Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and human rights activist, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has told President Muhammadu Buhari to divide the country into eight regional structures.
Agbakoba, one of the greatest heroes of democracy in Nigeria, noted that there are so many unclear issues in Nigeria about how people of the country want to organise themselves and how they want to live together.
The senior lawyer told reporters at the weekend that insecurity and other serious issues facing the country “can’t [be] fully arrested,” if the central government remains so strong as it is now.
He added: “This is because community policing or state policing is a tactical tool to deal with the problem, but the strategic tool is the bigger question of the national question.
“There are so many unclear issues in Nigeria about how we want to organise ourselves, how we want to live together, this is what some people have called the restructuring question, some call it the national question, but I call it devolution of powers question.
“Whatever it’s called that is the central issue that needs resolution so that even if you use tactical tools like community policing, but the bigger issue remains then I don’t know if we can resolve it.
“What Nigeria needs is space, there are diverse ethnicities and they are living in such close proximity that one ethnic community is in the face of the other with counter-cultures, counter-religious beliefs and that is not healthy. Even in America in spite of all their advanced democracy, they take care of diversities.
“So, I think if I were to advise the president, for instance, the first thing to do is create space…,identify the ethnic regionalities, create eight big blocs, even though we have 6 to make it 8.
“And then I will give them the power to do things at their own local level, it’s called the principle of subsidiarity; let them work at their own local level. Subsidiarity is where people engage themselves at the local level such that you find in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England.
“Part of the challenge they had when they were living closely was to create an act of settlement of 1705, that was when peace began to come and each of the regions recognised themselves.
“They all had their own prime ministers and they call them first ministers, so the prime minister of the UK is the one we see internationally, but on local matters like school, refuse collection, education, agriculture, employment, health issues, it’s local.
“So, imagine where eight of the regional structures in Nigeria were fending for themselves at their local level and not depending on federal allocation from Abuja, things will be different.
“Immediately they will take control of what is around them, they will create state police, they will create the relevant security apparatus to deal with any threat, therefore, you don’t need one Chief of Army Staff, and they don’t need one Inspector General of Police to be running around entire Nigeria.
“For instance…say in the South-south region, they will have all the relevant apparatuses to deal with whatever situation that they need to survive as a region.
“They could have courts; they might like to have a Supreme Court of the South-south where cases end in the Supreme Court of the South-south, so they do not have to go to the Supreme Court of Nigeria because the Supreme Court of Nigeria has no business dealing with issues arising from there.
“That is the kind of space I think that should be paramount in the issue concerning where Nigeria is heading to.
“Because that discussion is not on the table, all these ethnic issues flare up as major national insecurity challenge. So, that is what I will do or suggest if I had the opportunity to advise on it. The Federal Government is too strong”.
“The Federal Government is actually not a Federal Government, ours is a unitary government because the states have no power on the legislative list so there are 68 items on the Exclusive List and as the name implies in Exclusive List only the Federal Government handles it.
“There is 30 on the Concurrent List, concurrent is between the federal and the state to legislate, but if the Federal Government legislates then pursuant to what is called the doctrine of covering the field the state is not allowed to do anything. In other words, the states have no legislative authority, that creates a problem.
“Why should the Federal Government be dealing with Universal Basic Education for primary schools? What is the Federal Government responsibility with that? I don’t understand.
“What is the Federal Government responsibility with setting up a JAMB process so that you equalize educational activities, but if my grandchild from Anambra scores 282, but my friend’s grandson from Zamfara scores 100, my friend’s grandson gets into the university, but my own does not get in. Why don’t you simply say ….look each region can just organize itself and take your examination?
“So, it is this centrifugal federalism, that means federalism that has a pyramid that has only one leader that is our problem.
“We just have to blast the structures and allow regional leaders as we had under the 1960 Constitution. So, when you have regional leaders you will have people who will like to play regional politics or regional law.
“There is no reason, for instance, in my own profession the eight regions I propose should not be awarding SAN to their best lawyers. Why must it only be Abuja? In the UK, the SAN in England is different from the SAN in Scotland.
“So, the formula that worked for Nigeria was to recognize the differences and I think the best example of the agreements that we can apply is the Aburi Accord.
“The Aburi Accord recognized that Nigeria’s problems were as a result of our diversity not being well managed. We need to manage our diversity that is the way we can move forward.”
Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South West and Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.
Recall that of the seven members for the Conference, while only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar as Senators considered the Report of the Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.
PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
Deepening Constitutional Democracy
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.
Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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