By Ogine Victor Afam.
Following the resolution of the Yoruba summit on the need for a regional government as preferred against the current federal structure on ground, it brings no other option than to begin to ponder on what happens to our nationality in the midst of regionalism.
There is no doubt in positing the fact that regionalism paid dividends during its practice in the 1950s up to the mid 60s, with empirical evidence such as rapid infrastructure development, introduction of the first generation universities, education was given much priority and not forgetting that the first television station in Africa was established at this time.
The regional governments had their conglomerates, which ran profitably such as the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC) with headquarters in Kaduna, the Western Nigeria Development Corporation (later, Oduduwa group of Companies), with headquarters in Ibadan and of course, the Eastern Nigerian Development Corporation in Enugu. Agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy then. In the North, there was the groundnut pyramid and the “hides and skin” in Kano.
In the West, there was cocoa for export. In the East was the coal in commercial quantity in Enugu. All of these did not only provide gainful employment for the teeming population of these various regions, but they were sources of foreign revenue to the respective governments.
In all, we can say that regionalism strived well at this time, not until the introduction of a Federal structure with the evolution of states creation during the era of Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.) in 1967, thereby attributing to the collapse of the regional structure. The essence of the introduction of this structure according to the Federal Military Government (FMG) as it was known then was attributed to the need to bring governance closer to the people for the purpose of rapid and even development.
The government objective to a large extent was actually achieved all thanks to the eventual discovery of crude oil in the country, thereby making for availability of funds to execute laudable and landmark projects which still endure till date. Among many projects embarked on in this time are the construction of refineries which are still in existence till date, the construction of the Murtala Muhammed international Airport in Lagos and the Aminu Kano Airport in Kano, the introduction of Federal Housing Authority (FHA) which embarked on massive housing programmes across the country among other projects.
It is pertinent to avow that the regional and federal structures have in sometimes affected positively on the political life of this great nation Nigeria. Therefore the call for regionalism might not be seen as the ultimate option to the political crisis facing the nation presently if we are to judge from precedent.
This argument stems from the resolution reached by the Yoruba leaders’ aftermath of the summit which saw them taking a stand that various states should be entitled to manage all resources found within their boundaries and the revenue accruing therefrom.
According to the communiqué released after the summit reads “The Federal Government should make laws and only have powers in relation to the items specified on the legislative list contained in the constitution of the Federation.
“Each region shall have its own constitution containing enumerated exclusive and concurrent legislative lists regarding matters upon which the regions and the states may act or legislate. “Contiguous territories, ethnic nationalities or settlement shall be at liberty through a plebiscite, to elect to be part of any contiguous region other than the region in which the current geo-political zone or state boundaries place them”.
“States with a region shall determine the items on the legislative lists in the regional constitution for the purpose of good government and the administration. “Also provision of common inter-state social economic and infrastructure requirements, residual powers shall be vested in the states”.
No doubt, the submission by the Yoruba leaders is worthwhile, judging from the cries for resource control from various ethnic nationalities in the country, lack of interest representation by elected representatives in government, the issue of the neglect of minority ethnic groups, the acrimony of sectionalism in political appointment and social infrastructure, among others; all bringing to fore the call for regionalism.
But in spite of this, the country’s nationality should remain a thing of concern as regional economic inequality remains a potent time bomb directed against national unity and political stability. The level of hatred being displayed at any slight occurrence shows the danger that lies ahead if the regional structure is put into consideration.
Nigeria can strive under the present structure if only we do what is right. More than ever before, there is the urgent need for attitudinal change in all ramifications of governance in Nigeria; and this must start from the top down to the bottom. The need for a constitutional review is long overdue as the constitution needs to be revisited. The citizenry demands accountability, transparency and commitment from our leaders. The country is in urgent need of focused and visionary leaders who are committed to their oaths of office; Leaders whose drive and zeal are to propel development. The country needs quality leaders who think more of those they lead and less of themselves.
Nigeria needs leaders who will create the enabling environment for youths and unemployed graduates to acquire professional skills that will equip them for entrepreneurial ventures. And of course, the need for God fearing leaders cannot be over emphasized.
According to Micheal Enzi, an American senator, he said and I quote “when terrorists attacked the symbols of our national unity and strength, they failed to realize that they were just symbols of our strength. The real strength of our nation comes from our people and not our buildings”.
This avow to the fact that, we must recognize that the feeling of national oneness should not be sacrificed on the altar of sectional gain, because together, we can make the country great again.