not have enough of your tribesmen in power at any tier of government, you, your tribe and region are marginalized. This is the thinking in Nigeria.
When you practice a skewed system of federal government, your thinking becomes skewed!
Since it is true that the 1999 Constitution made nepotism and prebendalism official in Nigeria, for your community/state/region to be remembered in any govt budget, you must have somebody in that govt who would help to put in one or two projects for your community. Having a project for your comunity in the federal or state budget is not even enough, the President or Governor will at the end decide how important your community project is to him. This is another problem. A former speaker of Delta State House of Assembly once told me in an interview that ‘as a Speaker, I had the power to influence projects into the state budget but at the end, the governor has the final authority to decide which project is important to him and which project he will pay for’. That is exactly how Nigeria works.
The only reason why Nigerians cry about marginalization is because they practice a skewed unitary system of government that thrives on marginalization. A system of government where you must have someone in the government before government presence can be felt in your locality is a wrong system of government and should not be patronized. What do I mean?
Professor Claude Ake once defined development as “a process of social transformation in which the people THEMSELVES are in charge of the process.” What does this mean? I won’t answer it for you.
Between 1999 till date, Otuoke (Bayelsa-Ijaw) produced the President of Nigeria for six years. Katsina (Katsina-Hausa/Fulani) produced the President for two years. Otta (Ogun-Yoruba) produced the President of Nigeria for eight years. Daura (Katsina-Hausa/Fulani), has produced a President of Nigeria for a year and still counting. These is outside the military years. Have you visited these places to see how producing the President of Nigeria has changed their life, if it did?
If having political power or political appointment is synonymous to bringing development and an end to marginalization, these communities and tribes and regions will still not be crying of being marginalized today. As long as we practice this skewed unitary system of government, there will be continous cry of marginalization from all angles and tribes and regions of Nigeria.
How then do we end marginalization and perceived marginalization. Quite simple.
Under true federalism, there will be constitutional autonomy to every region, state and community (no matter how many or small they are). What does autonomy mean? It simply means that at every level (tier) of government, the people at the local level should have full authority over how they intend to develop or underdevelop their places and themselves. A community should not need to consult the state govt before it can hire and fire a teacher in one of the public schools in its domain. Enugu city does not need approval from the federal govt before it can explore the coal in its environment and generate wealth for its residents. If Warri as a city can generate and distribute electricity from its natural gas to its residents, the federal and state govt should have no right to concession Warri city to a national grid. South-South should be allowed to control their crude oil resources and build regional infrastructure without been limited by the federal govt. Niger State should be allowed to generate and sell electricity from its dams to other Northern states without federal interference. True federalism means that I cannot blame the federal government for the underdevelopment of my community/state because the power to develop or underdevelop my community/state is in the hands of my community/state and not tied to the federal government.
My community should not need to have our community person in Delta State government or Abuja before we can do those basic things for our community in areas of healthcare, education, security and other public services. We should have local control over the most basic things of life at our local level. We should be allowed to spend as much money as we can generate for our own local development.
Rivers State should not need a Rivers person as Minister of Transport before Port Harcourt sea ports can be made effective. The principle of federalism states that every federating unit (no matter how many or small in unit) must have equal autonomy in matters thats affect their development and growth.
If every Igbo community and state have autonomy over their territory, economy, security, infrastructure, education, electricity, etc. They will not care much whether Buhari appoints any of them into the federal cabinet. They have control over the basic necessities of their life and will not care much over federal appointments. The same will apply to other tribes.
In Nigeria of today, the federal government decides which regional road it will include in the budget and which it will pay for. The federal government controls police (internal security). The federal government decides how much allocation the states get. The federal government collects most of the taxes. The federal government controls fertilizer distribution. The federal government influences the distribution of electricity. The federal govt is even now planning to employ teachers for the primary school in my community! The federal government controls everything.
Now you see why every tribe wants to be in the federal government. Once we restructure Nigeria and entrench true federalism, people will be more interested in who becomes their community and state leader than in who becomes the President because the real economic and political powers will be with the people at the local levels and not Abuja.
True federalism will end marginalization in Nigeria.