Opinion: Motion without movement: How did we get here? —

Opinion: Motion without movement: How did we get here?


By Isaac Chii Nwaogwugwu

The last fifty years have proved to be a period when the super structures of the country have been pulled down and institutions demolished.

We got here because of our inability to manage our diversities in culture and orientations.

We refused to explore our strengths and build a prosperous country in spite of our common creed, values, laws and efforts at independence.

Instead we planted the seed of division and nurture the same while we celebrate our differences.

We see ourselves as strange bed fellows rather than companions in a knitted relationship. We see ourselves as rivals instead of associates.

That is why we got here.We got here because we threw away the baby with the bath water. The civil war was the bathwater.

Our budding and bubbling middlepath federalism and the ‘beautiful experiences’ of that war constituted the baby.

We adopted a ‘divide-and-rule’ strategy to prosecute the war.

The nation was restructured into twelve states.

Eastern region alone was divided into three states; East Central state, South Eastern state and Rivers state.

Western region was renamed Western state and remained undivided except that part of it was ceded to the federal capital territory of Lagos which was renamed, Lagos State.

The jurisdiction of Mid-Western region remained intact under a new name, Bendel state. Interestingly, the Northern region was divided into six states; North Western, BenuePlateau, Kano, Kwara, North Central, North Eastern and North Central states. So from three regions in the South and one in the North the equation changed to six states in the North and six states in the South.

That is how we got here. Yes, we got here because that policy of geo-political restructuring was immediately accompanied by a revenue allocation criterion that adopted population and equality of states as the two principles to determine the flow of revenue to the states in what was then regarded as Distributable Pool Account.

The population figures used here were ‘absolute’ or ‘un-disaggregated’ figures.

They are still the same today. So a state that has the highest population figures gets the highest revenue from the Distributable Pool Account under this principle.

The demographic features of such a population is immaterial to us. The equality-of-states principle meant that all the states are equal and must receive equal absolute amount ofmoney under this criterion.

And we call it the principle of ‘equity and justice’. So in our dictionary equity and equality carry the same meaning.

The picture becomes clearer when you consider the 1963 census figures that indicated that erstwhile Northern region accounted for 31 million or 55.6 per cent of the population of the country and the Distributable Pool Account constituted 80 per cent of the total divisible revenue of the states.

In other words, this war-time revolutionary policy on the nation’s public finance operations ensured that a minimum of 50 per cent of the distributable revenue was transferred to the North as a group whereas their receipt in the preceding years hovered around 20 percent.

So our path of getting where we are today was prepared by the obnoxious Revenue Allocation policy. Certainly we got here because the Non-Distributable Pool Account created by Raisman-Tress Commission of 1959 to which mining rents and royalties and other highly productive resource bases belonged was repeatedly depleted.

All revenues in this account were shared on the basis of the principle of derivation only.

This started with the promulgation of decree No 9 of 1971 which transferred all off-shore mining rents and royalties to the federal government and 80 per cent (on) in-shore mining rents and royalties to the distributable pool.

Decree No 6 of 1975 moved more major revenue heads from the Non-Distributable Pool Account to the Distributable Pool Account and changed the name to States Joint Account.

The final assault on the former was perpetrated by the 1979 constitution which also rechristened the latter the Federation Account.

We got here because while the Federation Account was being recomposed with highly productive and elastic resources bases the sharing formula was also changing. land mass, water supply, topography and other unquantifiable factors in the model of inter-states allocation.

By this we did not just introduce mediocrity in our revenue sharing we simply accentuated it.

That is when we openly started to rob the Peters to pay the Pauls. So, we got here because of politics of revenue allocation that relegated ownership, capacity and efforts while adulterating the meaning of need, equity and justice.

That is why we got here. Certainly, states creation had generated a false sense of identity and revenue inflow as the polity got further divided through artificial boundaries.

Some ethnic nationalities even started agitations for ‘their own’ states (and some are still doing) which the recalcitrant state granted in many cases in a carrot and stick scenario.

Today the polity of 923,768 square kilometres has 36 states and 774 local government areas.

That is a three-tier constitutional federal polity implying the operation of 811 budgets and fiscal policies at any point time in thecountry with only a central bank to clear their mess of fiscal domination through stabilisation policies.

Which nation does this havoc to itself?

It could only be Nigeria. So, we drove nails into our own coffins through a multiplicity of subnational governments that are not only unviable but have expanded the frontier of calamitous bureaucracy and corruption.

That is how we got here.We got here because we complemented our politics of revenue allocation and states creation with a distasteful model of federal character and quota system.

You create a federal agency such as the Federal Character Commission, National Population Commission or Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission in which each state of the federation has to be represented.

And we have several of such agencies which are also created or replicated at the state levels.

Do we really understand the fiscal and political implications of that? Which other federal country does that to itself?

Did we study the structure of federal institutions in the USA, Australia, Canada Germany or India very well?

Maybe we should reference the structure and working of the Advisory Commission for Inter-governmental Fiscal Relations and Bureau of Census of USA as well as the Commonwealth Grant Commission of Australia and the Finance Commission of India in this respect, among a host of others.

We got here because the architecture and functioning of our federal institutions are strange and fail to comply with the realities of our existence as a modern state.

This becomes much more interesting and bizarre when one appraises the quota system content of appointment and promotion in the federal Ministries Departments and Agencies as well as the Police,Customs, Immigration, Army, National Security and Civil Defence Corps, Road Safety Corps among others.

Admission to Unity Schools, universities and other tertiary institutions suffers the same fate. All these policies simply enthrone mediocrity and perpetuate the policy of putting round pegs in square holes.

Are we sure we studied the Affirmative Action policy of the United States of America and similar programmes in the other diverse countries very well?

Nigeria is not the only federal nation that is characterised by heterogeneity and theproblem of non-correspondence.

Every federal polity is.So, we are here because we have redefined and defiled the rule of the game in federalism to suit our selfish interests and ambitions.

We are here because we have evolved from a cosy decentralised federal arrangement to an offensive centralistic federalism.

We are here because our federalism is stiffening our necks and draining the blood in us.

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We are here because our brand of federalism is not working and cannot work.

It will not work because we have become a treacherous boat-maker that reconfigured the nation to assume the shape of a boat the body of which is made of fortified coniferous wood whereas the floor has been dressed in a warping and moisturous lumber.

We now sail in that boat.

That is how we got here and we will remain here so long as we resist restructuring that takes adequate cognisance of the centripetal and centrifugal forces that define who we are and will therefore, be caged in this motion without movement. ….to be continued.

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