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Published On: Fri, Mar 21st, 2014

Revisiting Urhobo Stand on National Conference

By Dr Ighorodje
The UPU memorandum to the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference is profoundly thought provoking and illuminating.
At page two, paragraph three, it stated: “Some states with population size less than half that of the Urhobo have three senators each while the Urhobo have only one. We are cheated in terms of the number of local governments”. This statement therefore translates to the issue of proportionate representation.

In the UPU memorandum at page there, paragraph four, the following argument was adduced: “We are of the strong view that it is difficult to accurately identify the number and composition of ethnic nationalities and social/civil groups for the purpose of equitable representation at the conference; therefore, we propose that representation should be based on senatorial districts which are comparatively easier to determine since each state of the federation has the same number of senatorial districts. We recommend further that each senatorial district should have TEN Representatives… “. So a state like Yobe, Jigawa or Kebbi will have 30 reps each and Urhobo 10.
From UPU exposition on this particular subject matter, representation should have been based on allocation of delegates to senatorial districts on account of the percentage of their population in the country. This issue of delegates to the conference can still be revisited despite the release of an anomalous criteria for delegates by the Federal Government.
The UPU memorandum also said, “A substantial proportion of the oil and gas energy in Nigeria comes from Urhoboland. The Urhobo nation makes enormous contribution to the Federation Account that is shared by tiers of government in the country”.
It is all the incontrovertible that the naked truth about the Nigerian project be stated clearly without any iota of blemish, fear or favour.
There are TWO main issues that have to be resolved at the conference to substantially minimize marginalization, injustice and corruption, and will then engender peace, security and love amongst the component units of our country.
(1) Representation – Elective representation at all tiers of government MUST be based on: (a) 40 % on percentage contribution to Federation Account.
(b) 40 % on population.
(c) 20 % based on land mass.
(2) Revenue Allocation – This obviously should be on the basis of True Fiscal Federality with the Federal Government receiving 25% of the total collected revenue for the month and the federating units getting 75% to be shared among the units using the following allocation formula;
(a) 50 % on derivation.
(b) 30 % on population.
(c) 10 % on land mass.
(d) 10 % on equality of the federating units.
Our inability to resolve the above two main issues in the Nigerian project is the reason for the monumental corruption of various hues some of which are listed in the proposed agenda for the conference in the UPU Memorandum to wit:
(1) Deliberate under enumeration during census.
(2) Skewed delineation of constituencies.
(3) Promulgation of the obnoxious Land Use Decree.
(4) Centralisation of power and resources.
(5) Youth restiveness and security challenges in various guises.
(6) Election rigging and imposition of candidates.
(7) Nepotism in governance.
Now comes the pivotal question of what should constitute the federating units upon which the above two key issues will be based: During the first republic when we had four regions before the advent of the 1966 military coup, the country was practising what is close to true federalism for practical purposes. The four regions were highly industrious and doing well in their areas of comparative advantage, be it in agriculture, commerce, artisanship and technology, mineral mining and education.
Then came the 1966 military coup. This coup killed the Nigerian project. Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi who eventually became Head of State imposed unitary system of government; then Nigeria entered into auto drive to perdition. The Nigerian mission and zeal died. Entrepreneurship and innovation, research and development, commerce, industries, agriculture and even education perished
These amongst others are the hallmarks of advancement in any society. From the 1970s when petro-dollars started pouring in, we lost every idea on what to do with money, and waiting for federal allocation became the sing-song in the states and local government councils. Many states and local government councils could no longer pay staff salaries without receiving statutory federal allocations.
That has been the sordid story of our dear country until corruption crept into our social fabric and it became a way of life. One can hardly believe that this is the same country that prosecuted a-three year civil war without borrowing a kobo and was even in budget surplus at the end of the war.
Take a good look at the Asian tigers economies and see what decentralisation and true federalism can achieve. There is no point using the western world and America as instances. Even communist and conservative Russia and China are embracing free markets and federalism.
So what are we still doing with unitary system of government if not for the SOLE purpose of rabid corruption. We must learn from our mistakes and those of others. We can definitely not continue with the present system if not something will have to give way. The irreducible minimum the conference can achieve is to adopt;
(1) True administrative and fiscal federal system of government using the parliamentary system.
(2) The six geo-political zones as the federating units or regions.
(3) The present states to remain and become local centres of administration.
(4) The present local government councils should be scrapped and be replaced with senatorial districts as boroughs or councils for the purpose of implementation of certain state policies and programmes. In fact, with our poor GDP($339 billion 2009 est.), what are we really doing with 774 LGAs?
(5) Power should be devolved from the centre to the regions with the Federal Government retaining only the traditional roles of the military, foreign affairs, federal police and regulating certain aspects of our lives such aviation, navigation, immigration, etc.
(6) Numbers of federal and regional ministers and advisers to be pegged. Any additional request by the head of a government must receive two-third of the votes of the respective parliament
(7) Unicameral legislature at federal and regional governments.
(8) The legislature of each region shall determine the revenue sharing formula between the states of that region.
(9) Delineation of both federal and regional constituencies must be based on key criterion (1) above on REPRESENTATION and applied using the present senatorial districts.
(10) Revenue allocation between federal and regional governments, and between the regions should apply key criterion (2) above.
These are the 10 political commandments our dear own nation must adopt in the forthcoming conference in other to ensure unity and faith, peace and progress.
Dr. Ighorodje wrote from Asaba

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