Nigeria is at crossroads, we need restructuring – Atiku Abubakar
28 April 2017 National
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on Thursday joined the calls for restructuring of the country to promote unity and economic development.
In a speech he delivered at the public presentation of the Daily Stream newspaper, at the Banquet Hall, Nigeria Airforce Conference Centre, Kado, Abuja on Thursday, Abubakar said Nigeria is at crossroads and that only profound changes in the political structure of the country can bring about the desired peace and prosperity.
Abubakar called for the restructuring of Nigeria’s political, administrative and political architecture to free resources that would otherwise go to unviable ventures and projects.
”The country is truly at a crossroads, and things are made worse by the cocktail of economic, social, political and problems which we have had to contend with, and which add to the abysmally low estimation of our country even by its own citizens.
”However, I am not here just to lament over the sad and unenviable state of affairs in Nigeria. I firmly believe in the viability of the Nigerian Project, I remain unshaken and completely persuaded that we can eventually change the story of Nigeria for good by collectively making Nigeria a productive, prosperous, peaceful and united nation whose people are happy and contented and one that is able to really lead Africa and assume a pride of place in the comity of nations.
”But to achieve that, we must elevate and steer conversation away from empty rhetoric and platitudes. We must instigate and see to the full and faithful implementation of profound changes in the political structure, organization, functions and performance of state, and a radical re-organization of government, its organs and personnel.
”Our beloved country has been in the throes of severe and debilitating social and economic problems. Virtually all the development indices have not been favourable: massive and pervasive poverty, double-digit inflation, unemployment, dwindling foreign exchange receipts, poor GDP growth rates, high infant and maternal mortality, high levels of illiteracy, and millions of school-age children out of school.
”My take is that we will likely continue to grapple with such problems unless we get the structures of our federalism and governance right. Our current system, which is characterized by a focus on sharing rather than production, is clearly not conducive to development. For Nigeria to develop – or even make any appreciable progress – we must re-structure Nigeria’s political, administrative and political architecture. That way we can free resources that would otherwise go to unviable ventures and projects, then commit same to areas that directly cater for and benefit the people. Restructuring will facilitate the emergence of a leaner bureaucracy, enhance efficiency, block wastages and promote more prudent management. It will make for happier constituent units more committed to the progress and unity of the country and the emergence of a sense of nationhood.
”How do we do that? We should, first, dispassionately and painstakingly re-visit our 36-state structure vis-a-vis the idea of overly dominant federal government. Second, we should devolve power from the centre to the federating units: many of the items in the Exclusive List should be devolved to the states or any other agreed federating units. Third, that devolution of powers must include an end to federal intrusion in local government administration. The so-called States/Local Governments joint account has virtually absolved state governments of responsibilities to fund local governments while they virtually confiscate the funds allocated by the federal government to the local government. To have the federal government create local governments and directly fund them makes nonsense of the word “local.” Those powers should be vested in the state governments. And it should include an end to federal ownership of interstate roads, schools, hospitals and the uniformity in remunerations across the country. Fourth, we must sit down, discuss, and agree on the nature of our fiscal federalism – how to share our resources. I am on record as having advocated for the control of rents by the federating units from which they are derived while the federal government retains its powers to levy taxes. That will make us all productive again and our federating units to engage in healthy rivalries and competition, which will only result in more progress.
”There is no doubt in my mind that that the structure of our federation and governance constitute an impediment to our economic development, political stability and social harmony. Changing them would help to place our country on a path to phenomenal and unhindered development. To persist in what we are doing now is to do injustice to ourselves and jeopardize our future. We should endeavour to effect the needed changes by talking among ourselves and across our various divides – engaging in meaningful dialogue. We should take full advantage of the democratic spaces and institutions to instigate positive conversations in that regard. Given the right environment, there is hardly a limit to what a people can do for themselves by themselves.