Governors of the country’s 36 states have called for the devolution of more powers to the states with adequate funding to meet the yearnings of the citizenry, warning that the current structure is unsustainable and could cause calamity if not re-jigged.
This view was conveyed by the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, during a chat with senior journalists in Lagos, yesterday.
He specifically warned that “if we did not re-jig the polity to meet the yearnings of all of us, it will consume us because ‘resource constraint is a challenge for every state.”
The governor spoke as former National Chairman of People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, said only a restructured Nigeria would save the country from disintegrating before the 2023 general elections.
Fayemi, who will be marking the second anniversary of his second term on October 16, while reeling out his achievements in rural roads construction, agriculture and knowledge economy, lamented that paucity of funds is hindering states from delivering democracy dividends to the citizenry.
Citing the example of Ondo-Akure federal road in Ekiti, which needed approval from the Federal Government to be fixed, he said an avalanche of such roads abound in the country, with the citizenry paying the price of the parlous state.
Our structure not working — Fayemi
He said: “We are fast getting to a point where we must confront the reality of our federation. The structure of the economy we are running is not working. We need a structure that will meet the yearnings of our population.
“The current unitary structure obviously privileges those who are more associated with a unitary federal structure rather than a genuine federal structure that is accountable to people, and responsive to the challenges that the people have.
“What that structure should be is a subject of debate from all sides of Nigeria. Clearly, the state structure we have now is problematic, it is not working as it should. There is a clear justification for more devolution of not just functions unless you want to suffer the tyranny of unfunded mandates. You can devolve functions and not support it with resources and that is what we are faced with.
“Thank God we have a president who is a bit more responsive in Muhammadu Buhari. For federal roads that were fixed in states for over 16 years, not one naira was paid by Obasanjo, Yar ‘Ádua or Jonathan.
“Now President Buhari, without looking at the politics of it, said if you can justify that you did the road, Mr. Fashola go round the 36 states, if it is a federal road and they have evidence that they have done it, we will pay. And he paid.
“Frankly, why do we keep having federal roads? What is a federal road? The people who ply the roads in Ekiti do not know the difference between a federal road and a state road. All they will say is Mr Governor, you are not doing your job, only for you to start explaining that it is not my road and I need their permission to even work on it.
“We have been trying to work on Ondo-Akure Road, same story all over. These roads have been awarded, the Federal Government has no money to fix them. Some they will fix via Sukuk, some they will fix via sovereign wealth fund.
“We don’t have the resources, we need to devise sustainable means of addressing these issues. As chairman of the NGF, this has been on the front burner of our work. We hope Nigerians will be able to push the argument further to a point where the resources and the powers that reside in Abuja can be devolved effectively to the states, with the revenue also devolved to take the responsibilities at that level.
Need for fiscal federalism
“We have always asked for fiscal federalism. Even those who are reluctant before are being confronted daily with these challenges in their states and they have begun asking themselves, ‘how long can we to continue to do this? Am I elected to just pay salaries? It is not just devolution of powers but also the enabling environment to attract investments.’’
Fayemi, who said he had to leave his ministerial appointment to seek Ekiti governorship because he wanted to restore values, reclaim Ekiti and deepen the welfare programmes that his successor abandoned, said he would complete the Ekiti Agro-cargo airport before the end of his term in 2022.
In the last two years, he said payment of salaries and stipends to the elderly have resumed and regularised, companies like Promasidor (which will start milk production in three months), Dangote (Dangote rice), Stallion and GMK, have been attracted to Ekiti, and 1,000 kilometres of rural roads have been constructed.
Fayemi who said he could not campaign for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the All Progressives Congress, APC governorship candidate in Edo State in the September 19 election because he is holding a non-partisan position as NGF chairman and could not campaign against any governor, however, said the APC will win Saturday’s governorship poll in Ondo.
Dismissing clamour for Oodua Republic as not being reflective of the wishes of Yoruba people, he said the South-West wants a Nigeria that is working.
He also downplayed the crisis in Ekiti APC, saying the few fanning the embers of the misgivings are not based in the state.
Governor Fayemi said he has made efforts to carry all stakeholders along as five governorship aspirants who ran against him are now commissioners, two are special advisers, two are in the House of Representatives, one is in the Senate and another is in the Federal Character Commission as a commissioner.
Only restructuring can save Nigeria from disintegration — Nwodo
Also making a case for restructuring, Nwodo, a former governor of Enugu State, said a restructured Nigeria will guarantee economic and political stability, and peaceful co-existence of all the sections of the country.
He challenged the ruling APC- led Federal Government to live up to its campaign promises by restructuring the country, which he said would benefit every section of the country.
His words: “One serious step the leaders of this country should take to keep Nigeria one in the next two years is restructuring. A restructured Nigeria will guarantee economic and political stability; it will bring back unity, economic prosperity and reduce tribal conflicts.
“Some important parts of the country are already saying that they won’t vote in the 2023 elections if there is no restructuring. The Afenifere group has been very outspoken on that. People like Asari Dokubo and some South-South groups are also saying that if the 1999 constitution is not amended to allow for restructuring, they won’t go to the polls in 2023. There are calls by other concerned Nigerians that this constitution should be brought down because it was not made by the people.
“However, I don’t see the present leadership of this country yielding to the call for restructuring. They promised to restructure the country when they were campaigning. They set up a committee headed by Nasir El-Rufai which recommended restructuring but as it stands now, the APC-led Federal Government is no longer talking about that.
“The leadership of the party now tells us that our problem is not restructuring. This is a posture assumed by some persons who are benefiting from the status quo.
“Everybody knows that a restructured Nigeria will benefit every citizen of this country. Why is it that only a few section of the country who feel advantaged by the current situation is opposing the rest of the country? That is not patriotism.”