Chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has advocated 42 per cent of national revenue accruing to the Federation Account to states and 35 per cent to the Federal Government.
The governor, who spoke at a national dialogue and book presentation, in Abuja, also said Nigeria was also ripe for restructuring.
According to Governor Fayemi, “On revenue collection and sharing, the position of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to which I subscribe is that the sharing formula should be reviewed in favour of the states, especially given the argument of devolved responsibilities to the sub-nationals.
“In the context of the-proposed new federal structure, governors have argued for a formula along the lines of 42 per cent to states, 35 per cent to the Federal and 2.3 per cent to local governments.”
The NGF Chairman said the nation’s federal system has not served the best interests of Nigerians because it is devoid of devolution of power, decentralization and true federalism.
While arguing that the Nigeria has tried to run away from addressing these issues, he queried, “For how long can we continue to run away from this issue and continue to pretend that somehow it would resolve itself someday?
Governor Fayemi also said that the main challenge confronting federalism in Nigeria was remodeling the union.
He continued, “Caught in our politics of difference and otherness, devolution, decentralisation, restructuring and such other concepts have come to mean different things to different people, depending on the ethnic and regional toga they wear.”
The governor also threw his weight behind the suggestion by a former Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega that ‘sooner than later, these matters have to be addressed squarely, but dispassionately’.
Governor Fayemi also said the challenge was how to address restructuring without upsetting the apple-cart; that is, without unleashing instability occasioned by the mobilisation of ethnic, regional and religious sentiments and identities”.
He continued, “Our idea of restructuring must be motivated only by our generational responsibility to perfect our union and to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign based on an operative principle that true greatness lies in building a country that works for everyone, regardless of the language they speak, or how they understand and worship God.
“The evolution of Nigeria’s federalism has not served our best interests and it is not surprising that we have witnessed protests at every attempt at constitutional reengineering.
“In my view, structural changes (like state creation and merger) would appear to me, unrealistic in a democratic dispensation.
“I also do not think we can easily go back to the pre-1966 regional structure or adopt the 54 federating- units proposal of the 2014 conference, which I find unrealistic, no matter the appeal or attraction.
“Rather, our preoccupations should be, how can we make the current structure work better for us in terms of, first our governance system; second, our economy and national productivity; and third citizenship and inclusion. There may be other issues that should be the object of our restructuring, but I consider these to be paramount.
“Therefore, in my view, restructuring should be less about redrawing the map of Nigeria, but about building a more efficient governance system that is capable of delivering the greater good to the greatest number of our people.
“In essence, our desire to build a more perfect union should be anchored on the principle of devolution of powers – that is, re-allocation of powers and resources to the country’s federating units. The reasons for this are not far-fetched.
“First, long years of military rule has produced an over-concentration of powers and resources at the centre to the detriment of the states.
“Two, the 1999 constitution, as has been argued by several observers, was hurriedly put together by the departing military authority and was not a product of sufficient inclusiveness.
“Part of the focus of such an exercise should be: what items should remain on the exclusive legislative list and which ones should be transferred to the concurrent list?
“Other topical issues include derivation principle; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; land tenure, local government creation and autonomy; etc. All points considered, the fiscal burden of maintaining a largely inefficient and over-bloated bureaucracy is a metaphor for shooting oneself on the foot.
“In arriving at a position on what ought to be in the quest for a more perfect union, I wish to further say that my sentiments are more associated with strengthening the sub-national units in the re-allocation of powers and resources.
“Remaking Nigeria through devolution of powers and re-organisation of the federating units is an idea whose time has come.
“I sometimes ask the question as to how best we should approach the challenge of nation building that ails Nigeria.
“There are those who think the problem with Nigeria is her size, some others think it is the many ethnic interests conflating one another for domination. Others think it is all about bad leadership, while some others believe it is the constitution.
“There are those who blame poverty as the issue, while some pan-Africanists believe colonialism, foreign religions and intellectual imperialism are the reasons we are still lagging behind. The thirst for excuses and culprits to blame for our obvious challenges is an insatiable one.
“In the midst of these epistemological melee, there have even been more disillusioned solutions to how to end the problem – the loudest of these today are the clamours for secession and unending complaints about marginalisation, which is mutual anyway!
“I therefore tend to assume that the idea of “remaking Nigeria” itself stems from the mind-set that sees the country as a fallen or collapsing edifice rather than a country still in the hands of architects and builders.
“For me, the idea of remaking the nation should not suggest a strategic demolition for us to erect a totally new structure. The question that we must however be willing to answer is where the inhabitants of a nation as big as Nigeria take shelter if we must collapse it, because for many, the idea of remaking Nigeria includes unmaking?
“And if the problem with the current structure is less of the competence of the architects and structural engineers as much as it is with the estate managers and occupants, how will the new erection or the “remade” structure fare in the hands of the same occupants who are unwilling to change until every other person has changed?
“Whatever defects that currently ails our country can be corrected without having to collapse the whole structure. This is very logical if we understand that nation building is an endless endeavour and that no generation is ever satisfied with the work it has done, it is the generation that comes after that can truly appreciate the progress that has made when they begin to take for granted what was scarcely available for the generation before them.
“Nation building is an unfinished business. To start with, there is no nation today that is wholly satisfied with its present status. Every nation at all times strives to better its best and reach new heights.
“For us as a people our focus should be about how we can reinvent our nation, work for the prosperity of our people and ensure their peace and prosperity.
“Indeed, few people would disagree with the view that there is a significant gap between our potential for greatness as a country, and the reality of where we are now.
“It is, therefore, a sacred duty for all of us to continue to seek every opportunity to make the dream of a great nation come to past.
“The path to nation-building is peace, the path to peace is justice, and the path to justice is equity and inclusion. Even for Americans who coined the mantra, of a more perfect union, it was done out of the understanding that the work of nation building is never done.
“If a country like the United States, forged out of a common purpose and common consent, perpetually seeks to make a more perfect union, we have no excuse to give up on the task of nation-building in Nigeria.”
He stressed that ‘important as the power of leadership is, until and unless we recompose the Nigerian State and make it derive her original consent and legitimacy from the people, then we labour in vain. Contrary to the pretensions of neo-liberal economists, without a modern state there cannot be an economy or society.
“Therefore, before public governance, there must be a modern state in the real sense. A predatory state cannot give birth to proper public governance and a sense of justice and fairness,” the governor concluded.