Atiku Proffers Solutions To Nation’s Problems | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Atiku Proffers Solutions To Nation’s Problems

Atiku Abubakar
Posted: Jun 1, 2016 at 6:10 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Rotimi Akinwumi




The ethnically-induced political problems bedevilling Nigeria will not go away until the nation is prepared, and actually make moves at restructuring the current imbalance in the political system of the nation, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said on Tuesday.

The former vice president emphasised that the political platform upon which the nation was being governed is completely wrong, adding that until true federalism is put in place, the nation will continue to grope in economic and political darkness.

He noted that the current upsurge in demand for independence by some group of ethnic militants was an indicator to the fact that a proper restructuring of the system needed to be done.

According to him, majority of the problems are economic based, and therefore, the revenue sharing formula of the country must be looked at seriously as a way of solving the problems which are getting bigger by the day.

He made the observation in his remarks at the launch of a book titled “We Are All Biafrans” held at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center in Abuja

According to him, the power wielded at the centre is too enormous for the health of the nation, as he insisted that every federating part of the country had experienced shortage in one form or the other as a result of the imbalance in power lever.

He also noted that the unity of Nigeria was a good thing, but all federating units must be given the right to negotiate their membership towards getting the best deal for themselves.

“As some of you may know, I have for a long time advocated the need to restructure our federation. Our current structure and the practices it has encouraged have been a major impediment to the economic and political development of our country. In short, it has not served Nigeria well, and at the risk of reproach it has not served my part of the country, the North, well.

“The call for restructuring is even more relevant today in light of the governance and economic challenges facing us. And the rising tide of agitations, some militant and violent, require a reset in our relationships as a united nation.

“Some may say that we are saddled with more urgent challenges, including rebuilding our battered economy, creating jobs, fighting corruption and securing our people from terrorism and other forms of serious crimes.  I believe, however, that addressing the flaws in our federation will help us address some of those very economic and security challenges facing this country.

“Nigeria must remain a united country.  Our potentials are enormous. But I also believe that a united country, which I think most Nigerians desire, should never be taken for granted or taken as evidence that Nigerians are content with the current structure of the federation.

“Making that mistake might set us on the path of losing the country we love or, as Chido Onumah puts it, result in our “country sleepwalking to disaster.”

“Let me quickly acknowledge that no federal system is set for all time. There are always tensions arising from matters relating to the sharing of power, resources and responsibilities.

“But established democracies have developed peaceful mechanisms for resolving such conflicts among the tiers of government.They recognise that negotiations and compromises are eternal”, he said.

The chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) also noted that the dependence on oil as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy has done a lot of evil to the psyche of the average Nigerian, which has also built a monster in the power at the centre, called Federal Government.

According to him, the over-reliance on oil should be jettisoned while all regions should be allowed to control their resources while the Federal Government should be run on tax.

“As we became more dependent on oil revenues we became lazier, more complacent, and our leaders became ever more unaccountable. Among the most destructive impacts of our dependence on oil is, perhaps, the corruption that it has fostered in the oil industry and society at large. Some of you are familiar with published reports that highlight discrepancies and capacity in data relating to the allocation of oil blocs as well as NNPC’s abuse of its duty as steward of our federation revenues.

“The result of all of this is that we have not made the needed investments in human capital development and the productive sectors of the economy. According to the Human Development Index, 70% of our population lives below the poverty line compared to 21.4% for Brazil, 40.5% for Angola and 0% for Norway, to mention a few comparable oil producing countries.

“More critical is the distortion of our federal structure by our dependence on oil. We now have the ridiculous situation where the Federal Government creates local governments, enshrines them in the constitution and allocates resources directly to them, with people even calling for more autonomy from state governments.

“Today virtually every section of our country feels marginalized – meaning they believe that other segments of society are prospering in ways they are not.

“We often interpret marginalization along regional, ethnic or religious lines, but experience has shown that this perception can exist even within homogenous communities due to uneven access to opportunity.

“What do we Need?

“First, a smaller, leaner Federal Government with reduced responsibilities. This means devolution of powers and resources to states and local governments. State and local governments should control education, health, agriculture, roads and other infrastructure.

“A true federal system will allow the federating states to keep their resources while the Federal Government retains the power of taxation and regulatory authority over standards.

“The result will be a political and governmental system that empowers local authorities and gives them greater autonomy to address peculiar local issues, while enhancing accountability and contributing to the general good of the country.

“Such a robust federal system would reduce the tensions that are built into our current over-centralized system.

“Second, autonomy for the component states and localities to determine their development priorities and wage structures.

“For instance, there is no reason for the governor of Akwa Ibom State to earn the same salary as the Governor of Benue State or for a teacher in Orlu to earn the same salary as the one in Abuja or Port Harcourt.The costs of living and revenue generating capacities vary widely across the country.

“Third, a tax-centred revenue base. Modern democracies derive their revenues from taxation whether or not they have fossil fuels and other natural resources – personal income tax, property tax, sales tax, corporate tax, licences, and duties.

“Taxation is a sustainable revenue base and one that compels governments to promote increased economic activities, and respond to the demands of their tax-paying citizens.

“Fourth, enhanced, diversified economic activities and productivity in order to enlarge the tax base. The US, U.K., Canada, Malaysia, and UAE are all oil producers. But because they have diversified economies, oil does not dominate their government revenues and does not have the same distortionary effect it has on our own.

“Let’s compare Malaysia with Nigeria. Both countries were at a comparable level of development at independence but now Malaysia’s GDP per capita is $11,000 while Nigeria’s is $3,000. Malaysia has foreign reserves of $100 billion and a sovereign wealth fund of $41 billion.

“In Malaysia manufacturing accounts for 40% of GDP and the country is rated 14th most competitive economy in the world. In Nigeria, however, manufacturing accounts for a mere 10% of GDP, and only 12% of the labour force. And Nigeria ranks 127th out of 144 in global competitiveness.

“The federal government is too big, and too powerful relative to the federating states. That situation needs to change, and calling for that change is patriotic.

“We must refrain from the habit of assuming that anyone calling for the restructuring of our federation is working for the breakup of the country.  An excessively powerful centre does not equate with national unity. If anything, it has made our unity more fragile, our government more unstable and our country more unsafe.

“We must renegotiate our union in order to make it stronger.  Greater autonomy, power and resources for states and local authorities will give the federating units greater freedom and flexibility to address local issues, priorities and peculiarities.

“It will help to unleash our people’s creative energies and spur more development. It will reduce the premium placed on capturing power at the centre. It will help with improving security. It will promote healthy rivalries among the federating units and local authorities. It will help make us richer and stronger as a nation”, he said.