Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the former secretary-general of the Commonwealth has said that Nigeria has a lot to gain by remaining as a single entity and suggested that true federalism is the key solution to the country’s problem.
He elder statesman who was speaking at the inauguration conference of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) at the University of Ibadan suggested that against the call and prediction that Nigeria will fall apart, he still believed in the unity of the country.
A lot of separatist groups especially from the eastern region have called for the disintegration of Nigeria and the establishment of an independent Biafra state. The arrest and continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu, the director of Radio Biafra has also escalated the agitation.
At the programme held on Monday, February 1, Anyaoku said having survived as a country for more than 100 years; Nigeria will continue to remain as one.
“Contrary of doomsayers, I hold strongly to the view that there are inherent benefits for all citizens in belonging to a country of Nigeria’s size and resources.”
He however noted strongly that the current governance architecture was not doing the country any good as the 36 states were gulping in a lot of financial expenses while some states were on the edge of bankruptcy.
He noted that prior to the coup of 1966, the country had four regions and each was independently sustaining itself but in a bid to weaken the secessionist movement, Yakubu Gowon created 12 states from the existing structure thereby creating ethnic divide.
He gave examples of countries like Unites states, India, Canada and Australia that practice true federalism and that they were united in their diversity. He urged Nigeria to emulate the structure of these countries.
The former Commonwealth secretary-general noted that agitation for the creation of new states has been the main issue in every national conference. Anyaoku said this was a testimony of the problem Nigeria was facing as the small units were not comfortable with the perceived marginalization.
He suggested that the country strengthen the six geo-political zones and make them economically independent so as so foster healthy competition. He said this will also make the centre less attractive and the regions more independent.
He said: “Gowon’s administration created more states by splitting the regions into 12 states to weaken secessionist forces. By the end of the civil war, Nigeria has not recovered. All these attempts at constitution making, the trend has been to demand for more states. The reason is agitation against marginalization by ethnic groups within existing states. From the 12 states, the number has increased to 36 with institutions including 36 state assemblies, 36 civil services, 36 judiciaries, all adding to the cost of governance.
“Nigeria was making more progress in national development with true federalism in four regions. Today, the non-viable 36 states have becoming economically handicapped and some states now find it difficult to pay salaries and the N18, 000 minimum wage. Many states are hovering on the brink of bankruptcy
“I urge the national assembly to effect a more fundamental change rather than stop at tinkering with the edges of the constitution.”
The elder statesman suggested that the six geo-political zones should be allowed to control some aspects of the country while the federal government retains more national aspect.
“The federal government must retain exclusive power over federal power and related institutions, finance, defence, immigration, aviation, maritime, solid and liquid mineral, internal security judiciary but only Supreme Court, education but only federal universities, health but only federal university teaching hospitals and federal highways and rail ways
“The 6 federating regions should handle fiscal responsibilities, police, education, health, power, transportation, and economic development and agriculture.
“40 per cent of the federal generated should be retained by the federal government with 15 per cent derived from mineral going to producing areas and the rest should be shared equally by regions.”
Other top Nigerians who were at the conference includes former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Professor Akin Mabogunje, Professor Pat Utomi and Dr Richard Joseph.