I have read the position of Barrister Kayode Ajulo in respect of his preference for a federal system that is premised on the consolidation of our existing component states, rather than regionalism, which he reckoned could culminate in the creation of a monstrous confederacy. It is instructive to mention that same position, albeit unpopular, was canvassed by other leaders from Ondo state at Sir Olanihun’s residence at Isara-Iremo, where Yoruba leaders met two weeks ago to strategize for the imminent National Conference.
As a student of history, expert in regional planning, and a proud son of Ondo state, I understand so profoundly the history and rationale behind the position, the political considerations that informed it, and its inherent merits. However, since the quest for the restructuring of our polity along the fiscal autonomy of our federating units is the crux of Yoruba’s collective traditional demands, which will be presented at the National Conference, it is important that we exhaust polemics, based on superior logic, in reaching a convincing point of agreement on the geo-political premise on which our envisaged archetype of federalism will be based.
In the first instance, the points of disagreement in respect of the appropriateness of regional federalism to our polity should not have surfaced both at the national and regional levels, had it been presented and understood that the crave for regional federalism is rooted in the altruistic quest for balanced regional development within our national setting, rather than an acrimonious desire or struggle of certain ethnic groups or inhabitants of a region to super cede others in growth. The crave for regional federalism is ultimately about the unconstrained activation of the synergistic capabilities of territories in collectively exploring, unleashing, and autonomously exploiting their potentials for sustainable and balanced regional development. Though it can be argued that since all territories within a geographical region cannot be equally endowed, and that the possibility of the replication of the monstrous status quo, which favours the marginalization of the most productive regions cannot be wished away, there is greater advantage in regional federalism‘s capability to shrink ineffective but haemorrhaging government structures and rather afford the freeing up of resources for public interest.
In our milieu of limited resources, with our total annual national budget of 20 billion dollars ,which is less than the total vote to Harvard University, and represents about a one-fifth of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook assets’ worth of 100 billion dollars, and yet not immune from kleptomaniacs ,there is no doubt that the collapse of 6 house of assemblies and governors’ offices into one regional parliamentary government ,where legislative emoluments will represent a wide departure from the outrageous status quo will enhance the percolation of resources to the grass-roots.
We should be considering beyond our insular interests in taking positions on the ideal units for the implementation of fiscal federalism in Nigeria. As it is presently, only Lagos state, which generates three times its annual wage bill, is viable, and most of the other 35 states are inherently sterile and lack the requisite fundamentals for survival in a regime of fiscal federalism. The establishment of our states, as presently configured, as the units of our federation is not practical and sustainable. Let us recollect that most of the geographical areas delineated as states were mere impetuous creations of the military to appeal to sensibilities or to have some regions have political advantages over others. The delineations never considered their economic viability and prospects for self-sufficiency.
It will be highly cavalier for us to be canvassing for the establishment of a system that will wittingly or unwittingly represent the catalyst for asymmetric regional development, with its attendant manifestation of ’disamenities’,immigrational crises, increased crime rate, and inevitable stretching of the carrying capabilities of governments in states that are doing well. With regional federalism, states like Taraba, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, and Bauchi will leverage on their comparative advantages in competing more strongly for growth than if each of the states were to independently struggle for survival in a regime of fiscal federalism. Also, imagine the success story the south-west will represent if we are allowed to begin from pre-1966 epoch, when our ability to harness and effectively utilize the limited resources being generated from our 80,000 square kilometer age resulted in our being the most advanced region in Africa, now that each of our states are favourably endowed in potentials for synergistic harnessing and poised for integration based on favorable economies of scale. With our benefit of hindsight, and advantages of several learning curves, none of the units in the envisaged federation should be irresponsible in discarding the fears inherent in the expression of Ondo leaders, as the emphasis in fiscal planning within regions should be on the prioritization of the most productive centers in resources distribution.
It is on the basis of the foregoing that I appeal to my brothers, elders, and leaders from Ondo state in the name of God and the 401 Irunmoles of Yoruba land to consider the superior imperative of regional federalism, and ensure that the south-west is united in all our presentations at the National Conference. May Olodumare totally obliterate the vestiges of the curses of Aole in our land. Odua a tubo ma gbe wa o.
Olapeju Olasunkanmi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a young and dynamic Lecturer, Registered Town Planner, and a public affair analyst with great zest for spatial and economic development, good governance, sustainable environment, and football.
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