For as long as we can all remember there have been incessant calls for the restructuring of Nigeria along geo-political, socio-economic and fiscal lines, but very little is said about the restructuring that is actually required – a restructuring of the hearts and minds of Nigerians that can only be achieved by a massive investment in values reorientation.
It is no surprise that changing the geo-political configuration, revenue sharing, and the powers of the various federating units seem like easy solutions to what is a much more complex problem. Most analysts, commentators and intellectuals over-simplify the issues by pointing out these overly simplistic solutions – and I will explain.
Are the real issues about the relative powers of the State and Local Governments to the Federal Government? So, we are complaining that power is over-centralized in the Federal Government, yet with the “little” powers available to State Governments have they done anything valuable with these powers?
Isn’t the real issue the quality of people at the helm of affairs in our various states? Why do we think that by giving some of our corrupt and ineffective State Governors more powers for example, they will suddenly become more competent and honest – I think proponents of such are only being delusional!
Am I saying that we shouldn’t devolve more powers to states? No, I am fully in support of devolution of powers, but I am certain that with the current state of mind of the people at the helm of affairs in most of our states and the general rent-seeking behaviour of most Nigerians, devolution of powers to States will only make Governors more feudalistic, and despotic. Again, what have they done with the “limited” powers they have now? Did someone not once say that- power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately!
How does the creation of State Police for example enhance security in a country where some power-drunk State Governors already use the might of the Federal Police and Security Agents to propagate their selfish political agendas? With the “regional” security groups that have emerged recently, you can already hear the language of hate and division as fellow Nigerians are increasingly referred to as “foreigners” by ethnic and religious bigots that occupy high office in our States. Again, am I in support of the police being closer and more connected to the people, YES! But not because they are indigenes of that place, but because they are better equipped, better paid and more competent.
Proponents of State and Local Government policing reference the United States a lot in their arguments in favour of this model, but fail to recognize that the ethnic antipathies that exist in Nigeria are very different from what exists in the US and that the definition of State of Origin in the US (based on where you live and pay taxes) is significantly different from our definition in Nigeria (the ancestral home of your ethnic group).
Without a massive investment in values reorientation especially around our common humanity – the fact that we are all human beings created by God with equal abilities and aspirations, state and local government policing in Nigeria will only lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide propagated by hateful populist bigots that often find their way to the seats of power.
For the many proponents of fiscal restructuring, I certainly agree that we should get our states to be more autonomous and less dependent on the Federal Government and its monthly FAAC allocations. Some argue that doing so will ensure that our Governors become more innovative in terms of their internal revenue generation efforts.
The flip side of fiscal restructuring is that in reality, more revenue will accrue to the States only that it will not pass through the centre. So, at the end you will still have some State Governments collecting significant VAT and other revenue directly, and this may still cause high levels of corruption and complacency.
Again, while I agree that fiscal restructuring is good, I am not exactly sold on the premise that our States will be more prudent or innovative just because of such restructuring, except of course the people at the helm of affairs in the states have a mindset of frugality, innovation and service – which they could have had already regardless of the source of their revenue.
By now, I am sure you will see the trend in all of my thoughts – yes, fiscal, geo-political and socio-economic reforms and restructuring will be useful, but only when we have restructured the hearts and minds of Nigerians. Should we and can we wait for this values reorientation program first before embarking on structural reforms? Or should we run both at the same time. To be honest, I am not sure – it’s like flying an airplane and repairing it at the same.
But I believe that without a massive sustained program to restructure the hearts and minds of Nigerians whatever physical, fiscal, geo-political or socio-economic reforms and restructuring we put in place will fall flat in abysmal failure. #LetsGetInvolved
Omagbitse Barrow is the Director of the Abuja-based #LetsGetInvolved Program @GetInvolvedNaija