To Develop, Nigeria Must Be Decentralized

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

After forty seven years in the wilderness, if you ask a toddler born in Nigeria what the problems impeding the progress of Nigeria are, chances are that he/she will reel out a whole lot on a laundry list of items including corruption, lack of good leaders, tribalism etc. Fact is however, that no nation on earth is free from any of the problems; in fact looking not far beyond Nigeria’s borders you will find out that nearly every nation grapples with similar problems. However, these nations be it the Asian Tigers, or the Western countries or even the CRIB (China-Russia-India-Brazil) nations have somehow been able to record remarkable progress in the past twenty five years in spite of deep racial and religious divisions (e.g. India, South Africa, US and Brazil), corruption (e.g. Russia, South Africa, India, China, Brazil) and bad leaders (e.g. USA, Thailand, Russia)

Hence, the presence or lack thereof of these attributes cannot be the problem. There is more to the woes of the largest black nation on earth than the trite lines of ethno-religious divisions, corruption or even the lack of good leaders. There is need for us to scratch beyond the surface to correctly diagnose the chronic disease that is rendering this immature forty seven years old giant impotent! It is not just enough to point fingers; it is time we get serious (as a nation) at doing something about it. Perhaps, the old paradigms might need to be abandoned; maybe we might need to get rid of some characters (naturally or forcefully). Though, what is abundantly clear is that we cannot afford to continue to conduct our affairs in a “business-as-usual” manner.

In the first six years in the life of Independent Nigeria, remarkable progress were recorded both in terms of physical and human development (it is so apparent a fact that it is trite for me to get into the details). Like the eight to five years of regional self rule that preceded independence, competition amongst the regions gave rise to enormous progress the pace of which we are yet to see to date. Regardless of the strife that marked this era, precipitated of course by the interference of the central government in the affairs of the then Western region, progress went on at steady pace across all three and later four regions of the federation.

On the morning of January 15, 1966 this era ended when the khaki boys on the pretence of righting the wrongs of the politicians, infested the nation with their parasite of woes and underdevelopment. Since then the nation has known no peace. Various crisis moments from brazen public and private corruption to coup plotting, armed robbery, human rights abuses, ethno-religious anarchy, and even a civil war have since bedeviled the sickly giant. They inherited a nation with promise, and left a nation in crisis on their hurried exit from power in 1999. In fact, the ghosts of their misadventure are still with us to this day. The corrupt elements they nurtured have been unleashed on our nation since this pseudo exit from the power scene, and our politics is in sore need of disinfection!

By virtue of their training, the military men at the helm of power in Nigeria were incapable of in-depth thinking. Being 100% brawn and 0% brain, they rode rough shod on their fellow citizens and imposed their will through hook or crook. Their first act in power when General Ironsi imposed a unitary form of government on Nigeria in 1966 is still with us to this day in the form of the 1999 constitution. Today, Nigeria is federal in name only; in fact we will be lucky if daily decisions affecting this crippled giant are taken in Aso Rock. Rather, rumors have it that Wadata House (PDP Headquarters) is the new power house of Nigerian governance. It is the power mongers at Wadata house (a concentration of unitarists elements- the worst elements of the Nigerian society) that decides who get what favors in Nigeria today. Wadata house allocate votes and forward election results to INEC; they even decide the date on which local government elections are held! That is how far in the cesspool of unitarism our dear nation has sunk.

Unitarism introduced in 1966, refined and reformed under Gowon and Murtala administrations in the form of miniaturizing of federal elements by creating unsustainable weak states, and taken one step further by the destruction of people’s power and integrity by the IBB and Abacha regimes, have since taken root under the prophet of one-party state in the person of Obasanjo in his two time misadventure with power at the center. Power hungry Obasanjo grabbed every available power to put a permanent nail in the coffin of true federalism. Any hopes that the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural strength and beauty of our nation will ever be on display was either destroyed or hijacked by the elements in that shameful assembly of collaborators, murderers and thieves called the PDP and its genetic mutants (AC or whatever they are called).

Many of the infrastructures that preceded their era of centralization (a centralization of the worst elements of the Nigerian nation at the center) still sustain the nation to this day- forty years later. Many of these are in a state of disrepair, and indeed over stretched while our bogus leaders flee the land in droves to enjoy the sweat of foreigners on their numerous foreign trips that only render the nation poorer. The very worst attributes of the individual nations that make up the intrinsically federal polity called Nigeria has been exaggerated at the center. The recent Etteh debacle in the House of Rep is a testimony to this fact. It is very clear at this point that the center of Nigeria is irredeemable, and that even if angels are recruited to participate in the central government as currently structured, they will only become devils overnight!

As such, it is important that if we draw from the lessons of the post-centralization era in contrast with the era of regionalization; that our country immediately takes step back to a federated union of powerful regions and a weak center. It is only then could we reap the benefits of friendly regional competition, equity, and justice in resource distribution. Patriotism and commitment to regional progress, as well as a restoration of the native ethos of self respect and integrity will be hallmarks of a regionally organized federation. Corruption, tribalism and poor leadership will not be cured by regionalization, but they will also not be prominent features of our nation psyche. The current panacea of fake federation of miniature weakling state, or its evil twin of brazen unitarism, or its demagogic cousin of regional integration of West African States or even their not so distant step-father of secession will not cure this sickly giant. The solution to our nation’s problems lies in immediate decentralization of power from the center.

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