Read, Debate: Engage.
Read, Debate: Engage.
map tooltip
Humans · Economy

Restructuring Nigeria: What will work? (Part 2)

November 15th, 2017
in:Humans, Economy
by:Kolawole Talabi
located in:Nigeria
tags:anti-corruption, Aso Rock Villa, Boko Haram, Niger-Delta

Not satisfied, it looks beyond the horizon across the length and breadth of the country. Beneath the majestic façade of this huge monolith lies the nucleus of the Nigerian state ― the Villa, the seat of government.

In the years since the restoration of democratic rule in 1999, Nigerian heads of state have found themselves clothed with authority akin to those of Rome’s first-century emperors. Buoyed by an oversized bureaucracy, an elected statesman can easily imagine himself a royal in the corridors of Aso Rock Villa. The Nigerian presidency essentially commands the power of life and death over a nation of 180 million people. But the citizenry are fed up with Abuja’s incompetence. The current resident of the Villa rode on the wave of anti-corruption but that message has since been lost to the economic recession that rocked the country and the mismanagement of public resources from 2015 onwards. Now, more and more Nigerians want Abuja to cut its coat. The refrain in some parts of society seems to be ‘Devolution or else revolution!’ Nura Maaji, an academic at the Bayero University, Kano and a prominent figure in the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) talks to fairplanet on why he wants to see Nigeria re-federalized in the third and final interview in our series on Nigeria’s 57th independence anniversary.

fairplanet: Many Nigerians are clamouring for true federalism in the hope that it will lead to good governance as power shifts from the centre in Abuja to the states of the federation. What are your thoughts on devolution?

Maaji: I think it’s important for us to understand that nation building is a process involving series of negotiations. This means that there is no one perfect model that can be relied upon at all times, hence any model is subject to further change to suit the thinking and aspirations of the society based on the circumstances it finds itself per time. To this end, devolution of power involves an act of decentralization from the core, or the capital to the constituent units for the purpose of giving the subnational divisions the wherewithal to cater for some certain aspects of governance without the intervention of the centre. Nigeria really needs to be re-federalized or restructured in order to devolve some powers from Abuja to the 36 states. This is because the centre has been abusing the powers allotted to it. Though, the northern part will be in a disadvantaged position if such exercise occurred.

The poorest states in Nigeria are in the northern part of the country where you hail from. The elites from the north have been accused of favouring the status quo, a situation that allows corrupt politicians to loot the central treasury. Is the north slowing down Nigeria’s progress?

Northern elites, particularly politicians, are the most unpatriotic class of elites I have ever seen. They are the greatest impediment to the development of the region. Unless our youths call them to order, the north will continue to be described as the region delaying the country’s progress. They have looted our taxes and spread poverty as a mechanism of political control.

The Niger Delta is essentially the cash cow of the country. In the event that the South-South region secedes, how do you suppose the north will survive economically?

The north is not a poor region, but one left with untapped potentials for greatness. Tell me, what happened before oil exploration in Nigeria? The revenues realised from the export of groundnut grown in the north was used in running the country. In fact, those funds helped a great deal in the investment that led to the exploration of oil in the Niger Delta. This means that the present predicament in the north is the product of the moral irresponsibility of its political class.

The current administration has recorded considerable success in the fight against Boko Haram. But there is also the ongoing crisis in the Southeast. Is President Muhammadu Buhari handling the IPOB case properly?

I think this government is a huge disappointment in the way they have been handling the Nigeria project. While one can commend them for degrading the capacity of Boko Haram terrorists to carry out attacks, the reality is that there is still a long way to go in terms of ending the conflict. The problem is: government handle security issues in this country in a manner that allows vested interests to have a field day. I think the President is confused and he has no knowledge on how best to address the issue of corruption in the security sector. The IPOB issue is a product of the same trend.

If you were given the task of rewriting the constitution, what reforms would you incorporate into it?

I will remove the immunity clause for the political office holders, grant autonomy to local governments, separate the powers of the minister of justice from that of attorney general, separate the office of the accountant general of the federation from that of the accountant general of the federal government. I will also insist on a unicameral legislature rather than the unproductive and cumbersome bicameralism of our current National Assembly, among other things.

Describe briefly why your work as an advocate for social justice matters for the development of civil in Nigeria.

Nigeria is a very unequal society, quite lawless and extremely corrupt too. It is a society where a small percentage of its population uses state apparatuses to milk the country dry in the pursuit of their ill-conceived agendas. Between 1999 and 2014, Nigeria realised 75 trillion naira from oil according to a 2017 NEITI report, however, the government still fails to account for the whereabouts of those funds. We are a country where more than 80 million people are living below $1 per day in spite of the huge amount of revenues realised from oil and gas exports. I think there is no better place to advocate for social justice other than places like Nigeria, hence my resolve to face these monumental injustices.

Article written by:
Kolawole Talabi
Author
Current Map: Our coverage
Embed from Getty Images
More and more Nigerians want Abuja to cut its coat. The refrain in some parts of society seems to be ‘Devolution or else revolution!’
Embed from Getty Images
"I think it’s important for us to understand that nation building is a process involving series of negotiations. This means that there is no one perfect model that can be relied upon at all times."
Embed from Getty Images
"Northern elites, particularly politicians, are the most unpatriotic class of elites I have ever seen."

Related & recommended articles

Signup for our monthly newsletter
The Best Picks from Our Editors
Send