FEATURE ARTICLE

Alfred AisedionlenMonday, July 3, 2017
[email protected]
London, UK

THE OPTIMAL STRUCTURE FOR THE FUTURE OF NIGERIA

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igeria's being in perpetuity in the current geographical configuration depends on how her future is secured. As a country, we are not where we are supposed to be amidst of plenty because those who came before us failed to do what need to be done first. We cannot continue to talk about building a strong economy, institutions etc. when the formidable foundation upon which such would stand and thrive is non-existent. Therefore, for Nigeria to live in perpetuity; for each segment within her to live in harmony with each other; to realise her much envisaged enormous economic potential; we must at this point in time hedge against the factors that have over the years continue to militate against her future existence. Leaving the factors as they are and only clamour over them would not see Nigeria in her present configuration for long.

The two main factors that have over the years retarded Nigeria are corruption and the North (North West & North East geo-political zones in particular). Corruption which permeate every sector of society, for example, does not allow the right people to emerge in the country and meaningful policies to be executed, and public fund to be available for what we need to do. On the other hand, northern elite do not see Nigeria beyond their region. They refused to come out from the past; they are all for the status quo that benefit them to the exclusion of the rest of the country. Most disappointing these days is the way President Buhari in a supposed progressive Federal Government started and focused only on his northern region. His is not perturbed that the rest of the country exist nor as such sensitive to the Constitution, Laws and Federal Character principle.

Nigeria is first and foremost comprised of two regions; North and South. In this context, today's State and Local Governments' areas are only secondary. It is in recognition of the marked differences and to maintain harmony between the two originating regions of North and South Federal Character principle was enshrined in the Constitution. As some of the positions, offices or departments take precedence; they are either officially or unofficially ranked according to their importance. If the most important position, A, goes to any of the areas (States) in the South; the next most important position, B, would go to any of the areas (States) in the North, vice versa. Positions C, D, E, etc. in their order of ranking would continue to alternate between North and South until equilibrium is maintained at each stage for all the States of the federation.

People from the rest of the country; for their sensitivity to the fact that Nigeria is the capital country of Africa and black people in the rest of the world tolerate the North. Without Nigeria in her present geographical configuration, there will be no Africa as such. The colonialists would no doubt re-emerge in different shades to share the continent among themselves and hold her in eternal servitude. Therefore, the continuity of Nigeria in her current geographical configuration must be preserved, hence the exigency to now hedge against the factors that militate against her being in perpetuity.

Some of the issues that emanated from the two factors of corruption and the North glitches are imbalance Government and political structures, weak institutions, misinterpretation of our laws, misuse of official positions, regionalism and neglect of society. The continual abnormal segmental discontent, agitation, insecurity and criminality which today confront us in the country are genealogy of the above.

Although Buhari in some way started wrongly, his Government can neither be fully blamed nor expected to remedy the People Democratic Party (PDP) Governments' sixteen years' neglect of society, misrule, mismanagement and plundering of the country's fund into their pockets. Judging from what we have in terms of men and materials, it will not take more than two years to put in place the structures that would ensure Nigeria's being in perpetuity in the present geographical configuration. What are needed to put the country on a formidable foundation, which no segment of society will be able to again abuse, are generally honesty, political will and leadership. But if you say you have the political will and leadership and you continue to give everything to your people, area and region; where is the sincerity in such leadership?

In as much as the PDP Governments have not been able to do anything meaningful for the country for sixteen years, they will not be able to do such in any future Federal Government. Hedging against the militating factors against Nigeria's being in perpetuity can only successfully take place in APC Federal Government. But matters should not be left only in the hands of progressive neophytes who need time to acclimatise in undiluted progressive ideology. What are then the key fundamentals and solid foundation we need to lay in order to ensure Nigeria's being in perpetuity and relative harmony in her current geographical configuration?

The Federal Ministries, etc. should be ranked in the order of their strategic importance. All the top positions therein should be filled and balanced on Federal Character basis. One person should not double or treble for two or three supposed key positions in the midst of abundant talents in the country. All the top vacant positions such as those of Federal Ministers, Chairmen and other members of boards of directors of Federal Government departments and agencies should be filled. We do not need foreign exchange to do these. The people with which to fill these posts and money to paying them are there in the country. If there is money to be bailing out the prodigal State Governors, etc. there should be money to be paying those who are to fill those top Federal positions, who in their duties of management, control and supervision would increase productivity and generating more fund for the country.

The country must have a balanced optimal Regions and Federal Legislators between the North and South. We are all aware that the current three tiers Government structure of the Federal, State and Local Government is not at all viable in the country. The thirty-six State Governments tier of the structure is simply wasteful in all their aspects. Much of the fund of the country here goes down the drain and into private pockets. It is not just only the pockets of the State Governors. The States prevent the Local Governments from functioning and the Federal Government from reaching the Local Governments and grassroots. The State Government structure need to be scrapped.

There is the option of a two-tier structure of the Federal and Divisional Governments. Divisional Government areas here mean; the current Senatorial districts in the country would each become a Divisional Government area but with equal number in the North and South. With this structure, the Federal Government will still be too strong. It is, therefore, neither feasible nor optimal.

The second option is a three-tier structure of the Federal, Regional and Local Governments. Here the current thirty-six State Government areas would be consolidated into ten Regional Government areas, five regions in each of the North and South. The current six geo-political zones are two big and imbalanced to transmute into Regional Governments areas. Having written, considered other options before and now; a three-tier structure of the Federal, Regional and Local Governments, with ten regions, is the feasible and optimal Government structure for the country. Here, the Federal Government shall not again be too strong nor overbearing. Each Region will be much contented internally and much in harmony with the rest of the country in accordance with the Constitution.

Regional Governments: Such ten Regional Government areas would be as follow.

  1. - Lagos Region - The present Lagos State with little expansion into the rest of the South West would become a full Regional Government area.

  2. - South West Region - The State Government areas that would form this Region are Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti.

  3. - Mid-West Region - The State Government areas that would form this Region are Edo and Delta.

  4. - South East Region - The State Government areas that would form this Region are Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia.

  5. - South South Region - The State Government areas that would form this Region are Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.

  6. - Middle Belt West Region - The State Government areas that would form this Region are Niger, Kwara, Kebbi south and Kogi west of river Niger.

  7. - Middle Belt East Region - The State Government areas that would form this Region are Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba, Kogi East, Kaduna south and Adamawa south.

  8. - North East Region - The State Government areas that would form this Region are Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe, Borno and Adamawa north.

  9. - Mid-North Region - The State Government areas that would form this Region are Kano, Katsina, Jigawa and Kaduna north.

  10. - North West Region - The State Government areas that would form this Region are Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi north.

Within these, the country will be able to practice full fiscal federalism. For example, each Regional Government area would keep 50% of the revenue generated in its area and pay the rest 50% to the Federal Government. As there is disproportionate location of natural resources in the country, there shall be an upper retention limit which a Region shall not exceed. Each Region will be responsible for free Education, Health, Legal Aid, etc in its region.

Local Governments: On the new Local Governments' structure, the capital territory of Abuja and other big cities or towns in the country would each become one City Local Government area. Their present Local Government areas would be local administrative offices (branch or district offices) responsible for their local areas. Those small two or more towns that are currently under one Local Government area would stay under such one Local Government. Lagos City Council, which saw a clean Lagos, orderly transport, adequate road and streets maintenance and pipe water supply, etc. would be resurrected. There would be Ibadan, Benin City, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Kano, etc. City Councils.

Looking at things as they are today; how many of our towns or cities are more than 10 kilometres' radius from their centre? With this measure, the number of Local Government areas in the country would be far less than the present seven hundred and seventy-four (774) areas. Abuja as it is now too small for today Nigeria and future capital territory requirement. It would absorb part of Nassarawa, Niger and Kogi States, enough for a big city and capital of Nigeria.

The elected and staff of Abuja City Council (Local Government) and its establishments would compose of people from different parts of the country, elected, appointed and employed on Federal Character basis from those that are resident in the territory for a minimum of about five years, This Federal Character principle shall also apply to Lagos Region, which is the former capital and now the commercial capital of the country.

In order to maintain a balance of legislative power in the country among the North and South, and the new ten Regions, there shall be equal number of Senatorial districts and Federal constituencies in each of the ten Regions of the country. For every Senatorial district, there shall be three Federal constituencies. For every Regional Government, there shall be forty Regional Constituencies. For the Local Council, there shall be two Councillors for each electoral Ward. Local Councils Councillors' office shall be part-time.

Within the three-tier government structure of the Federal, Regional and Local Governments, the new nationwide Federal and Regional Legislature structure would look as in the following table.

As in the table; at the Senate, there shall be 50 members each from North and South. At the House of Representatives, there shall be 150 members each from North and South. This would at least help to ensure that issues are first decided upon for national interest rather than for only regional benefit. There shall be fewer legislators from Abuja. The Federal legislators from the Federal Capital Territory as in the table shall be distributed on Federal Character basis; half from the North and half from the South but among those that are resident in the territory.

Within these, rotational leadership is imperative in the country. If you analyse the discontents in the country, you will trace the genesis to leadership. That is who leads at a particular point in time and from which section of the country the leader comes. Official rotational leadership is one of the key answers to the problem. The formalisation of rotational leadership at Federal Government level would minimise political tension, division and spread qualitative advantage to every part of the country. It would create political stability and promote confidence in our country as a stable place in which to invest and conduct business. Rotational Leadership must, therefore, be enshrined in a new constitution.

As the voters have virtually pruned the political parties to two, to reduce political tension, corruption, cost, etc. Nigeria shall become a two-party state of APC and PDP. Within this, there shall be permission for individual independent candidates of not more than two per elective seat; for those who do not want to have political home in any of the two permissible political parties.

The term of office of the Government would be five years. The system of the government would be Parliamentary, subject to the peoples' approval in a referendum. Parliamentary system is the system of government that suit our type of society. It is more economical. It does not make democratic dictatorship. It does not provide atmosphere for rampant corruption as in the Presidential system of government. The elected Prime Minister would not serve for more than two terms of office. The Regional and Local Governments would also adopt the same Parliamentary system of government.

The Regional and Local Governments would be elected during the mid-term of the Federal Government while the Federal Government will be elected during the mid-term of the Regional and Local Governments.

In the new government structure, there would be a clear definition of duties between the Federal, Regional and Local Governments. The Federal Government would not again be empowered to usurp the duties of the Regional or Local Governments. What to be centralised would be centralised. What to be decentralised would be decentralised for the Regional and Local Governments. For example, the Ministry of Transport would be exclusive Federal Government issue. The Ministries of Agriculture would be exclusive Regional Government issue. Works, Housing, Water and Welfare that generally depend on each area and vary according to local needs would be exclusive Local Governments' matters.

Security of the nation is paramount. We should ensure that the Nigeria Police Force, which is fundamental to security of the country, is adequate and decentralised. There will be several Independent Police Commands in the country. The current Senatorial Districts in the country would form the basis for feasible Independent Police Commands. This means we could have between 100 - 109 Independent Police Commands. This is where every head of each Independent Command is accountable only in his area and responsible to the head of state. We are not here talking about Regional Police forces. The number of Police personnel would be increased by at least half of the present number. The rest of the forces; Military, State Security Services and Customs personnel should be increased by at least one quarter of their present numbers. The personalisation and privatisation of our Police and Military would stop. They shall no longer be assigned to some private individuals as their domestic servants and bodyguards.

We need to establish a National Charity Commission in the country. For example; the Commission would check the menace of many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and religious bodies in the country. The northern Emirs shall not be allowed to double as traditional rulers and Islamic religious heads in their domains. The Islamic Religious Clerics shall be allowed to choose their leader among themselves and individually be the religious head in their parishes or districts, and to be fully accountable in the circumstances where their Islamic religion is being misused. Islamic religion shall not be mixed with Government and official matters in the North and any other part of the country. The dual laws practice by all the current State Governments of the North shall stop. Their Islamic police shall be disbanded. We cannot have parallel and religious laws and police force in the country. Any reference to any Islamic courts, laws and practices in our Constitution shall be expunged from the Constitution.

All of the above, the other subordinating issues and matters of routine that are not touched in the articles, would be formalised in a new Constitution. The general basis of the new Constitution shall be changing the weaknesses we experienced in our systems since independence in October 1960 and hedging against the factors that would endanger the present geographical configuration of the country. For the Government to write the new Constitution, it would need to assemble a six expert in constitutional matters; one from each geo-political zone in the country; to draft it. The new Constitution would be drawn on basis of Presidential and Parliamentary systems of government in a three-tier system of the Federal, Regional and Local Governments. The people would in a referendum vote by a simple majority to choose one of the systems of government they want and the related Constitution.

As we have had several conferences and volume of materials from which to draw issues, the new Constitution would be a matter for the Executive and not the National Assembly to draft. The National Assembly should no longer here waste our time and money on any constitution, drafting and writing. It should be largely preoccupied by amending the existing laws, where necessary.

Had the current APC Federal Government carried out the required restructuring; the old States and Local Government would have ended on 28 May 2017 while the new Regional and Local Governments term of office of Government of five years would have taken effect from 29 May 2017 - 28 May 2022. The current Federal Government would normally end on 28 May 2019. But its new five years term of office would take effect from 29 May 2019 - 28 May 2024. This means, as said above, the Regional and Local Governments would be elected during the mid-term of the Federal Government while the Federal Government will be elected during the mid-term of the Regional and Local Governments.

To know more about this author; read his forty-page Presidential manifesto for the 2015 general election from his website; apiainternational.co.uk, and his previous articles that were published here on this column. He did not release the manifesto before the general election nor participate in the election for certain reasons.

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