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Nigeria at 59: Simplistic approach to governance (2)

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To meet its financial obligation to its workers and institutions, especially the education sector where there has been incessant industrial showdown, the federal government has directed state governments to refund the bailout funds irrespective of their financial predicament.

Driven by exasperation, the governors in their Nigeria Governors Forum, pleaded with the federal government to agree to a negotiated period of phased repayment which was pegged at 20-year repayment agreement to give them breathing space. According to the spokesman of Nigeria Governors Forum, “Since government is a continuum, the governors have agreed at NEC to refund the N614billion with a caveat that there must be a reconciliation of the outstanding accruals to the states from NLNG dividends and the N17billion debt owed per state”. According to records, about $1billion of the cash came from the NLNG dividends. The shenanigans border on lack of proper federal structure which in turn affected proper national planning within the context of true fiscal federalism.

Expressing deep reservation on the existential contradictions that threw up financial and administrative muddles and blaming it on the faulty political structure which political pundits described as “Unitary Federalism”, Idowu Akinlotan contended thus: “It is strange just how Nigeria continues to dig itself into a futile hole, running a warped federal system and enthroning inefficient and inherently defective political and economic structures. The present system is untenable and unworkable.

“Surely it is not too hard for government to understand what it means to practice federalism. Their ignorance must be contrived and malevolent. What Nigeria needs is not a reviewed revenue formular but real political and economic federalism and deep structural. Let states or regions make their money and pay tax to the centre; it is time to banish the crude and unhealthy monthly circus to Abuja”.

The pervasive and intractable insecurity ravaging the entire landscape of the country detracts from “Unitary Federalism” in practice. Since the menace of the supposed foreign herdsmen using forests for kidnapping for ransom and sundry criminalities has not been frontally addressed by the federal government, state governments have been compelled to establish “Forest Guards” even as some strengthened their vigilantes to stop the foreign invaders in their tract.

In its editorial supporting the actions of the states to protect their people in line with realistic principles of federalism, a national daily contended: “Taking their fates in their hands, the governors of the South-East resolved to establish Forest Guards as a counter to the insecurity which had plagued the region for some time. The proposal for enhanced security aims to empower locals with the knowledge of their communities to check activities of marauding armed “herdsmen” and other bandits who take refuge in the forests.

Extolling the benefits of the principles of federalism, the paper continues: “The resort to local measures in addressing a local situation is salutary and a pointer to the benefits of sharing of security power and responsibilities between the federal and lower tiers of government instead of the current ineffective centralised command architecture. Here, we are strong believers and exponents of decentralisation of power, including the power over security. Self-preservation is a natural impulse. The people of every locality must be allowed to play a role in their own security, while the federal police and security agencies can complement their efforts. We call on the state governors who have been pushing for state police not to relent, especially as it is obvious that Federal monopolization of the nation’s security architecture has failed”.

In his frank and forthright appraisal of the present state of the economy in his Face-book posting, Anyadoro Chigozie Emmanuel observed pointedly: “Recession is here, depression will soon follow if proper economic measures are not taken. Nigeria is an unhappy country failing everyday; unemployment is high and getting worse, exchange rate has remained stubbornly high, prices of goods are rising, external reserves are dwindling, excess crude account is steadily depleted and debts are at the highest level since Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwala got Nigeria out of the debt trap…the federal government has lived in denial from the first day”.

Continuing the analysis of the parlous economic landscape, Anyadoro quoted the World Bank which observed that “Nigeria is not only living on borrowed time and also living on borrowed funds and depleting economic resources. Time of course is a major economic resource which is prodigiously wasted by those of our present leaders. Nigeria, according to World Bank, “might be heading to a full-blown depression if proper economic measures are not taken; and economic depression is worse than war”.

One could be asseverate with all due sense of responsibility that Nigeria is facing a situation of a failed state status due to its failure to get to grips the reality of restructuring the country’s governance paradigm and structure, its comatose economic landscape, and more importantly, its electoral fortunes. Most of the socio-economic and political challenges facing the country have their roots on faulty structure born out of bastardised principles of federalism as obtained the world over.

Nigerians were stupefied at the judgment of the presidential tribunal upholding Buhari’s election. Their anger stemmed from the apparent “pre-rigging manoeuvres” which made Buhari to back down for four times on signing the new Electoral Bill which had been fine-tuned in the National Assembly for over two years. Going by the provisions of the new Electoral Bill which had been sufficiently crafted to be signed into law, Nigerians had sang halleluyah that  the monster of electoral malfeasance which has been the bane of the country’s progress has been slain.

In his 58 Independent Anniversary speech, President Muhammadu Buhari, obviously referring to the unpalatable fallouts of Osun State governorship election acknowledged that the country has not yet arrived in the conduct of elections that meet international standard. Hear Mr. President: “Developing a thriving democracy is not an easy task. There can be no quick fixes or short cuts. These are the most important lessons that we have learnt in our 58 years as an independent nation”.

Nwabueze Akabogu had expressed frightful foreboding in the coming 2019 general elections when he said: “The electioneering campaigns in Nigeria had always been characterised by intrigues, blackmails, horse-trading and empty promises by these conscienceless political actors who often hoodwink the poor and helpless voters to give them their mandate. It is needless to emphasise the point that poverty level in the country today had risen to such astronomical and intolerable proportion as was recently reported by the United Nations [UN]. The UN poverty index recently indicated that Nigeria has overtaken India as the poorest nation in the world”.

Echoing the same foreboding but believing that INEC has come up with electronic voting system as the 2019 election was approaching, Tayo Ogunbiyi contended: “Prior to now, rigging devices such as ballot box stuffing and snatching, outright manipulation of election results, as well as electoral violence used to be a major bane of electoral process in Nigeria. But that seems to have changed now. Considering the fact that the INEC came up with certain technological-induced electoral reforms that have made rigging and other such electoral malpractices unfashionable, the ever resourceful Nigerian politicians have since come up with another ‘ingenuous’ contrivance to checkmate INEC and circumvent the process”.

Regretting the inability of the country to get it right in all aspects of governance in its 59 years of political sovereignty, a columnist, Wale Sokunbi said: “It is sad that 59 years after independence, we are still grappling with the provision of basic necessities of life…All over the world, advances are being made in medicine, engineering, ICT and the lot, while we continue to grapple with how to feed our people”.

A legal practitioner, George Enekwechi laid the blame to ethno-religious fault-lines. He said: “The problem of Nigerians is basically that we, from the beginning lack the basic foundations of philosophy, having proper philosophy of governance. What do we really want for the country? How do we want to approach it? What can we do to achieve the greatest for the greater number of people? We failed to do that; rather we saw politics from the point of view of ethno-religious perspective, financial enrichment, we began to see governance from the point of view of personal enrichment and the leaders and the led became confused. The issue needs to be interrogated to ascertain the seriousness of anti-corruption mantra of Buhari administration. International communities will laugh at us and see us as fake, its absolute bumkum”.

Former chairman of local government council and management consultant, Dr. Nnanna Egwu regretted the tardy socio-economic and political development and traced the electoral malfeasance introduced by the conservative forces referred to as “northern oligarchy”.

He contended: “Electoral malpractice is not as serious today as it was in the first republic. There is no internal democracy in any political party in Nigeria. Only direct primary should have been made in the constitution, it is the ideal thing. Indirect primary remains a deliberate gimmick to encourage god-fatherism. Proliferation of political parties is a ruse to manipulate the populace. It is the god-fathers that instigated indirect primary in the nomination of candidates for elective positions. Option A-4 will end manipulations in the democracy and electoral process in the country. Nigeria is a write-off for democracy hence being a butt of international odium and caricature”. On the way forward to reinvent Nigeria and get on the right track for democracy and election process, the veteran politician said that Nigeria is on the way of being a failed state if it fails to restructure the lopsided federation”.

Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo apparently angered by the somewhat vacuous 2018 Independent anniversary speech said the president hardly inspired Nigerians to have a hope that the country will have a turn around. He said: “It is obvious that as a nation, we are yet to get where we dreamt of due to bad management and leadership. The present government is the most woeful government we have ever had.

Adebanjo, who had hoped that Buhari would be gotten rid off in the 2019 presidential election, had expressed foreboding that things will be worse for Nigeria as Buhari has come back, that will be the end of Nigeria. According to the elder statesman, nothing good can happen under his government in spite of the “New Level” mantra.

“He is fighting corruption and yet surrounds himself with corrupt people. He is ruling as if he is ruling a section of the country…So what has he done to make Nigeria better? It has all been motion without movement”, he lamented.

Reflecting on the outcome of presidential election and the judgment of the tribunal, Buba Galadima, a former political associate of Buhari but now the national chairman of “R-APC”, [a faction of APC], said that he had concluded that Buhari would win the election since he had frustrated the promulgation of the new Electoral Bill into law. Hear him: “It is my candid opinion that the president never won this election because he did not allow a level playing ground for elections to be conducted so that a genuine winner will emerge.

“He has set the tone. If not because Nigerians are forgetful, there is nothing we didn’t say when the Presidency and the National Assembly then were brick bating on the Electoral Law. As you are aware, that Electoral Law was a masterpiece by the National Assembly addressing all the loopholes and shortfalls within our electoral system starting from Lord Lugard to Jonathan. All of them were corrected, hoping that the president who conducted his 2015 presidential campaign on the premise of reforming our electoral system so that one man one vote will prevail, he eventually refused to sign the Electoral Act for two years. And from there, I had been personally shouting to the roof tops that the refusal of Mr. President to sign the Electoral Law portends danger because as I had then foresighted, it was because he personally and his group wanted to shortchange Nigerians. I never mince words about saying that. If anybody wanted a free and fair election, that person could have signed that Electoral Law which he refused to do. And not only that, after refusing to sign the Elecoral Act, it still dawned on them that they had one obstacle because they may conduct the elections, if the judiciary is free, they may likely do what had happened in Kenya to them. So, they saw Justice Walter Onnoghen as an obstacle and booted him out”.

Reviewing the 59 years of independence, Ibrahim Mustapha believed that Nigeria should do a soul-searching to get democracy right. In his contention, “Nigeria needs to go back to the drawing board and chart its future development. The country is lagging behind in the social, political and economic front with the damning vote-buying and vote-intimidation in the last general elections, it is not yet uhuru”.

A cerebral columnist, Steve Nwosu regretting the failure of the electoral umpire to make use of the global technologically-induced electoral reform said: “If there is anything that is constant in all our election, it is that politicians would want to subvert the system”. All said, it is imperative that electoral reform must be made to avoid controversies after every poll.

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