OPINION: THE CALL FOR TRUE FEDERALISM: WHY THE NORTH MUST NOT BE FEARFUL

There has been a lot of talk lately about the restructuring of the country, and the devolution of powers. And with increased agitation from various groups, the call for a remodeling of the process of governance has only gotten louder.

One of the most vocal proponents of the restructuring talk has been the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. Though a Northerner, Atiku seems to understand that allowing Nigeria proceed as is, would only lead to doom ahead.

Now, though many people understand the urgency of the matter, it seems like there is no willpower to proceed in that
direction; and this is largely due to the fears of one part of the country- the North!

In terms of restructuring, a major issue of contention which has led to great trepidation from the North, is oil from the South-South. Crude oil is (still) the main-stay of the nation's economy, and the major commodity whose sale pays the bills of all states of the federation. The North has no crude oil in its territory but for all intents and purposes, it is in charge of almost all apparatus of Government within Nigeria so as long as it continues to wield the stick of control at the center, it may not have the oil, but it certainly has a say over the proceeds of the oil. So to retain control, it remains vehemently opposed to any idea of restructuring! This cannot be allowed to continue!

Nigeria is called a federation; but realistically speaking, this is a wrong description. A true federation does not have weakened parts. In a true federation, there would be greater autonomy for State Governments, so they decide on important issues of policy, resources, taxation, etc. In a true federation, states do not find themselves at the mercy of the center, waiting helplessly for 'allocations' each month. In a true federation, states are in charge of their own economic system and survival, and they pay tax to the center.

The fear of the opponents of true federalism is that it would lead to a weakened center; but by no means is this true. The Federal Government will always have the final say on key issues concerning the collective whole.

It seems like the North is getting quite jittery lately. Twice now, the President has ordered NNPC to search for oil in the North. Someone said the day oil is discovered in the North, is the day the country will be restructured! But if we look at things intelligently and non-sentimentally, is there really a worthy reason for this fear? The answer is NO.

Each state has something of importance it brings to the table; and in my own opinion, true federalism and a restructuring of the system of governance, would cause all parts to return to their individual drawing boards, and truly evaluate their prospects for economic survival.

For instance, Kano State does not have oil- at least not yet- but it does have a large population, which translates to a viable profitable market for entrepreneurs, which in turn translates into greater sources of taxation for the State Government.

Ekiti State does not have oil, but it has a large community of intellectuals- home and abroad- which translates into educational manpower. If the state can channel its focus into developing the educational sector to world class standards, it can thrive on educational tourism, and witness an influx of learners, which translates into payers.

Ebonyi State has a lot of red sand, no oil, but Rice which tends to be quite soggy but if resources are channeled into scientific research to discover ways of achieving a higher quality of this Rice, it can become an export commodity within and outside Nigeria.

The bottom line is that each state has something to offer whether its oil, manpower, agricultural produce, other mineral resources, or even a large population there is enough to increase the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the component parts of the nation, in order to reduce their reliance on the center.

Finally my brethren *channeling my inner Paul the Apostle* there is no denying that restructuring and true federalism is needed in Nigeria. The inevitable can only be delayed, but not for too long. Like a seasoned scholar- Chief Akintola- recently said, The North has only gotten away with delaying the process, because of the disunity of the South (paraphrase, mine). But if things continue as they are, there will come a day when the OPC man will come together with the Niger-Delta militant and Biafran agitator and when that day comes, the center would no longer hold. But it does not have to get to that point we can do the needful, and do it quick there really is no need for the fear!
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