1st February, 2016
Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, and former foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, has advocated for the return of regional system of government in Nigeria.
He stressed that since independence, various sections and individuals in the country had rather continued to clamour for an increase in the country’s state units.
Anyaoku made the call the call on Monday at the University of Ibadan International Conference Centre at the inaugural Conference of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy, ISGPP.
The conference theme is: “Getting Government to Work for Development and Democracy in Nigeria: Agenda for Change”. .
He noted that the best solution to the problems of the country would be to have six regional units which will cater for unification of the various sections of the country and the relegation of the state system to the background.
He criticized the 1999 Constitution as not reflecting legitimacy or providing adequate basis for tackling effectively “our country’s two major challenges: socio-economic development and enduring political stability”, while urging the 8th National Assembly “to convert the existing six geo-political zones, which have been recognised and are being used for a number of political decisions and actions, into a more viable federating units of a truly Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
“The 36 states can be retained as development zones within the regions but without full administrative paraphernalia. And it would be up to the six federating regions to consider and meet any demands for the creation of new development zones within them,” he said.
Anyaoku lauded the ISGPP imitative as a timely intervention in the process of promoting effective governance in the country, noting that the organizers of the initiative are credible Nigerians he believes will see the project through.
In his opening remarks, former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said, “It is delightful that this initiative is coming at this moment when the country is in search of new ways of doing things given the crisis of governance that now manifests in vigorous ways. The drastic fall in the price of oil in the international market has unravelled the weakness of governance in Nigeria. The Minister of Finance has recently announced that the 2016 Budget deficit may be increased from the current N2.2 trillion in the draft document before the National Assembly, to N3 trillion due to decline in the price of crude oil. If the current fiscal challenge is not creatively addressed Nigeria may be on its way to another episode of debt overhang which may not be good for the country.
“It will be recalled that a few years ago we rescued Nigeria from its creditors with the deal in which the Paris Club of sovereign creditors wrote off USD 18 billion of debt, Africa’s largest debt cancellation. Nigeria then used windfall earnings from oil export to pay off another USD 12 billion in debts and arrears.”
He continued, “In the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa continent the hope that followed the initiative of the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) and African renaissance initiatives are being threatened by developments in the global economy and governance. Falling commodity prices have put pressures on local currencies, and if caution is not taken, may lead to mounting debts. It is indeed proper for us in Nigeria to ask the question is the government working? Is government positioned to deal with challenges arising from these new developments?”
Obasanjo noted that “These question are made apposite by the massive scale of poverty and unemployment, the decay in infrastructural facilities, the impoverished living standards of citizens with regard to food, housing, water supply, education and healthcare which have deepened in recent years. This is complicated by the protracted experience of violence and brutality, the flow of internally displaced persons arising from the Boko Haram insurgency in large parts of northeastern Nigeria where many citizens have become distressed, live in fear and insecurity. Recent developments in governance show the failure of systems, the disregard for institutional processes and the general decline of institutions that used to function to guarantee reasonable service delivery to citizens.”
According to him, “When I assumed office in 1999, though I had some sense that the bureaucracy of government that I left in 1979 had experienced significant decline, I only appreciated the extent of this decline after the Dr Christopher Kolade Panel that I setup submitted its report. I implemented remedial measures and a reorientation programme coordinated by Professor Adebayo Adedeji. I got the Management Service office to undertake and evolve a National Strategy for Public Service Reform. The reform process commenced in 2003 and by 2007 significant progress had been made. Unfortunately, the evidence available today show that those gains have been reversed. The problem today is that it is doubtful if the current administrative system is imbued with right mix of skills and values to successfully implement a well-articulated programme of change.”
He further stated that “many years ago I identified corruption as the greatest single bane of our society. Identifying it as one of the worst legacies of misrule and bad governance, we set up the ICPC and the EFCC to tackle it head on. Today, corruption drains billions of dollars from our economy that cannot afford to lose even a million dollars. It seems we are just beginning the fight against corruption afresh. Until recently, it seems corruption had returned with a vengeance, taking seat at the very heart of government.
“I reiterate my statement in October last year during the 55th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence that “corruption must not have resting place within our society; we must kick corruption out because it destroys almost everything and I am not talking about corruption of money; corruption of attitude, nepotism, favouritism, they are corruption in different forms and all aspects of corruption must be kicked out of our society.”
Proffering a solution to the nation’s myriad of problems, Obasanjo said, “Now, given these governance challenges and our experience with reform, it is clear that change doesn’t just happen, there must be a basis for change. Leadership has to be committed to change. Beginning with the reality of the budget, there is need for sober reflection. Rebuilding the foundations of governance involves paying attention to values, principles and practices that promote hard work, innovation and sacrifice.
“Leaders who call for sacrifice from the citizenry cannot be living in obscene opulence. We must address these foundational issues to make the economy work, to strengthen our institutions, build public confidence in government and deal with our peace and security challenges. We must address the issue of employment for our teeming population particularly for our youths. Leadership must mentor the young, and provide them with hope about their future as part of a process of intergenerational conversation.”
He acknowledged the skills and experience of the people who are to man the new initiative, noting that the school has great promise and unlike similar institutions in the country, the school is neither essentially government focused or solely focused on private sector organisations. Rather it seeks to interface across the sectors, including civil society.
He noted that unlike the university, the school’s research and teaching are not going to be removed from the day-to-day operations of government because of the emphasis on ‘science’ and dependence on huge data sets for research work. It seeks to engage with the people that public policy affects.
Delivering his paper titled “State, Governance and Democratic Development: The Nigerian Challenge”, the guest speaker, Professor Richard Joseph, Professor of International History and Politics, North Western University, USA, noted that “we live in difficult times. “Today, in schools and movie theatres in American cities, newsrooms and cafés in Paris, and virtually anywhere any group of persons convene in northern Nigeria, terror can strike. This is our global reality. With globalization has come global vulnerability. Information technologies are being harnessed to promote global terror. Those living in countries with flimsy state structures, and with deep ethnic and religious fissures, can fall further behind with each atrocity.”
He therefore called for more thoughts and efforts to be geared towards investing in improving institutions especially those of government and generating better policy outcome adding, “Today, improving governance is universally recognized as a priority concern of all societies. It has become even more so because of heightened economic competition and the increased risks posed by the mismanagement of government revenues. A focus on governance includes crucially, government authorities, as well as those outside the state sphere. Governance concerns how public goals are established, how they are pursued, and how the power to accomplish them is acquired, utilized, and held accountable. The bundle of these practices, and the norms that frame them, we call institutions.”
He pointed out eight possible areas which he felt the ISGPP and collaborating institutions can focus on: state system and political orders; optimization and productive innovation, claiming democracy; social wealth; federalism and conglomerate governance; democratic developmental governance; religion and the public sphere; and collective security.
“I recommend to the Ibadan School the formal study of Social Wealth and how it can be expanded. There can be a paradigm shift in thinking about wealth as not just individual/familial but also social. In the latter case, W would stand for Water, E for Electricity and Education, A for Agriculture, L for Lawful Governance, T for Transport, and H for Health and Housing. A country with high social wealth would be one whose citizens enjoy these attributes. Human progress is marked by steady increases and refinements in what are considered basic human rights. Nigeria should take the lead among nations in upholding the provision of social wealth,” he stated.
Concluding, he noted that no country in the world today can address its security challenges on its own, stressing that it is important to have a forum where representatives from all over the world could come together to discuss security issues.
Among the attendees are: Minister of Solid Minieral Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, former Ministers of Information, and Communication Technology and Education, Dr. Mrs. Omobola Johnson, and Professor Tunde Adeniran respectively, former Ambassadors Professor Alaba Ogunsanwo of Kingdom of Belgium, Professor Emeritus Akinjide Osuntokun of Republic of Germany, Yemi Farounbi of the Republic of the Philippines and Nkoyo Toyo, former Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the African Union.
Others are: Professor Akin Mabogunje, Professor Pat Utomi, Professor Peter Okebukola, Professor Osita Ogbu, Professor Oladapo Afolabi, former head of the Civil Service Professor Idowu Olayinka, Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, UI, Professor Tade Akin Aina, Executive Director, Partnership for African Social and Governance Research, Nairobi, Professor Emeritus, Pai Obanya, Professor Emeritus Ademola Oyejide, Professor William Fawole, Odia Ofeimun, Professor Nuhu Yacub, Professor Ayo Olukotun, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, Dr. Bukola Adesina, Dr. Stephen Lafenwa, Oyo State Deputy Governor, Moses Alake Adeyemo representing Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Professor Shuaib Ibrahim and Professor Osisioma Nwolise.