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The Oracle: Why Nigeria Needs Restructuring (Pt. 4)

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By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

The word restructuring has become the latest word in the political landscape with political and non political actors pushing forward their ideas of the word that was not too long ago, abhorrence to many stage actors. Today, we shall x-ray further why Nigeria needs restructuring.

NIGERIA’S EARLIER PANACEA THROUGH TRUE FISCAL FEDERALISM

Before the 15th January, 1966 Military Coup led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu Chukwuma from Okpanam, Nigeria operated true fiscal federalism amongst the then three regions-Western, Northern and Eastern Regions. They were later joined by the Midwest region which was excised out of Western region by popular Plebiscite and referendum on the 10th of August, 1963. The Architects of that federalist feat were Dr Dennis Osadebay (later Prime Minister); Oba Akenzua II; Dr Christopher Okojie; Justice Kessington Momoh, Chief James Otoboh, Chief Humphrey Omo-Osagie; Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh (Omimi Ejoh), Chief Jereton Mariere and Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom.

Section 140 of the 1963 Republican Constitution which replicated section 134 of the 1960 Independence Constitution provided that 50% proceeds of royalty received by the Federation in respect of minerals extracted from a region, including any mining rents derived by the federation belonged to a Region. Effectively, this made the Regions which also had their separate regional Constitution (with a Federal one at the centre) to control their resources. Only 20% was paid to the Federation; and another 30% shared by all the Regions, including those that had already shared 50%.

In the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Northern Premier who had sent his NPC Deputy (Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa) to the centre to be Prime Minister, preferring to govern his people, utilized the resources of Northern Nigeria. With the famous Kano groundnut pyramid, cotton, Hides and skin, the imperious by cerebral Sardauna, who had valiantly fought for, but failed to become the Sultan of Sokoto at 29, losing to Sultan Siddiq Abubakar III, who reigned for 50 years till 1988. The great grandson of Uthman Dan Fodio (of “Conscience is an open wound; only the truth can heal it” fame), built the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) which stretched from Samaru, Zaria, to Funtua in the present day Katsina. He set up the Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC); built the Yankari Games Reserve; the Ahmadu Bello Stadium; and the Hamdala hotel, Kaduna.

In the Eastern Region, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (First Premier 1954-1959) and later Dr Michael Okpara, and his Governor, Dr Akanu Ibiom and others with Dr Mbonu Ojike embarked upon major organ on revolution; they built the Trans-Amadi Industrial Estates and Presidential hotels in Enugu and Portharcourt. They built the University of Enugu; the Obudu Cattle Ranch and Resort, the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC);  Cement fatory at Nkalagu, breweries, textile Mills and Enugu Stadium. They could do this because they controlled their palm produce. This was time fiscal federalism at work.

In western Region, the late Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, used proceeds from the coca product to build the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, the first television station in Africa, (1957); introduced free universal primary education and free health service; The liberty stadium and Cocoa House in Ibadan and the University of Ife (now OAU) were built by him. Because he controlled the resources of the West.

In the Mid west Region, Dr Dennis Osadebay spear headed the setting up of the Ughelli Glass Industry and the Okpellla Cement Factory, amongst others. What has changed? Why do we now operate a Unitary System of government, with centralized powers, a behemoth Central federal government and beleaguered, subservient states as federating units. Commissioners for finance congregate at Abuja at the end of every month to take state allocations under section 162 of the 1999 Constitution. Nigeria can never grow that way.

So much for the diagnosis. What about the prognosis? Is there a way back or out of this self-inflicted cocktail of challenges? If so, what does it take – and how do we realize or achieve it? In other words, what is the solution to the puzzle implied in the title of this piece? How do we pull Nigeria from the brink? There is no doubt that there are no easy answers to these posers and it is simplistic to assume that what has been tried successfully elsewhere will necessarily work here. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is equally true, however, that, while it is fool-hardy to seek to re-invent the wheel, valuable lessons can be learned from those who have trodden similar paths as ours and have emerged stronger, more prosperous and stable in every possible way. Indeed, in some cases – particularly, the so-called ‘Asian Tigers’, their transformation from Third World status to First World economies, has been as dramatic as it is unprecedented. How did they achieve it? Is there any magic wand? Is it appropriate to apply them to Nigeria or would that be comparing grapes to apples?

THE ASIAN TIGERS: HOW THEY DID IT

I believe the answers to all these posers are self-evident, given the common history of backwardness and virtually complete non-industrialization (with the exception of Japan) which the so-called Asian Tigers shared with Nigeria at independence. This is because all the Tigers – South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia – were, like Nigeria, under prolonged periods of colonial and/or military rule. Even Japan, which was a relatively prosperous and industrialized society, prior to the Second World War, had to start virtually from scratch afterwards, following its defeat in that conflict. Accordingly, these comparisons are in no way odious. The question, then is: how did these countries do it? In terms of strategy, it appears that the following are key to the seeming miracle achieved by these erstwhile developing countries:

  • Investment in skills;
  • Advancements in Technology;
  • Engagement of specialized agencies;
  • Establishment of pilot projects; and
  • Involvement of International Agencies such as the U.N.

LESSONS FOR NIGERIA FROM THE ASIAN TIGERS

Scholars have suggested that Nigeria can benefit from the experience of the Asian Tigers in the following ways:

  • Formulating and implementing deliberate government policies;
  • Strengthening the development of agriculture;
  • Encouraging industrial development;
  • Developing small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).

The following have also been proffered as additional take-away from the ‘miracle’ of the Asian Tigers, which can be adopted or applied profitably in Nigeria, viz:

Focus on exports. Domestic production should be encouraged especially targeted at exports, through government policies such as high import tariffs to discourage the latter;

Human capital development. This focuses on developing specialized skills aimed at enhancing productivity through improved educational standards;

Creating a sound financial system. A well- developed capital market will facilitate mobilization of capital for industrial and economic development;

Maintenance of political, social as well as macroeconomic stability;

Leadership that priorities citizens’ welfare thereby motivating labour to increase productivity;

Encouraging a savings culture in order to increase capital formation (preferably through private institutions);

Developing export-oriented industries to produce selected goods with a relatively competitive advantage in world markets,

The Specific Case of Japan    

The following have been identified as lessons for Nigeria from the so-called ‘Japanese Miracle’, viz:

Massive investments in research and development with a view to developing, inter alia, efficient production techniques;

Adaptation of foreign/imported technology;

Massive investments in infrastructure and heavy manufacturing industries;

Proper and prudent management of our natural resources (particularly oil and gas);

A disciplined, relatively cheap, highly educated and skilled work-force, with reasonable wage demands;

Targeting high literacy rate and high education standards;

Private Sector-driven investment. The profit incentive of the private sector results in large-scale investment culminating in economies of scale in production.

WHAT OF EUROPE AND THE U.S.?

In addition to the foregoing, it does appear that both Europe and the US offer valuable lessons in economic integration or co-operation with regional countries which will eliminate waste and create economies of scale and increase investment levels.

THE BIG PICTURE

On a broader, political and macro-economic level, Onigbinde identified the following as key issues in the quest to solve the riddle of “How to Fix Nigeria,” viz: – Enhancing Security; Promoting National Unity; Improving Public Health; Economic Competitiveness and Diversity (away from oil and natural gas); Tackling the Revenue or Income Challenge; Putting People to Work; and Governance Accountability. He, then, concludes, insightfully, that “Nigeria will only move forward as a nation forged in unity, by optimizing every single public resource and making the health, safety and prosperity of its people an urgent concern. There are no short-cuts; fixing Nigeria requires a consistent, long-term approach, not those constantly watching four-year elections, like a ‘dieter watching the scale every hour”.

To the foregoing, we agree that tackling corruption, promoting the rule of law, and strengthening civil society organizations, are also relevant touchstones. Beyond even that, however, we must include leadership by example, as well as re-orientation of the citizenry on the benefits of a new national ethos of true patriotism, which de-emphasizes the prevailing culture of primitive acquisition of wealth by all means, fair or foul – and its obscene display.

The benefits of a committed and conscientious, leadership-driven attempt at re-directing the Nigerian ship away from its calamitous down-ward slide, are too obvious to need re-telling. Suffice it to say that it might literally be the difference between our survival as a nation and our much-predicted collapse or fragmentation into any number of sub-national, ethnic-based units. In other words, the challenge is simply existential. Such an outcome should be avoided at all costs – unless its benefits outweigh its costs. Such perceived benefits are, frankly, hard to envisage and, the more desirable option is to cultivate an elite consensus towards an orderly resolution by means of a suitable medium – such as a referendum.

Though it seems that many are averse to the potential outcome of this option (because, it is apparently a Pandora’s Box of sorts), the alternative might be far worse, with some predicting a Somalia-style No Man’s Land where there is no viable Central Government worthy of that name and where literally anything goes. This scenario might be unduly pessimistic but, the possibility that it will become our reality is a scenario which no reasonable person can dismiss with a wave of the hand. All hands must, therefore, be on deck to save this ship. This nation must not fail and, by the grace of God, it will not fail.

Given the above depressing scenario and narrative, the question to be asked is: how did we get here and how can be ‘get out of jail,’ as it were? How do we resolve our diverse, hydra-headed challenges?

THE IMPERATIVE OF STRUCTURAL REFORM: HOW DO WE REFORM STRUCTURALLY?

A BRAND NEW OR AN AMENDED CONSTITUTION?

Many solutions have been suggested, with constitutional amendment or reenactment top of the list. The reason is obvious: it is a country’s birth certificate; the foundation, basis or as we call it in law, the grundnorm. In this regard The 1999 Constitution is the product of the military led by General Abdusalami Alhaji Abubakar. The explanatory note to the said Constitution is worth considering as it explains the purport of the Constitution. The explanatory note to the 1999 Constitution (the subject matter of this article), states thus: “The Decree promulgates the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 199 into law and provides for the said Constitution to come into force on 29th May, 1999.” The explanatory note above contains extra information to the effect that the explanatory: “…note does not form part of the above Decree but is intended to explain its purport.” The term “promulgate” means to spread an idea, a belief, etc. among the people. Whose beliefs and ideas are the military spreading and at what point did this idea or belief come into force? It is pertinent to note that the 1999 Constitution divested the military over the governance of Nigeria and re-enforces the original ideas and beliefs of the people at the time they got independence. (To be continued).

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“People always want welfare, development, and good governance. As long as you are delivering, people are with you”. (N. Chandrababu Naidu).

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Opinion

Hailing the Supreme Court on LG Allocation Judgment

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Prof Mike Ozekhome SAN, CON, OFR

The supreme court judgement today, July 11, 2024, directing the Federal Government to pay allocations due to Local Government Areas directly to their account thereby abolishing the old practices of State-Local Government Joint Account, is timely and courageous.

What the judgement has done is more like interpreting section 162 of the Constitution, which provides for a joint State-Local Government Account. In which case, money is normally paid to state governors’ accounts and then for them to disburse to the local governments for them to share. But what has been happening is that, as I noted in 2020,over three years ago, the state governors, have been behaving like ”bandits”, waylaing local governments funds along the way and thus impoverishing them leaving them with nothing to work, just a little for salary. And nothing to actually work for the people whom they represent.
I agree totally with the judgement of the supreme court to grant full financial autonomy so that money is released and paid directly to the 774 local government councils which constitute the third-tier of government,to develop their places because the LGAs are grassrooted and nearest to the people. Rather than allow overbearing state governors throw their weight around and muzzle the local governments and seize their purse,they will now allow LGs breath some air of freedom.

If you take a look at our situation, Nigeria is operating a very lopsided federation,more like a unitary system of government. Where the federal government is supposed to be a small government,it is controlling 67 items on the exclusive legislative list. That is why the federal government gets the lion share of the federation account , the lion share of the money that comes to the federation account to the tune of 52.68%. The states get 26.72% while the entire 774 local government councils in Nigeria get just 20.60% of the monthly allocation by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RLASMC.

The question is, what is the federal government doing with almost 53% of the national income? That is because it is a government that is behemoth.That is elephantine. A government that intrudes and intervenes in areas that should not concern it at all. What is the federal government’s business with licensing cars and trucks for states? What is its business with the Marriage Act, dealing with how people marry and wed in Nigeria and how they live together as husband and wife and separate or divorce? What is the federal government’s business with unity schools? A whole FG operating secondary schools? What is their business? Why is the FG not allowing states generate their own power, operate their own railway stations, if they have the capacity? Why should the federal government not allow states have their own police force? Even for the local governments to have their own police force as we have in the United States and other advanced countries of the world where even tertiary institutions have their own police?

The truth is that the federal government is overbloated and overpampered. That is why it is using too much money and make the centre become too attractive,eating deep into funds that ought to be meant for the states and local government areas. The states take not only that which belongs to the states, but also waylays at source that which is meant for the local government areas. No Nation grows that way.

So, I see this judgment as epochal,having far-reaching effect because money will now be made available directly to the local government areas who will no longer be subservient, like fawning slaves to state governors. In fact, the judgement even went further to say that no state government has the power henceforth to dissolve local government areas. This is because we have been seeing cases where inspite of the provisions of section 7 of the 1999 constitution that give autonomy to local government areas, states normally go ahead and dissolve local government areas ND appoint caretaker committees for them.This is whimsical and capricious.The Supreme Court has said this can no longer go on and that henceforth, no state government should ever be able to dissolve any local government area in Nigeria for any reason whatsoever and howsoever.

The judgement is salutary, timely and regenerative. It should be upheld by all governments and people in Nigeria for better democratic dividends.I see this as victory for our wobbling democracy, even if we are far removed from true fiscal federalism where the federating units control and utilize their God-given resources while paying royalty or tax to the central government. This case is one big plus for tested court room gladiator, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the Attorney General of the Federation, who initiated the case at the apex court, invoking its original jurisdiction.Surely,to jaw-jaw is better than to war-war. God bless Nigeria.

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Opinion

Telling the Nigerian and African Food Story to a Global Audience

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By Lydia Enyidiya Eke

Nigeria as the most populous black nation on earth is located in the heart of Africa and as a great country with unique culinary traditions, this great nation is known for her diverse and vibrant culture and people.

Nigeria, as one of the 54 countries in Africa is well known for her rich history and myriad ethnic groups, and equally known for her culinary strength.

These divers’ culinary strength offers a gastronomic tapestry that remains largely untapped by the global audience.

Since globalization fosters a growing interest in diverse food cultures, it is high time the world embraced the flavours of Nigeria.

A Culinary Mosaic

Nigerian cuisine is a reflection of its vast cultural diversity. Each ethnic group brings its unique ingredients, cooking techniques, culinary textures and flavour profiles to the table, creating a culinary mosaic that is both rich and complex.

From the spicy and oily soups, stews and sauces of the Yoruba in the southwest to the savoury soups of the Igbo in the southeast, and the aromatic dishes of the Hausa-Fulani in the north, and of course the seafood and vegetable delight of the south south as well as the lovely relishes of the middle belt, Nigerian food is a journey through the country’s cultural landscape.

Staples like jollof rice, with its tantalizing blend of tomatoes, peppers, and spices, have already started making waves internationally.

The same applies to the well-known dishes and a plethora of lesser-known culinary treasures waiting to be discovered.

These covers the 36 states of the federation. The popularly known egusi soup, also known as unity soup is a hearty melon seed soup that is eaten across the nation and continent.

What about the pepper soup and their spices, the same applies to the herbs, condiments and flavourings of bitter leaf soup, oha soup, groundnut soup, beans soup and many more.

Suya is another spicy grilled meat skewers, which equally offer a glimpse into the depth of Nigerian culinary artistry.

The Need for Global Recognition
Despite its richness, Nigerian cuisine remains underrepresented and basically under reported on the global stage.

This lack of recognition can be attributed to several factors, including limited exposure and the dominance of other culinary traditions in international media. However, the tide is changing. With the rise of social media and the global trend towards exploring new and authentic food experiences, Nigerian cuisine is poised for a renaissance.

Championing Nigerian Food through Digital Platforms

One of the most effective ways to bring the knowledge of Nigerian cuisine to the global audience is through digital platforms. These platforms are now diverse. They range from YouTube, to Instagram, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Snapchat amongst others . Also included are food blogs, food websites and vlogs.

YouTube, in particular, has emerged as a powerful tool for sharing culinary traditions with a wide audience. Channels dedicated to Nigerian cooking, like the one I run, are playing a crucial role in this movement. By offering step-by-step DIY tutorials, we are not only teaching people how to cook Nigerian food but also sharing the stories and cultural significance behind each dish.

These digital platforms offer an interactive and engaging way to learn about Nigerian cuisine. Viewers from around the world can watch, comment, and even share their attempts at cooking these dishes, fostering a global community of Nigerian food enthusiasts.

Preserving Cultural Heritage
For many Nigerians living abroad, cooking traditional dishes is a way to stay connected to their roots. It is an act of preserving cultural heritage and passing it down to the next generation. By teaching the younger generation how to cook Nigerian food, we are ensuring that these culinary traditions are not lost in the face of globalization.
Moreover, sharing these recipes and stories with a global audience promotes cultural understanding and appreciation. Food, after all, is a universal language that brings people together. By inviting others to experience Nigerian cuisine, we are fostering a sense of unity and cultural exchange.

The Future of Nigerian Cuisine
The future of Nigerian cuisine on the global stage looks promising. With increasing interest in authentic and diverse food experiences, Nigerian food has the potential to become a beloved part of the world’s culinary repertoire. However, this will require continued effort in promoting and sharing these rich culinary traditions.
Initiatives such as food festivals, cultural exchange programs, and collaborations with international chefs can further boost the visibility of Nigerian cuisine. Additionally, support from the Nigerian government and private sector in promoting food tourism can open new avenues for showcasing the country’s culinary wealth.

As we look towards a future where cultures and cuisines are celebrated for their uniqueness and richness, Nigerian food stands as a testament to the country’s vibrant heritage. By telling the story of Nigerian cuisine to a global audience, we are not only sharing delicious food but also promoting cultural understanding and appreciation. Let us embrace the flavors of Nigeria and celebrate its place in the global culinary landscape.

For further about some Nigerian recipes and cooking tutorials, visit GOURMET GUIDE234 on YouTube, and the food blog GOURMETGUIDE234.COM where you can embark on a culinary journey through Nigeria’s diverse and colourful food traditions.

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Opinion

Of June 12, 2024 Democracy Day Dinner and the President’s Speech

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By Dipo H. Aka-Bashorun

“The lizard that jumped from a high Iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did” – Chinua Achebe

On October 1, 2005, our father, Alao Aka-Bashorun, passed away at his home in Gbagada, Lagos. He would have turned 75 years old in December later that year. Shortly after his passing was made public, tributes began pouring in from across the country and beyond. One of the first calls of condolences my mother received was from His excellency, the Governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He followed it with a public tribute and the condolence book was signed thus:
“You were a source of inspiration to your generation, you were a dogged fighter for TRUTH, JUSTICE, FAIRNESS and EQUALITY in your nation. You shall be sorely missed”
– Bola A. Tinubu Lagos State Governor

He didn’t stop there. At the condolence visit to my mother, he was alarmed at the poor state of the road leading to the house and felt it would discourage visitors from coming to the house to pay their condolences. He promised to do something about it. The next day saw workers begin road repairs of all roads from the highway leading to the house.

At the Old man’s Lying in state, held at the Nigeria Law School, I gave the Vote of Thanks for the family. Our father had been sick for several years, the onset of which was traced to that fateful day in 1996. I thanked everyone I could remember and those I couldn’t for supporting him and the family throughout those difficult years for the family. One of the special mentions was that of the Governor’s unwavering support for my father’s medical expenses, at home and abroad. 1st class Flights for my parents to seek medical treatment from specialists in London, Frankfurt and New York City. All expenses paid, out of the public eye.

When the family requested that we should respond to the absence of his name during the President’s June 12 dinner speech, it was not because we were lacking in recognition of our father’s contribution to the actualization of Democracy in Nigeria and June 12, in particular. He wouldn’t have wanted us to seek recognition but he would have wanted us to set the record straight with anything attached to his name. And June 12, my fellow Nigerians, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, like so many notable noble Nigerians, is inextricably connected to his name. To list his contributions and commitments to democracy and June 12 will take more time and space for my allotted time and space for this essay and medium.

Where to start? His conviction of G.O.K Ajayi SAN, to join him and mount the legal defense of Chief M.K.O Abiola, the widely acclaimed winner of June 12, at his trial for treason? His public warnings to the Nation and to foreign governments, years prior to the elections, that the Babangida Junta government were not the purported mid-wife to democracy in Nigeria and there was a “Hidden Agenda” afoot to manipulate the elections?

How about his years in exile ? Having had to leave Nigeria with a passport issued by the United Nations after the People’s Chambers (his law office) had been raided, sealed off and his Nigerian passport seized? His role as a leading member of the Human Rights movement to take the case of Nigeria’s human rights abuses to The United Kingdom and the United States?

September 6, 1990? A day that should have its rightful place in the history of Nigeria’s democratic infamy. The date should go down as the first attempt to strive for better, coherent national debate through national conferences. It was the date the Sovereign National conference was to kickoff at the National Theatre after he had successfully campaigned and organized civil societies in 1989 to establish a National conference. Unfortunately, the conference was disrupted by the Babangida junta.

His unwavering support of Mrs Kudirat Abiola’s resolve, commitment and determination to see the actualization of her husband’s mandate?

The omission of his name at a dinner speech notwithstanding, history has been kind to his legacy. Associations like the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association who have held a widely acclaimed annual lecture since April 29, 2010, in his name as Bar leader and incomparable activist have lived up to the creed; “the labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain” and are doing their part so his name and achievements are not overlooked at the dinner table.

On June 4, 1996, Alao Aka-Bashorun was one of the first people to see Kudirat Abiola’s bullet-ridden body at the hospital. She had been on her way to pick him up for a meeting. The shock was too much to bear and he broke down at the scene and would never fully recover his memory again. Such was the price of Democracy, his price to pay for Democracy, in our beloved country, Nigeria.

Dipo H. Aka-Bashorun writes from Lawrenceville, New Jersey

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