Addressing the guests at the ceremony, he said, “Your excellencies, it will belaboring to point, to say that true Federalism is necessary at this juncture of our political and democratic evolution.
“At a time when some few privileged individuals and groups have chosen to exploit and manipulate the ethnic and religious front-lines for seeking personal and partisan advantage, we need to build bridges across the various divides”.
The President called on all state governors to partner with the Federal Government in the execution of its anti-corruption agenda.
He also urged the governors to support programs of social protection, school feeding and other causes geared towards human capital.
Elder statesman and former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, has asked the Federal Government to reconsider its stance on the call for restructuring and return to true federalism.
According to him, the country is under-performing and lacking national cohesion like never before, a situation he believes can only be resolved by restructuring its present governance architecture.
He said, “Judged by all the relevant indices, Nigeria today is clearly underperforming and lacking national cohesion as never before.
“If our country is to succeed on the road to political stability and realisation of its rich development potential, it must, by restructuring its present governance architecture.
“It must return to the true federalism that it practiced in the years before the military intervened in our national politics”.
With the general elections just days away, Chief Anyaoku who was speaking at a symposium to unveil the new logo of The Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure a credible exercise.
According to him, the international community is watching to see how far the nation’s Constitution is respected.
He said, “As our country is preparing for the general elections in two weeks time, I have three observations to address the Nigerian government, INEC and others.
“First, Nigeria’s friends and the whole of the international community are watching… watching the behaviour of Federal Government and its agencies, including especially the police, the army and the other law-enforcement instruments, to see how far we respect the country’s Constitution, our Nigerian government, like all other governments over the world, while of course guiding its sovereignty should pay heed to the views of the international community otherwise, the country will return to the pariah status which it happily exited in 1999 when it once more embraced democracy.
“My second observation is that INEC had earned deserved compliments for its commendable handling of the last gubernatorial elections in Ondo and Anambra States.
“But it must be admitted that it attracted criticisms for its conducting subsequent similar elections in both Ekiti and Osun.
“I urge INEC to remain aware of the fact that the credibility of the results of our forthcoming elections will depend on the level of impartiality and transparency it demonstrates in ensuring all aspects of the elections are free and fair, thereby making the results to truly represent the will of the people”.
Governors of the Southern States of Nigeria after their meeting in Lagos on Monday have agreed on the devolution of powers and true federalism in the nation.
The Governors, at the end of the meeting, said they also resolved to collaborate with one another for the growth and development of economies in each state.
Speaking for the governors after the meeting, the host Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State said after extensive deliberations, they have also emphasized to put priority on security and lives and property of citizens of the regions.
The governors also resolving to work on effective linkage on good infrastructure across the 17 states in the region.
Governors at the meeting include Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State; Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State; Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, David Umahi of Ebonyi State; Godwin Obaseki of Edo State; Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State; Henry Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; Seriaki Dickson of Bayelsa State and Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State.
Governors of Cross River, Anambra and Delta were represented by their Deputies Evara Esu; Ikem Okeke and Kingsley Otuaru.
Also at the meeting, Governor Ambode was appointed as the Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) while Governors Seriaki Dickson of Bayelsa and David Umahi of Ebonyi States were appointed as Co-Chairmen of the Forum.
The Forum also scheduled the next meeting to hold in Port Harcourt on a yet to be announced date.
A former federal lawmaker belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party, Ayo Arise, on Friday called on the Senate to re-consider the constitutional amendment which seeks to grant autonomy to local governments, noting that it was an aberration of the federal system of government.
“It’s a very controversial subject. I for one, I think that rather than creating a unitary system of government, we should be looking towards federalism,” he said, on Sunrise Daily, noting that “in a Federal system, the State should be responsible for the creation of local government, so the issue of autonomy actually does not concern the federal government”.
Arise argued that the listing of local governments in the constitution suggests that they cannot grow unless there’s a constitutional amendment, explaining that, if the Federal System of Government is followed, governors would be able to examine the progress made in all areas of the state and then determine which areas should be upgraded to local governments.
“If you put that at the federal level, then it only means we are not practicing federalism,” he said.
He insisted that direct funding of local governments by the federal Government was an ‘aberration’, adding that “the states should be able to create local governments as they deem fit”.
He cited Lagos State as an example, noting that the metropolitan city had fewer local governments than Kano State. “So are we now saying that the need for local government creation is not germane in Lagos State,” he asked, adding that the population had continued to grow.
“Let the states create their local governments” as they can determine which areas qualify for splitting.
“The National Assembly should please, take a second look at this particular provision. Resolve the issue of who’s responsible for the creation of local governments. Remove the listing of local governments from the constitution – so that the state governments can create their local governments.
“Thereafter, the issue of autonomy becomes relevant if the Federal Government continues to send money – not to the states – to the states and local governments.
“That means the Federal Government will be mindful of the kind of money expended, the percentages allocated, which has become a major problem,” he said.
On this edition of the programme, Law Weekly, former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba made compelling submissions on several issues concerning the Nigerian State, including the security challenge and the need or not for decentralisation.
Devolution of powers, revenue sharing, the Nigerian Bar Association on zoning are some of the other issues we discussed.
Also, we report some reactions to the rumoured extension of the National Conference for 6 weeks, which the secretariat denied. However, many people think that’s it’s only a matter of time before there is an extension based on reports that the conference will take a week off for the World Economic Forum.
One of the committees that may require an extension is that on devolution of power. They had an interesting session last week and it’s all captured in this next report.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, a delegate at the conference belongs to the committee on law, judiciary, human rights and legal reform. He shared his views on devolution of power and revenue sharing.
A Lawyer, Liborous Oshomah has called for the restructuring of the 1999 Constitution to enable the country move forward and attain “True Federalism” as practiced by the United States of America
He said that restructuring has to start from the constitution to ensure that power starts from the grassroots to the top and not from the top to the bottom.
Speaking on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr. Oshomah said that most of the issues surfacing at the ongoing National Conference are issues of revenue control and fiscal federalism,”most of these people sit in the confines of their houses without doing the work they are elected to do but rather dictating how revenues would be shared”, he said.
Mr. Oshomah emphasized the need for the constitution to be restructured, which he said is affecting the progress of the nation adding that the percentage of delegates clamoring for change are less while the ones enjoying the system are the same people that were selected to attend the conference.
He further stated that these recommendations made by the delegates at the end of the conference may not be achieved “some of these recommendations made at the end of the conference when given to the president, the president may say it would be used when the need arises which may lead to waste of billions on just recommendation, he stressed.
Mr. Oshomah questioned the agenda of the delegates who are negotiating for revenue instead of negotiating for true federalism.
Two Delegates at the National Conference, Tony Nyiam and Bisi Adegbuyi, have both said that their recommendation at the conference is a restructuring of Nigerian government to practice the federalism that accommodates its ethnic peculiarities.
Mr Nyiam said that ethnicity is an important part of Nigeria which cannot be separated from its existence. He said that Nigerians had been carried away by the federalism as practised in America but he believed that Nigeria should have an “Ethnic Federalism” where people’s ethnicities are well recognized.
He noted that America is a country of immigrants and Nigeria should not compare itself to such country. You cannot stop a Buku man from being one. He emphasized that Nigeria needs a return to the federalism that recognises its ethnicity.
Adegbuyi, although differed on the call for “Ethnic Federalism” as he said that “federalism is federalism all over the world” but he acknowledged that indeed, the way to go was for Nigeria to try and understand the agenda of each ethnicity and not to tag ethnicity as a divisive factor.
He noted that Nigeria’s past leaders and the colonial masters knew that Nigeria was made up of different nations and the country in its current state should not pretend about this reality. Citing the developments recorded by regional leaders in the 1960s, he said that empowering regional leadership would be more productive.
Nyiam also emphasized the need to move “from Fiscal Centralism to Fiscal Federalism”, a situation whereby the count
ry moves from the culture of sharing resources at the Federal level and focus on creating those resources.
He agreed with Mr Adegbuyi’s earlier statement on the need to decentralize the government and empower regional governance. He agreed that the system of governance as practised in Nigeria in the 1960s gave Nigeria its best records of development.
Secretary of the Arewa Youth, Ahmed Tijani, representing his organisation’s position on the programme, however, said that they were supporting the
conference because they believed that “half bread is better than none” noting that what they had called for was a sovereign national conference.
He further said, “There is no point in time that Nigeria should experience a breakup”, so “whoever is in the driving seat”
would need support to ensure this. He said that he hoped that at the end of the conference, something good would come out.
One of the delegates, Tony Nyiam, while expressing confidence in the conference and in the sincerity of President Jonathan was of the view that Nigerians were paying too much attention to the nomenclature of the conference.
Mr Adegbuyi, who is a legal practitioner, quoted Section 14 Subsection 2 of the 1999 Constitution which he said, gives the sovereignty of the country to the people, stating that this was also acknowledged by the President.
He stated that there was nothing that makes the ongoing conference less sovereign and that the misconception about the sovereignty of the country having been given to the National Assembly was an exaggeration of their roles.
Northern Elders’ Forum
Reference was also made to the position taken by the Northern Elders’ Forum, who have expressed their stance not to support the conference and dissociated themselves from the delegates at the conference.
Tijani said that the difference in their positions from the elders’ was because the elders are conservative while the youths are progressive. He added that while they do not totally disagree with the elders’ views, they would not tow same line because they are young, “We want change and we have to be for the conference so that things can move on”
On the possibility of the delegates having a unified discourse without ethnic sentiments, Tijani said that the Nigerian President should have made fixing the identity issues of Nigerians a priority ahead of the national Conference, citing the branding of all Northerners as Boko Haram as one of the examples of how many Nigerians still feel different from other Nigerians.
He also complained about the representation of youths at the conference as being too low for a country whose youth population is very high.
Although Adegbuyi disagreed on the youth representation, Nyiam agreed that the youths should be given focus especially in terms of empowerment. He said that the main sectors in which Nigeria derived pride had been held by the youths – entertainment, sports. Therefore, the country needs to go back to the system that allows the youths to flourish.
Adegbuyi, in conclusion, believes that the National Conference has the capacity to move Nigeria forward but the major focus should be how to achieve unity without sacrificing autonomy.
A legal practitioner, Kenneth Odidika, on Wednesday said the approval given by members of the National Council of State on the modalities of the National Conference only boosts the President’s morale and not that of the people.
“That endorsement by the National Council of State is a boost to the morale of the President not to the morale of Nigerians,” he said.
On Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Odidika said there was no way 160 million Nigerians would agree on the modalities, pointing out that the fact remains that majority of Nigerians want to talk so as to decide how to live together.
“Nigerians want to live together but they want to decide how they are going to live together.”
According to him, those who are against the conference have the right to be heard but “it doesn’t mean we have to do what they are asking for or what they are advocating.”
“Remember that most of the people who are now speaking against this same conference were those who had been clamouring for it over time.”
He argued that the naysayers were in such position because they were not in charge of the process.
He also countered arguments that the Conference was coming at the wrong time, saying that the 2015 election, which is scheduled for February 2015, gives enough time for the Conference to hold as it would probably end in May or June 2014.
Mr Odidika stressed the importance of the conference which is expected to address issues bothering the minds of citizens. One of such issues is the current system of governance, which, according to him, “is flawed”.
He argued that the ‘Federal Republic of Nigeria’ “is just an appellation”.
“We are not a Federal Republic. We are not practicing federalism. If you recall when we had the regions was the time Nigeria was developing. The North, East, West and mid-West. That was why Ahmadu Bello was not interested in coming to Lagos to come and be your prime minister, because he had work to do in the North.
“Opara was there, very busy in the East, after Nnamdi Azikiwe while Awolowo was very busy here, developing the regions.
“That was federalism,” he said, adding that the current system of government is unitary, “but we call it federal.”
On arguments that good governance and proper practice of the constitution will make the need for a Conference unnecessary, Odidika said “even the constitution is flawed in several respects.”
He also stressed the need for the different zones to make progress at a pace determined by them and not the Federal Government. “Practicing the constitution the way it is now will not get us to where we are supposed to be.”
He also said that the reason representatives at the House of Representatives and Senate have not been able to correct the faults in the system is because they are overwhelmed by the number of issues they have to attend to.
My Odidika expressed hope that the success of the Conference would affect the elections in 2015. He added that the changes may not “necessarily be in favour of either the President or the opposition.
A member of the APC, Bisi Adegbuyi, on Thursday said that the alliance between some members of the nPDP and his party is the manifestation of a prediction by late political icon, Obafemi Awolowo who had said progressives in conservative parties will coalesce with the progressives.
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Adegbuyi lauded the move by the nPDP governors and said that this will strengthen the opposition in favour of the people.
“There can’t be a democracy without opposition,” he said.
Responding to critics who have said that the alliance is not worth celebrating because Nigerian politicians are all cut from the same fabric and there is no clear ideology guiding the parties, Adegbuyi said he bears no grudge with them.
He said that not everyone in PDP is bad, while not everyone in APC is a saint and added that the alliance will allow the people to have options to choose from, as opposed to one party dominating government.
If you must check the excesses of the ruling party and avoid a one party state, we must encourage the splinter groups to coalesce.
Asked if the alliance automatically makes the new member governors ‘progressive’ in nature, he said “Chief Obafemi Awolowo had predicted that at some point, the progressives in conservative parties (who are there for whatever reason known to them) and progressives will coalesce.
“I believe this is coming to pass,” he said.
He defined a Progressive politician as one who “adheres strictly to the principles of federalism.”
He stressed that Nigeria needs a constitutional framework which accommodates its multi ethnic, multi-cultural and multi religious features.
“PDP has been in government since 1999. Have they successfully removed one item from the 68 items in the exclusive list?” he asked.
Asked if APC states have adhered to the tenets of federalism, Mr Adegbuyi said that there are only two tiers of government in an ideal federal state.
“In other jurisdictions, you have a clearly defined sphere of governance between the Federal and the states in the constitution. Correspondingly, between the states and the Local Government, there must also be a constitution, which is lacking in Nigeria and that’s where the problem lies.”
State governors on the platform of the newly registered mega party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Wednesday cautioned the National Assembly against legislating on any aspect of the local government administration in the country; saying that such an action will tilt the country towards a unitary state.
This was part of the resolutions of the APC governors at their maiden meeting held in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital on Wednesday.
In attendance at the meeting were Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa State), Governor Kashim Shettima (Borno ); Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti ); Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun); Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (Lagos); Senator Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); Governor Abdulazeez Yari ( Zamfara),and Senator Ibikunle Amosun ( Ogun State); Comrade Adams Oshiomhole ( Edo) and Governor Rochas Okorocha ( Imo State, represented by his Deputy, Prince Eze Madumere). Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State could not attend following his trip to the lesser Hajj.
Reading the communiqué after the 4-hour long meeting, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said the governors extensively discussed constitutional amendment and resolved that the issue of local government administration is a matter within the purview of the federating unit and that federalism is the basis of the nation’s sovereignty.
The Governors added that any attempt by the National Assembly to legislate on any aspect of council administration will undermine and weaken the fundamental principles of the Nigerian federalism.
Fayemi also said that the Forum deliberated on revenue allocation and noted that in spite of recommendations made to the Presidency, no effect has been given to the extant proposals on the need to give more funds to the states and local governments because that is where the citizens reside.
A legal practitioner and a chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Bisi Adegbuyi, on Monday, said that the on-going clamour by local governments to become autonomous is all “about money coming from Abuja”.
“Sever that and you won’t hear about the autonomy issue.” He added.
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, he said that the move to give local governments power is against the constitution, adding that, “we are trying to create three tiers of government because some guys want to also create a freedom for themselves at the local government level.”
“It’s either you want to practice federalism or unitarism, make up your mind,” he said.
“The trouble with us is that we have tied the so called local government autonomy to this rent-sharing mentality of going to Abuja to collect money.”
The way forward is ‘simple’.
“Identify the fundamentals (two tiers of government) and then leave the states to determine whether they want to have 1000 local governments, 500 community development centres as the case maybe.”
Citing other nations like the United States of America and Brazil, he said the one-size-fit-all equation will not work as different states have different needs and challenges.
Mr Adegbuyi also said that the constitution amendment is a “journey to nowhere” because “there are so many contending interests. Therefore, the more we try to amend this incurably flawed constitution, the more we run into troubled waters.”
He added that in light of the ‘discordant tunes from the Senate and House of Representatives,’ the amendment process “is going to be cosmetic”.
“We have wasted our time, we have wasted resources,” he said.