BY Gboyega Alaka
- Ex-governor: We’re stronger as one nation
- FG can’t withhold Paris Club refund meant for states
- Seeks national infrastucture plan
All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday spoke on vexed national issues, restating that true federalism will correct the country’s power imbalance.
“The imbalance between the roles of the federal and state governments lies at the root of our difficulties. We need to re-balance the duties of the federal and state governments. The quest to correct the imbalance is the essence of federalism that I have advocated for so many years,” he said in an address he sent to the 2017 Annual Dinner of the King’s College Old Boys’ Association (KCOBA) in Lagos.
The address was presented on his behalf by one-time Lagos State Commissioner for Finance Mr. Wale Edun.
Tinubu noted: “Due to our particular political history and its military legacy, the quality of our federalism and the quality of our democracy are intertwined. The more we repair federalism, the more we improve democracy.
“In my mind, federalism denotes a division of labour between the federal and state governments that functions to maximise the benefits of governance to the people. True federalism is that brand which provides that the federal government should focus on those few but essential things only it can provide such as foreign policy, defence, and national economic policy.
“All other matters should be left to the states. If there is doubt over a particular issue, the presumption should be that the states, not the federal government, should take the lead.
“Here, I say to those so eager to dispense with federalism in favour of more rash and impractical remedies, let us first truly practice federalism before we deem it a failure. If given but a fair chance, we just might perfect federalism by making it work for the benefit of all of us.”
The former Lagos State governor said it would be better to restructure things to attain the correct balance between “our collective purpose on one hand and our separate grassroots realities on the other.”
He called for the re-calibration of the revenue sharing formula in order to bring more funds to state and local governments so that they can take care of their enlarged responsibilities.
According to Asiwaju, the residual effect of the old unitary system has made hash of the Paris Club refund owed the states. “Money that is owed the states belongs to the states. We all support propriety of expenditure. The sentiment behind the withholding is understandable if not laudable. But the federal government has no right to withhold funds that constitutionally belong to the states. The fear of possible misuse of funds is no reason to violate the constitution,” he said, adding:
“Provide the funds to the states as legally required. Committed and fine governors will use the funds wisely. And the people will be better off. As to those who squander the money, there are appropriate ways to expose and sanction them. This is where the federal government can appropriately step in. However, to withhold the funds, no matter how well intended, is to undermine federalism and the rule of law. It will have adverse long-time consequences; as such, it is too high a price to pay.”
The country he said, needed a national industrial policy to foster the development of strategic industries that create jobs as well as spur further economic growth.
“Whether we decide to focus attention on steel, textiles, cars, machinery components, or other items, we must focus on manufacturing things that Nigerians and the rest of the world value and want to buy,” he said. Tinubu urged the federal government to institute a policy of tax credits, subsidies and insulate critical sectors from the negative impact of imports, saying:
“We need a national infrastructure plan. Roads, ports, bridges and railways need enhancing and new ones need to be built, the goal must be a coherently-planned and integrated infrastructural grid. A national economy cannot grow beyond the capacity of the infrastructure that serves it. Good infrastructure yields a prospering economy. Weak infrastructure relegates the economy to the poorhouse. Government must take the lead…
“The long-term economic strength of the nation is dependent on how we deploy now idle men, material and machines into productive endeavour. And this is highly dependent on the interest rate.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must cure its affection for high interest rates. Lower rates are required so our industrialists may borrow without fear that excessive costs of borrowing will consign them to irredeemable debt. The normal profit rates in most business sectors cannot support the burden imposed by current interest rates.”
Tinubu, who restated his brief in a united and better Nigeria, warned against ignoring the agitations in some parts of the country. He said: “We argue over matters that long ago should have been settled. The longer such fundamental questions fester, the more extreme become the proposed answers.
“Thus, we have people clamouring for secession and the murmur of such a course grows stronger in other sections.
“These other areas resent that some have advocated secession. Blame and recrimination become the political currency. Statesmanship falls in short supply. The dominant urge is to confront instead of reconcile.
“It would be wrong to mistake this for a tempest in a teapot. If not careful, we may be tossed about like a teapot in a tempest.
“We must listen to what is being said so that we can determine what is really meant…
“Yet the cry for separation has gained traction among average people; this is due to the chronic failure of government to meet basic aspirations.
“If over the years, government had delivered on the promise of growth, prosperity, and justice, those calling for such extreme remedies would be but a small fringe of little consequence.
“Our task is not to condemn but to listen and understand. I care not at all for this proposed solution. But I dare not discount the concerns and problems that have led many people into advocating such a thing.
“Here, I want to plainly state my position. I am a firm believer in Nigeria. I believe this land will become a great nation and a leader among other African nations. We can resolve our dysfunctions in a manner that will make this nation rise as a standard of decency, justice and prosperity for all Nigerians.”
According to the political stalwart, when we unite and not untie, “we build on an existing maxim of one Nigeria by describing that oneness as the fabric of a larger society S.E.W.N. (South East West North) together”.
Among those who graced the lecture are BOT Chairman, Chief Philips Asiodu; KCOBA President, Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim Imam, his predecessor, Hakeem Belo – Osagie, Dr. Sunny Kuku. Others are Member Board of Trustees, King’s College, Otunba Adeoye Tugbobo; Alhaji Hakeem Fahm, his wife Muftiat and Lagos State Commisssioner for Establishment, Training and Pension, Dr. Akintola Benson, former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and former Minister of State (Defence) Musiliu Obanikoro.