With the conclusion of the 2015 general election and emergence of a new leadership in the country, now is the time to focus on the urgent needs confronting the Nigerian state and how to overcome them! The purpose of government and any leadership is to provide solutions to nagging challenges both political and economic.
In the present Nigeria, issues of the structure of the state are so crucial as to overshadow all others and determine policy outcomes. Most politically conscious people in the country believe that the quest to entrench democracy and ensure development is largely constrained by the disproportionate and disequilibrium structure of our federation, where the component units are so weak and poor to exist as autonomous entities, and cost of governance so huge to permit meaningful development.
This newspaper as a responsible and patriotic institution shares this sentiment and advocates the need to reform the state in order to reengineer its foundation for a sustainable nation. Having emerged from decades of military rule, which disrupted the growth of most the democratic institutional frameworks developed at independence, the Nigeria state since the return of civil rule has been anomalous and in need of drastic reforms.
Top of the issues crying for attention is the number of the federating units. On the eve of the return to the present democratic dispensation, former vice president Dr. Alex Ekwueme, proposed a six zonal structure for the country against the present 36 states and Abuja. By 2003, The Patriots, a group of eminent Nigerians led then by legal luminary, late Chief FRA Williams, supported the view which gave it some public acceptance and legitimacy. This has been the official position of the south in the two national conferences on constitutional and political reforms since then.
Arguments for this idea derive from the poor and unviable nature of the states and the duplication of government and administrative structure and machinery, thus channeling most of public resources to maintenance of public officers and civil servants at the expense of the people. It also makes the centre too strong and powerful, which is capable of endangering the system in the hand of ambitious president. Besides, there is also the overcentralisation of state and political institutions making the nation a federation merely by nomenclature.
A critical illustration of the overcentralisation is the institution and role of the Nigerian Police. Nigeria is perhaps the only federal system where the constituents depend on the centre for their policing need. This is not only undemocratic and contrary to the tenets of federalism, it is also practically dysfunctional. Very frequently the centre has been accused by states of using the Police indiscriminately to further its political agenda and advantage.
In fact insecurity and crime fighting cannot be effectively tackled with the present constitution and structure of the police where states governors as chief security officers rely on the Commissioner of Police who takes orders from the Inspector General of Police appointed by the president. It is a contradiction of title and role. Indeed, most police state commands are funded by the governors as federal allocations are either inadequate or usually misappropriated by the Police hierarchy and the supervising ministry.
A clear case in point is the debacle in Rivers state during the governorship election between the governor, the AIG and the presidency which has consumed the IGP, Suleiman Abba. Most police formations hardly get funding for running costs and DPOs have to operate with collections from road blocks and extortions from disputants. This is why intelligence collection and community policing is absent in crime dictation, thus festering criminal activities in the country.
Without doubt, the question of citizenship is a crying shame in the country and something that may undermine the future existence of the nation. More than a century of being together as nation and half a century of political independence, the issue of citizenship is still unresolved. This came to the fore during the last governorship election in Lagos state when Oba Rilwanu Akiolu threatened the Igbo to vote against his candidate, Mr. Ambode of APC and perish.
The Igbo have faced similar situations in the north where they continue to suffer all manners of indignities and discriminations on account of non indigenship in spite of how long they have lived in those areas. Most Nigerians cannot aspire to certain public offices in states outside their state of origin regardless of their contributions to that state. With proper citizenship, nation has no future, because without social integration and mutual acceptance unity is denied.
Hallmark believes there are other areas, such as the over-bloated executive arm because of the constitutional requirement that every state must produce a minister- that constitutes a cog in the wheel of progress and this government must deal with such. Fortunately, the last National Political Conference report provides a working guide and template for the new leadership and should not be jettisoned on the altar of politics. The nation has expended great financial and human resources in the report and it should be properly reviewed and implemented to resolve some of these nagging issues at the soul of the nation.