In the name of Nigeria, they share – Owei Lakmefa

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We are in an upbeat mood. Money is beginning to flow again. At least from the federal main supply, to the state and local government taps, and of course the federal tank which collects 52 percent of distributable funds. After months lamenting lack of funds, N804.7 billion was made available to be shared. I wonder what effect this will have on exchange rate as chunks of these funds flow through the tributaries of Bureau de Change and smuggling, into the larger oceans of world finance.

I am of course happy that many public sector workers may get salary arrears and some retirees, their unpaid pension. But I am not sure of the sustainability. For instance, have we heard the last of the Kogi Formula; a disingenuous mathematical formula in which 30 percent of a worker’s salary equals 100 percent wage payment? Although the money is widely claimed to be a bailout for the states to pay workers’ salary arrears, we all know that most of it (N231.6B) is going to the Federal Government which does not claim to be owing salaries. In contrast, the states may get N107.5 billion.

The other lifeline, is helping the states to reschedule their commercial loans and acquire more debts in the name of a soft loan. I am not sure these are viable options in the long run. Eyes are set on emptying the Excess Crude Account; what other manner of saving do we have if this fund is liquidated? All we hear from our leaders is how to share money from the federation account, not adding value to the crude oil we have sold for about sixty years or working to increase our collective wealth. I read the Vanguard interview of July 6, 2015 with Alhaji Abdulazeez Yari, the Chairman of the governors’ trade union, the Governors Forum. Expectedly, his focus was on sharing. He complained about the ”economic imbalance in the system” that sees the Federal Government getting 52 percent of the shares and states, “only” 26 percent.

His solution: “To get the Nigerian economy back on track, all MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal government) must follow due process in remittance of accruing revenue…to the consolidated account for sharing to all tiers of government” His Excellency’s only suggestion on revenue generation is tax, but how he asks, do you tax a person who lives on less than one dollar a day? I really wonder. The tragedy is that they are not even efficient and prudent in sharing. Rather than teleconferencing or employing basic information technology, each state monthly, sends a delegation led by their Finance Commissioner to Abuja to share the proceeds for that month, thereby incurring huge travel expenses. In turn, the job of most governors is not just to share the state allocation, but also that of the local governments.

The fundamental truth we are running away from, is that the thirty six states are drain pipes; they are essentially, means of distribution and sharing, rather than centres of production. We had four viable regions; North, East, West and Mid West, before the military began the craze of creating states. General Jack Yakubu Gowon kicked it off by multiplying the regions by three which gave us twelve states. Then General Murtala Ramat Mohammed followed by adding seven more. By the time Generals Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and Sanni Abacha finished with us, we had thirty six states, all, beggarly and on life support. To add a tragi-comic angle, the National Conference of the Jonathan administration proposed eighteen new states. The principles of state creation have not been development, production or strengthening the federal system. It has basically being sharing the country’s oil wealth.

This is also the basic principle of littering the landscape with unviable local governments. Given the ruling ideology of sharing, various groups send their sharpest minds to the centre, to grab shares of the national cake. In turn, constituents demand that legislators pay the electorate’s rents and children’s school fees, fund marriages and naming ceremonies, provide jobs, build schools and provide healthcare. So when different parts of the country send their representatives to the National Assembly (NASS) it is not primarily to make laws or carry out over sight functions, It is to participate in the sharing bazaar. So basically, the National Assembly becomes a gathering of the tortoise clan, each trying to out fox the other and get a greater share. Given this truism, the Distinguished and Honourables are ready to settle basic motions like sharing positions not by negotiations, persuasion or voting, but through physical combats.

Even after declaring recess, they continue beating drums of war. Since governance is essentially about sharing, the building of electoral platforms, called political parties, can only be makeshift. Politicians cannot afford to be in opposition, so most swim with the tide. For most of those who feel alienated or short changed at any given time, the logic is to team up with others outside the immediate sharing system, to challenge their ruling friends. Very few do so on the basis of principles. It is because the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has very few principled politicians that it seems to be falling apart within one month in power. It is not that we do not know what is wrong with our country. We do. It is not that we do not know the solution. We do.

Our political leaders are some of the sharpest in the world, and they have at their disposal, a pool of some of the best brains in the universe. But we have an indolent, unpatriotic and selfish ruling elite whose primary goal is to share our resources and retain the lion share for their private use. Running a country like ours, is not rocket science. Our leaders in the First Republic successfully ran our economy without crude oil proceeds. One of the steps we need to take is to reduce or merge the thirty six states into viable entities, and let each state, cater for the number of local governments it needs.

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