Create regions; abolish states, LGAs (2)

Create regions; abolish states, LGAs (2)

By ochereome Nnanna

I AM converting this  topic to a two-part serial in response to a challenge posed by one of the readers. He or she did not supply his/her name, but the GSM number is 08033539191. And the text message reads: “Your article on page 49 in the Vanguard of today (Monday October 31st 2011) is not in-depth at all. You wrote about why the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions failed. You even wrote why suggestions by others will not work but you did not do a good job on how yours will succeed”. May I thank the reader for this prompting. There must be millions of others who share this view.

It is obvious to most Nigerians that the system the military imposed on them has failed. Just as I write this, I am looking at a newspaper headline that says Nigeria is ranked 154th among 180 nations in the human development index of the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, thus making her one of the worst countries to live on earth.
As we face the prospects of a large-scale constitution amendment next year, questions are being asked as to how we should tinker with our nation’s structure to enable it to start functioning. Some think more states should be created. In fact, the National Assembly already has that item on its programme of action.
On the other hand, and in view of revelations that most of the states in the federation are financially insolvent, some federal legislators are calling for a “merger” of states, as if the merger of two insolvent entities will result in a solvent one! My call for the abolition of the 36 states and 774 local government areas; the creation of six regions and adoption of the 1963 Constitution, is based on my perception that it will give Nigeria the impetus to move forward.

The question is: Why six regions instead of the old four? The answer is simple. Three of the regions – South East, South West and North West – will be the main home regions of the three major ethnic nationalities: Igbo, Yoruba and “Hausa/Fulani”. The South-South, North Central and North East will also contain most of the ethnic minorities.
All these regions will conform roughly to the “states” or regions agitated for by Nigerians at one time or the other. They will satisfy the demand of geographical, political and cultural contiguity and consanguinity necessary for common sub-sectional identity.

They can tap into the Concurrent and Residual Legislative List to make laws congruent to their cultural, economic and geopolitical circumstances and fashions. With the 1963 Constitution updated to put resources at the disposal of each region, the old, healthy competition that made Nigeria a prospect in the class of Brazil, India and China in the 1960s will be back in force.

With one regional governmental machinery (instead of five, six or seven) the cost of governance will be drastically slashed. I suggest that each of the regions should produce seven senators, and senatorial constituencies approximating to the size of today’s states. This will translate into 43 senators (plus Abuja), whose job will be part-time. Each region should produce not more than 10 members of the House of Representatives (roughly 62 Reps) who will be involved full time. Within the regions, there will also be a bi-cameral legislature made up of the House of Assembly and the House of Chiefs. While the former will be full-time, the latter will be largely ceremonial, dealing on cultural and communal matters. The current Federal Constituencies will make up the unit of representation at the Regional House of Assembly.

The various regions will determine the shape, size, number and functionality of the structure of local administration that will replace the current local councils. The idea of giving the current local government “tier” of government greater financial autonomy as being touted in the impending constitutional reforms will not serve any useful purpose.

In the first place, the local governments created by the military cheated some parts of the country (especially the South East) and stacked undeserved advantages to others (especially the North). It was a post-civil war, booty-sharing arrangement which should be phased out over 40 years after the war.

There is no further justification for the continuation of the “reward/punishment” policies as we search for an equitable and functional way forward. They must be abolished, while the regions will be empowered by the Constitution to fashion local government arrangements that will serve their geopolitical and cultural purposes.

There is no need to force the various divides in the country to adopt a uniform local administration system when it is clear that the current local government system has not worked in many parts of the country.  The local government areas and states were structures used by the North-controlled military after the civil war to corner as much of the oil revenue of the country to themselves while starving their war time enemies and their associated groups of same, even though they are also oil and gas producing.

In many parts of the country, there are many dissatisfied communities, which had been forced into positions of undeserved superiority or inferiority as a result of the manner in which the headquarters of the local government areas were sited.

Staffing and political power
The community which houses the local council headquarters are usually the local governments, in terms of amenities, staffing and political power. The struggle for the creation of more local governments will be an unending one because every community will want a local government headquarters sited on its soil.

Besides, the abolition of the state/local council joint account and financial empowerment of local council will make the local councils directly subject to political manipulation by the already super-powerful Federal Government. An evil, power-hungry president desirous of pushing the state governors around will use the local government officials against the state governors, thus increasing the prospects of political instability. Furthermore, the local government system has proved unable to deliver the mandate of taking governance closer to the people, since many local council officials don’t even live there, let alone carry out their assignments.

The only viable way of taking government closer to the people is to take governance direct to the local communities by creating county or community councils. Nigerians are fiercely passionate about their communities. They willingly make financial and material sacrifices to ensure the upliftment of their communities. It is much more difficult for people to embezzle the funds meant for the use of their communities. The checks and balances, which often are rooted in cultural control, are always there. The success of the town union system bears this out.

The county government, when created, will be able to pursue grassroots development in a manner that the artificial local government system can never even attempt. However, any region that values the local government system can go on with it, but it will no longer be a blanket imposition created for the ulterior benefits of one section of country to the detriment of the others.

With six regions created, federal revenue will be shared equally among them. They will devise means of allocating revenue to the lower tier of government, which will be supervised by the regional House of Assembly. Under this system, the Federal Government will lose much of its executive powers, especially with regard to provision of amenities. They will only mind those aspects that bind us together as a nation, such as currency, defence, foreign affairs, security, and so on. Such parasitic military created “national” phenomena (like the national electricity grid) will no longer exist, as electric power will be decentralised.

With this structure in place, most of the artificial factors that have hindered our functionality as a nation (including high cost of governance, inequities, and governmental inefficiency) will be removed. The system we practice today is not amenable to reform. It is like whiting a sepulchre. As President Barack Obama once observed, even if you apply lipstick to a pig it is still a pig!

Chixy –
Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


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