There may still be a country called Nigeria on December 31, 2015. What is not certain now is the composition of that country and its leadership. I don’t begrudge the optimists, but I always face reality. A few years ago, we had forewarned of the grave dangers the country might face. The optimists insisted that “nothing will happen”. Of course, nothing happens so long as the names of the president and state governors do not change and the money-guzzling legislators remain untouched. But a lot has been happening: 17, 000 people murdered, 219 girls kidnapped, 20 Fulani women missing, the economy on the verge of collapse, a large part of the country isolated, policemen and soldiers going on strike, polytechnics closed for one year.
I’m yet to see how Goodluck Jonathan would carry this baggage into 2015 and come out unscathed. When he announced that he would inaugurate a national dialogue, I thought he had devised an escape route – a conference that would make a new constitution he would faithfully implement and quietly leave power. Judging by the attitude of the hawks that seem to have held the president hostage and the way the National Conference is proceeding, however, I no longer hold that view. Yes, the confab has taken a few popular decisions. But how will they be implemented? Who will implement what?
The president should show leadership. By now, he ought to have decided to declare a state of emergency throughout Nigeria effective July or just at the end of the confab. Nigeria is at war and, to end this war, tough decisions have to be taken. With a state of emergency, the national and state assemblies would be on forced vacation and the president would rule by decree. The commander-in-chief of the armed forces would then proceed to accommodate all the decisions reached at the confab in a new constitution that would take effect from October 1, 2015.
I don’t see any better way of rescuing Nigeria from destroyers. Nothing good can come out of a conference that would depend on a referendum to be decided by this National Assembly. Are we condemned to talking without doing? Why this endless waste of scarce resources?
As I have stated before, this may well be Nigeria’s last chance. All indicators point to 2015 as the year Nigeria will either disintegrate or mend itself. For one, I don’t see an election taking place under the current atmosphere. For another, nobody will accept the outcome of an election that has already been rendered illegitimate.
I urge the National Conference to throw a challenge to President Jonathan by making good recommendations. When it requested memoranda from the public, some of us felt they should have listened to the suggestions we’ve made in recent times. I have canvassed the following ideas on this page on October 6, 2013, and on March 16, 2014:
Citizen identification: Nobody knows the population of Nigeria or the human population in the various states today. Our borders are the most porous in the world. No proper census has ever been conducted here. Therefore, I recommend that every Nigerian’s identity be captured in one document that would serve as his voter card, tax information card and national identity card. No one should be able to open a bank account, attend tertiary school, go to hospital, vote at elections, get a job, board an airplane or enjoy other privileges without this “catch-all” card.
Back to regionalism: The only people’s constitution Nigeria has had is the 1963 Constitution. We can go back to it and make a few amendments. We don’t need 36 states, all but three distressed. If we had a six- or seven-region federal structure today, each region would manage its scarce resources better. Each would have no need of a bicameral legislature that contributes little but guzzles a quarter of national resources. A part-time unicameral legislature would be more attractive. Certainly, the FG won’t afford to pay an idle lawmaker N20m per month, nor would any region that values its resources. The FG won’t need more than 40 lawmakers who would work on part-time basis. Also, it would be “no work, no pay”: civil and public servants would be paid for only their time and service, strike or no strike, recess or no holiday.
Better resource management: This is what federalism is all about. The current system is unjust. Allocation for derivation could be increased to 25 per cent now and 50 per cent after 5 or 10 years. Each region would be expected to develop its raw materials, electricity sector, railways and roads with oil funds within the grace period. Under a new revenue allocation formula, the FG should take less than 10 per cent and the regions, the rest. Each region will determine whether to have local governments or not as well as the structure of its armed forces and police force.
New tax administration: There is hardly any rich Nigerian who has not stolen public funds or sabotaged the nation’s economy. To let the loot return so that wealth could be redistributed, a law should enable the state to seize assets whose sources their owners cannot explain. All private jets, for example, should be seized.
Neighbourhood watch: There would be not just state police but local police, community police and, where necessary, family police. The bottom-line is security. What we call vigilante now could be transformed to an efficient neighbourhood watch. What has happened to intelligence gathering? Why don’t we have security in spite of the myriad of agencies and the trillions appropriated as security vote?
Option A4: A brilliant idea invented by Humphrey Nwosu in 1992 has inexplicably been abandoned. Why? We can get our electoral system right by going back to it. With Option A4, good leaders would emerge at very little cost. INEC wouldn’t demand N120 billion (or spend N500 billion every four years) to conduct a farcical election. Emerging from their polling unit or ward where they are well known, all aspirants would proceed to the other levels to select candidates for LG chairman, governor or prime minister at electoral colleges.
If there is political will on the part of incumbent officeholders, it will be possible for us to have a transformed country by 2015. All it requires is a legislation extending the life of the current regime to October 1, 2015, the day a new constitution would take effect. During the period of transition, the regions and the federal government would have selected or elected their leaders using different methods convenient for them.
It’s possible. A few people sat down for a few days and produced the 1999 Constitution; it won’t take rocket science to produce a better one within one year. Those opposing change because they wish to retain the privileges they enjoy now are being myopic: if things continue like this, their assets, their life and the future of their descendants won’t be assured. To save tomorrow, let’s reason together today.
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