Democracy is a government of the people by the people — giving power to the people in trust to exercise by representations through elections or appointments.
Political analysts observe that effective delegation of such power to the public from the central government to governing a sub-national level is a viable method of strengthening democracy.
They note that true federalism was practised in Nigeria between 1952 and 1954 and in the First Republic, where the three regional governments agreed that every region would be equal in status while developing at its own pace.
According to them, this system has gone a long way to strengthen the country’s unity and democracy at that point in time.
Irrespective of this, critics note that democratic governance in Nigeria has come short of effective devolution of power.
For instance, Mr Femi Falana, constitutional lawyer and human rights advocate, said Nigeria was not operating true federalism.
He said political restructuring of the country without its economic restructuring, where state components would be allowed to manage their own resources, might not work.
“True federal system, as globally practised, should allow federating states to manage their affairs and resources.
“Nigeria’s federal system is the most prodigal in the world; our system is peculiar and it cannot be compared to that of any nation in the world.
“Once you say we want more resources for the state and local governments, the purpose is to have more money for development.
“I’m not soliciting more powers to make our governors to be emperors who cannot be accountable to anybody.
“I’m not advocating more power without responsibility and democratisation. If we’re asking for devolution of powers, those powers must be democratised,’’ he said.
Similarly, Chief Olu Falae, former Minister of Finance, said Nigeria could not develop or move forward unless it tapped on its potential, including democratic values, good governance and resources, among others.
He said that Nigeria should return to the previous constitutional provisions where every unit in the country was given the power to control its resources and develop at its own pace.
According to him, every state should be allowed to have its constitution, build its railway and ports, among others, to spur economic and political development of the country.
“A system whereby all the powers are concentrated at the centre would not bring development; rather it would bring about inefficiency, corruption, insecurity and stunted growth,’’ he said.
In his opinion, Prof. Banji Akintoye, a senator in the Second Republic, urged Nigerian youths to also work for good governance in the country, saying that politicians should not be the sole advocates of the restructuring.
He underscored the need to work for a country where the rights of any ethnic group, irrespective of its population or location, would be respected.
Akintoye expressed concern about what he described as gross neglect of individual ethnic rights under the guise of building a central government system.
“Over-concentration of power in the Federal Government is the root of all evils threatening Nigeria.
“If you deny any ethnic group in the country of their nationality, then we are piling up more problems for the future,’’ he said.
Sharing similar opinion, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, said Nigeria’s founding fathers meant well for the country.
“If they were alive, they will be disappointed that instead of having a few viable federating units in which effective human and economic development could thrive under a peaceful atmosphere, the country still has non-viable federating units with an all-powerful centre,’’ he said.
He said the development had allowed, among other things, do-or-die politics, which in turn had intensified ethnic and religious divisions in the country.
But Gov. Rauf Aregbesola of the state of Osun, said although he had been an advocate of restructuring, he was aware that the real challenge facing the country was not restructuring after all.
“The real issue is that Nigeria cares less about how its income is being distributed which has provoked poverty; until income is predicated on production, in either goods or services, we are going nowhere.
“By blaming leaders or followers, we are only chasing shadows; what cannot be measured cannot be managed,’’ he said.
Aregbesola’s viewpoint notwithstanding, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar said Nigeria was not working because of the way it was structured in terms of governance.
He insisted that the Federal Government was too big, rich and strong for the rest of the federating states.
This, according to him, is because there is excessive centralisation of resources and power at the centre.
“Fixing Nigeria will require reversing decades of over-centralisation of power and resources at the centre.
“There is need for fiscal federalism, devolution of powers to states and local governments as well as independence of key democratic institutions, security and anti-corruption agencies.
“We must refrain from the habit of assuming that anyone calling for the restructuring of our federation is working for the breakup of the country.
“Nigeria needs a true federalism that will allow greater autonomy for the component states and localities to control their resources, determine their development priorities, wage structures and security, among other things.
“Also, Nigeria needs a smaller, leaner Federal Government with reduced responsibilities and a tax focused revenue base,’’ he said.
All in all, the proponents of the country’s restructuring insist that it will strengthen Nigeria’s democracy, promote its unity and enhance economic developments.
Nigeria’s federal system is the most prodigal in the world; our system is peculiar and it cannot be compared to that of any nation in the world. Once you say we want more resources for the state and local governments, the purpose is to have more money for development.
I’m not soliciting more powers to make our governors to be emperors who cannot be accountable to anybody. I’m not advocating more power without responsibility and democratisation. If we’re asking for devolution of powers, those powers must be democratised.