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Restructuring must start with constitution

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By Abraham Adekunle

Journalist says current system endows enormous powers on the federal government.

The subject of restructuring has surfaced again as the federal and state governments ushered in via the recent elections have been celebrating their 100-day anniversaries. The Lagos State Government has tried to celebrate its controversial re-election with the launching of a Lagos Metro rail line that took almost two decades to get done. But these electric trains were reportedly being pulled by a diesel engine painted to look like a metro train. However, Nigerians did not see this as more concerning than the actions of the Kano State Government, which recently approved a budget of ₦854 million for the first phase of the Auren Zaurawa—Mass Wedding Initiative that offers financial assistance to young couples who cannot afford to pay for their own weddings.

About 1,800 couples’ wedding expenses were expected to be covered and these couples also get ₦20,000 each to start businesses. But this grant amounts to a total of ₦36,000,000, which is just a measly 4.21 percent of the ₦854 million budgeted for the event that will take place at the Sani Abacha Stadium later in September. Concerned Nigerians have asked if a mass wedding of this nature and cost actually belongs on a list of the priorities of the state. This is considering that a couple of years ago, the state had the most out-of-school children in the country at 1,496,736 children, according to UNICEF.

National structure has to be reset to combat problems in governance.

Furthermore, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed that Kano State has 10.51 million people living in poverty, which is 66.3 percent of its estimated population of 15.9 million. The state also had an unemployment rate of 26.8 percent and an underemployment rate of 25.8% in the second quarter of 2020. Essentially, more than half of the labour force in Kano State was either unemployed or underemployed and the economic downturn faced by Nigeria since then has not offered opportunity for improvement. The state government has, as it should, budgeted ₦1.2 billion to combat malaria and ₦500 million has been earmarked to complete the cancer treatment center. But overall, it is still concerning because the mass wedding program accounts for about 50 percent of the state’s combined budgetary allocation.

This bizarre wastefulness is a pattern seen with Nigerian state governments. According to Cheta Nwanze, Nigerians at this point have to accept that the only way to achieve a positive wholesale change in governance is to totally reset the national structure into a format that provides the different tiers with the appropriate motivation to act properly. The reason is that the country is facing a crisis of governance and legitimacy, which was caused by the recent presidential election that saw Bola Tinubu declared as winner. Because of this, the two leading presidential candidates have filed petitions in court, which has been thrown out and Tinubu’s declaration upheld.

Fourth Republic constitution creates dependency culture.

According to Nwanze, the only way to address these structural flaws and improve governance in Nigeria is through constitutional amendments that would allow for a fundamental reshaping of the national structure to create one that leaves Nigeria with presidents who gained enough votes to be legitimate and a devolution that allows for truly federal governance models. He argues that these constitutional amendments are necessary to redefine the roles and responsibilities of different levels of government and ensure fair representation and participation of all segments of the country.

Many Nigerians detest the culture of dependency that the 1999 constitution creates. State governments rely on federal allocations rather than generating revenues from productive activities. Perhaps this is why the Kano State Government has earmarked so much money for weddings: because it is not responsible for generating the allocation from the state. The current system also reduces the subnational units’ accountability to their citizens, who have little say or influence over how their resources are spent or managed. Moreover, it fosters a winner-takes-all mentality among political elites, who see control over the federal government as the ultimate prize and source of patronage.

Vocal South West APC has gone silent on restructuring the government.

However, devolution of powers can help solve this problem. Devolution of powers is the transfer or delegation of power from a central government to subnational authorities. Federalism, which Nigeria currently practices, combines a central or federal government with regional governments (provincial, state, or other subnational governments) in a single political system, with the powers shared between the tiers. However, Nwanze said that some devolution which has already happened has not been taken advantage of because of incompetence and corruption. For example, state governors sometimes withhold the budgetary allocations due to the local government units. Finally, he expressed his disappointment in Tinubu’s government, not because they are in power but because the South-West wing of the APC noisily talked about restructuring Nigeria and devolution of powers and has now gone completely silent about it now that they have federal power.

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