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-By Russell Bluejack
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Restructuring and secession are two windows open to those who see themselves as victims of a dysfunctional political economy such as Nigeria. Nigeria has existed as a “nation” since 1914 and as an “independent” geographical enclave since 1960 (the emphasis on indepedent and nation is deliberate). This work is primarily about the weakness of the federalists’ clamour, for it is my take that what they want is not novel. I am optimistic that this expository will drive the final death knell into the call for restructuring. Restructuring is either whole or part. Nigeria, unlike other nations, has never had a brush with holistic restructuring. But what is restructuring?
Restructuring refers to the reorganization of the structure of a nation. If the reorganization is total, it is called TRUE FEDERALISM; if it is in part, it is called FISCAL FEDERALISM. True federalism refers to political and economic power sharing between the State and its federating units (states). It covers issues of self-governance (security), autonomous management of resources, limits of State interference etc. In a true federal enclave, federating units exist as independent entities with minimal appendage to the State e.g. the United States of America where each state has its own police force.
Fiscal federalism, on the other hand, is part of a broader public finance discipline. It is the brainchild of a German-born American, Richard Musgrave, that deals with divisions of governmental functions and financial relations among levels of government. It was propounded in 1959 and has since guided the political administration policies of nations. The concept has come down to us in Africa, especially aggrieved federating units in Nigeria (Niger Delta Region) as RESOURCE CONTROL, which is a clear case of its misconstruance. I just wonder how many federalists know that resource control is just a part of fiscal federalism, which is itself a part of true federalism. But is the clamour for fiscal federalism new to Nigeria? Has Nigeria been restructured before? I crave your indulgence as I do justice to the questions above.
THE HISTORY OF RESTRUCTURING IN NIGERIA
Federalists cannot in good conscience deny that the present structure of the economy and political structure of Nigeria is a fallout of past attempts to attain restructuring. Matter-of-factly, what we refer to as Nigeria is a badly restructured Lugard’s contraption. Revenue sharing has always been the forte of every attempt at restructuring Nigeria in the past and does seem to be the kernel of federalist call today. Let me take you down memory lane.
In 1946, Hick-Phillipson Commission awarded 46% of revenues to the North, 30% to the West, and 24% to the East (South-East and South-South). Chicks Commission of 1953 did more work on revenue sharing by clearly differentiating between import and export duties and how they are to be shared.
In 1958, Sir Jeremy Raisman’s Commission introduced Distributable Pools Account (DPA) and included POPULATION as a determinant for revenue sharing, meaning regions were to be considered on the basis of their population. I am sure you know why this was done. Binns Fiscal Commission, 1964, recognized the DPA, which is now what we refer to as National Coffers/State Treasury.
The creation of states in 1967 gave birth to Decree 15, a military declaration that population be seriously considered in the East, but that what pertains to the North be shared equally among the six states. You can see the unequal administration here. Dina Commission, 1968, introduced the OFFSHORE/ONSHORE and enabled Decree 6 of 1975 to hold back revenue accruing from onshore mining rents and royalties (about 20%).
Prof. Ayobade, under the 1977 military junta, headed a CDC that included local government in the revenue sharing principle: 60% for federal, 30% for states, and 10% for local governments. The Revenue Allocation Act, Number 1, 1981 adopted the submission of Pius Okigbo’s Commission, to wit: 58.5% to federal, 31.5% to states, and 10% to local governments.
IBB’s National Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission (NRMAFC), 1989 vested the power to allocate vertical allocation formula on the National Assembly and considered equality of states, population, internal revenue effort, and social development factor as indices of revenue allocation, which remains one of the best. It is one reason why IBB was called a uniformed political maestro.
We can see that each of these commissions embodies an attempt by colonial and post-colonial Nigeria to achieve restructuring.
Source: Niger Delta: The Economic Life of Nigeria
THE FOLLY OF FEDERALISTS
Having seen that each attempt at restructuring Nigeria created a new problem that formed the basis for further attempts, one wonders why federalists want us to embark on such journey to no definite destination. What stops our federalists from thinking outside the box? Let me remind everyone clamouring for restructuring that Obasanjo-led Revenue Committee rejected call for upward review of the 13% DERIVATIVE PRINCIPLE. He, Obasanjo, went ahead to obtain a landmark judgment from the Supreme Court, which legally (though immorally) excluded offshore from the said principle. Where were these noisy federalists when that happened?
Furthermore, moves by the then Acting President, Prof. Osinbajo, to relocate oil company headquarters to the source of their raw material was repelled by the legislature. Where were our federalists? Did they react?
Another sad development, one I had to write about, occurred when a Bill seeking the establishment of a financial scheme that would recompense the South-East Region for the damage done it by the Civil War, was rejected by the legislature. What was the reaction of our federalists? What did IBB, the governors, and even Atiku say when that South-East Development Commission Bill was impugned and speedily rejected? Where were all these governors calling for restructuring in their desperate bid to escape Biafra?
Those clamouring for restructuring should know that their call is belated, since Abdusallami used his one year transition government to give the North what they could not get in 1966. The North had always wanted to dominate the legislature. The death of both Abiola and Abacha left Nigerians dazed and blind to what Abdusallami did for the North. They now enjoy more federal constituencies. I just wonder how these federalists want to surmount the towering population of the Nay-sayers in the National Assembly. I enjoin you to ask any federalism crusader the following questions:
1) Why are you afraid of secession?
2) How do you intend to push your Bill through a legislature peopled by those against restructuring?
3) Now that governors and some northerners are singing your song, is there any difference between you and politicians?
4) What do you really want? Is it the progress of Nigeria or your selfish goal?
5) If you truly need the progress and development of Nigeria devoid of ulterior motive, how come you are not giving other self-determinist movement a chance? In other words, why do you keep insisting that yours is the best?
6) Seeing that several attempts at restructuring did not go well in the past, what do you wish to do differently this time?
7) If you really desire to change Nigeria for good, why not join others that have gone far?
It is my humble and unalloyed submission that most of the federalists you see are ignorant and unprepared for the task ahead. Seeing that governors and former presidents have joined the fray, one can authoritatively say that federalists have become mercenaries hired by those who see secession as an incubus. The fear of Biafra is responsible for the loudness that has characterized the once quiet federalist movement. Today, Nigerians that are given to Fulani conquest and western negative propaganda see restructuring as the elusive escapism from a reverberating and luxuriating agitation for the restoration.
Restructuring has become the place where compomised Nigerians ensconce themselves. Take it or leave it, those who truly understand and crave restructuring are less than 15% of the crowd. Most of the few federalists have moved to the other side. Are you not shocked that some Niger Deltans leave their northern predators to attack the Igbo? That is what you see from a conquered people. For some Niger Deltans, the predator is a friend while the Igbo, with whom they share similar culture and religion, are foes.
I still sleep every night in expectation of that night that will draw the curtains on Nigeria. I await the morning when sunlight from the Land of the Rising Sun will make me squint my eyes and heave a sigh of relief. Home sweet home, as ersatz (fake) federalists sprout like a plant here and there, my spirit man tells me you are close. If you were not, then explain the incidence of politicians turning activists overnight.
O Biafra, how enemies of an egalitarian society fear thee. Come quickly, my precious home. Come and absorb me and my compatriots so that our thirsty souls can calm down. We yearn for thee. We await thee. Freedom from a related generation of lies is what we all need. WE NEED BIAFRA. God bless Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. God bless IPOB. God bless you all, my beloved Biafra family. God bless the writer.
Restructuring, we vehemently reject thee
Referendum, we passionately long for thee.
Russell Idatoru Bluejack is a thinker, revolutionary writer, university tutor, and socio-economic and political analyst that writes from Port Harcourt.