Between Abeokuta And Abuja


By Soyombo Opeyemi

On a day the All Progressives Congress, APC, held a hugely successful Congress in all the 236 wards in Ogun State, I returned to Abeokuta at about 8pm to the warm embrace of the illumination provided by the new highways.

From Breweries Bus-stop, cruising toward the city-centre, I was fascinated by the illuminated skies around Akin Olugbade, provided by the lights adorning the beautiful roads constructed by the Amosun administration. Momentarily, I thought I was somewhere in Europe.

Who could have imagined this was possible in Abeokuta? Sure, leave politics and hatred out of it, every rational person will support Amosun for a second term.

I recall that Pastor Tunde Bakare came to Abeokuta not long ago and echoed the same words: No one would have thought these things are doable. But Senator Ibikunle Amosun has surprised everyone. A couple of our friends in the media who are from Abeokuta have equally expressed pleasant amazement. One said he found it difficult to locate his house by virtue of the transformation of the state capital.

If Amosun could accomplish all these in less than three years, one can imagine what the state will look like by the time he completes eight years.

Hear the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, as reported in the Vanguard, Nation, Daily Independent (28/02/14): “What I see is fantastic, rapid development in Abeokuta. The roads, the bridges, the flyovers are very, very impressive.”

Imagine if the Ambassador had had the opportunity to visit Ota, Aiyetoro, Ilishan/Ago-Iwoye, Ijebu-Ode, Sagamu and out-of-the-way areas like Ilara/Ijoun, etc., where the “very very impressive roads, the bridges, the flyovers” he saw in Abeokuta are being replicated!

Interestingly, I passed through Ota on that day of the APC Ward Congress (05/04/14) and gasped for breath! This is an area I frequented between 2005 and 2011. Is this Ota? Who could have imagined the possibility of all these three years ago? Look at the beautiful Ota township roads, the pedestrian walkways – under construction. That axis used to be hell in terms of appalling state of the roads and attendant human sufferings.  So, it is actually possibly to jump-start development… But my mood has now changed.

To think that Amosun accomplished all these – to speak in local parlance – by managing money, cutting this, cutting that, reducing that cost, cancelling that other one altogether – sometimes making  enemies in the process, since some people are already used to getting free money from political office holders at the expense of development – has the tendency to make one feel downcast. Here are the reasons.

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The Federal Government sits on 52 per cent of the Revenue Allocation from the Federation Account while the 36 states share 26 per cent. It has been like that before President Jonathan came to power, so it has nothing to do with him per se. Among those 36 states is Ogun. When you divide the 26 per cent by 36, you have 0.7 per cent – but that is assuming the allocation is shared equally. But it is not, so Ogun State ends up with about 0.3 per cent out of the 26 per cent every month.

Despite the gargantuan 52 per cent being collected by the Federal Government, virtually all the federal roads in Ogun State are in tatters: Atan-Agbara road (Agbara is an industrial hub in Nigeria), Owode-Ilaro road, Ikorodu-Sagamu highway, etc. I’m sure the Minister of Works has never heard the names of some of these roads let alone know their locations. You see the futility of having federal roads in Nigeria. You see the grave injustice in the Federal Government getting as much as 52 per cent while the states are starving.

Wait a minute, the Nigeria Police Force is an agency of the Federal Government. But it is from the paltry sums being collected by the states that the police are equipped. So, from the meagre 0.3 per cent Ogun receives from the Federation Account, the police are also being funded! Until the federal authorities started their problem of Don’t touch this federal road, don’t touch that one, Ogun had been taking from the 0.3 per cent to repair the completely failed portions of the so-called federal roads. Imagine the amount the state government spent to repair parts of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and several other federal roads! This is because the masses don’t like to differentiate between federal and state roads. Once any road is in Ogun territory, then Amosun must be responsible for its maintenance and reconstruction!

Again, despite the pretensions in the Concurrent List, Power is still in the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution. By the time the modernisation going on in Abeokuta, nay Ogun, is completed, there is no guarantee that the entire state capital can be illuminated like London, Paris or Berlin because Abeokuta currently gets 20 megawatts whereas it needs at least 80 megawatts, according to Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company! This much I experienced last Saturday, after I exited the illumination of Akin Olugbade, Ibara-Totoro and The First Bridge, and moved to Abiola Way, facing Ijaiye/Sapon from Iyana-Mortuary – all modern highways constructed by the current government.

Is it then proper for Electricity to still be in the Exclusive List (notwithstanding the so-called deregulation, backed by a subordinate legislation) when each state, local council, community, household, etc. ought to have the freedom to generate its own electricity and use it for its own purpose – in the 21st century?

For the umpteenth time, I ask that these federal roads should revert to the states. The Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, and National Assembly, NASS, should ensure that in the new Revenue Allocation template, Abuja (FG)  gets 25 per cent from the Federation Account, while Abeokuta (Ogun) receives 1.5 per cent. Each of the 36 states should receive at least 1.5 per cent from the Federation Account.

We are all from the states, there are no federal people. Concentration of powers and money at the centre has ruined Nigeria, drained it of vitality and made its development elusive for many lamentable years. The Federal Government should now concentrate on core federal matters such as foreign affairs, currency, and defence while powers are devolved to the states. With more revenue to the federating states and a truly federal constitution, the states will be in a position to maintain the highways (at cheaper costs), open up the bowels of their lands, revive agriculture, provide potable water, construct railway, generate and distribute electricity, provide security for their own people, and indeed, develop at their own pace – reenacting and promoting healthy rivalries of the glorious days of the 1950’s and 60’s… and building a strong and enduring United States of Nigeria.

•Soyombo, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abeokuta.

…Published in TheNEWS magazine

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