For the past few weeks, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Goodluck Jonathan has besieged the south western part of Nigeria in a move to solicit for votes in that region. Among numerous promises being made, one which the president and his party seems to be laying more emphasis on, is the implementation of the resolutions reached at the 2014 National Conference and recently the presidency took a step further by accepting all the recommendations at the federal executive cabinet meeting.
But the opposition party, All Progressive Congress have continued to criticize the resolutions of the conference terming it as a waste of time and resources. Few days ago a Senatorial candidate of the party for Lagos West Senatorial district openly criticized the Confab report vowing to ensure it never see the light of day.
Beyond the razzmatazz of the politicians, It is important we take a critical look at the resolutions of the Conference in view of its direct effect on our lives, society, country and our future.
Over the years, sociopolitical scholars and writers of thought in an attempt to finding the sole reason for the dilapidation and setback of Nigeria have come to agree that the major reason the African most populous country has continued to fail isn’t just because it has bad leadership but because it was never created to succeed.
Beyond the attractive green and white flag, fancy coat of arm and the suiting rhythm of the national anthem stands a nation dwelling in not just political immaturity but structural deficiency. Our so called federal system has no correlation with the simple principle of federalism and until recently our appellation of republic was merely in ink as our electoral process showed more of a selective process than democratic rule. In other words, we are neither here nor there.
Truly, some resolutions of the national conference may not be in conformity with the developmental aspiration of a country like Nigeria. For example, the creation of additional 19 states even though will create political equity and balance of power between the six geopolitical zones isn’t ideal especially at a time when only few of the current 36 states can individually pay salaries of workers not to talk of embarking on developmental projects. The failure to accept the unicameral legislature is another wrongdoing as such move would have seen a drastic cut in the waste being perpetrated by the legislative arm. However, the national conference beyond these has created some of the most remarkable and historical resolutions that if implemented without altering them would help restructure and reshape Nigeria, politically, socially, economically and collectively.
One of the highlights of the recommendations is the removal of railway and seaport from theexclusive list to the concurrent list. The implication of this is that, states in Nigeria can now embark on building railways to ease traffic within their state. For a state like Lagos where the major means of transport is via road, this move gives the state government the power to construct a railway from Ajahto Ikorodu, from Badagry to Ikeja, hence decongesting traffic on the road. The seaport being one of the major sources of revenue for the federal government but has done little impact to the hosting state can now be constructed and owned by a state government. For states like Port Harcourt, Lagos, Ondo and co, huge revenue can be made with building state owned seaports thereby giving alternatives to importers, speeding up time for clearing and above all creating Jobs for residents of the state.
The effect of state police can not be overemphasized in our attempt towards true federalism. This is one of the recommendations of the confab report, the effect will see an upscale in the effectiveness of security.
If there is one bane in our constitution to the growth of democracy in Nigeria, it is the immunity clause. Politicians and political office holders have often thrown caution to the wind after winning election hiding under the skin of immunity. It is not only fundamentally wrong but democratically absurd when an individual is termed untouchable no matter the graveness of his/her sin(s). The confab report recommends an outright removal of this despicable clause thereby creating a more responsive and responsible government that will operate with the fear of God and rule of law.
In conformity with global best practice, every Nigerian, no matter where he/she resides around the world will have the opportunity to have a say in the electoral process in the country. The confab report recommends the legalization of Diaspora voting, a move which will in turn see the government become more responsible to every Nigerian abroad when such occupant of power realizes that such Nigerian can also determine if he/she gets elected into office.
Another highlights of the confab report is the recommendation on the Land use Act. In 1978, the military head of state as at then, Olusegun Obasanjo enacted the decree that saw all lands as the property of the government. This law was mysteriously smuggled into the 1999 constitution and has become a tool in the hands of public officers in grabbing lands. This recommendation will give power over ownership of land back to ordinary citizens and for government to make use of it, it must negotiate like every other individual.
The days of profligacy by politicians in the name of seeking medical treatment abroad are numbered. The confab recommends that any public office holder can only seek medical treatment abroad if only such medical conditions are extremely serious. Henceforth, political office holders have to seek medical care in hospitals in Nigeria. The effect of this is that, the health sector will now receive a great deal of attention and funds allocated for its upgrading and standardization will gets to the appropriate channels. It was also resolved that free-healthcare be established for children aged 0-5 years; senior citizens from the age of 65 years; persons living with disability or the physically challenged persons; free maternal services and free school health programmes.
All these are among the over 200 recommendations of the national conference. While it is imperative to state that Nigeria deserves urgent and needed change, it is important to critically examine which change Nigeria urgently demands. A political change is germane but not one that will erode the move for structural change. Nigeria can only get it right when it put its house in order. A change of government may not necessarily interpret to a new era. You can repaint a building, remove the roof but if the pillars are shaky and weak, no matter how beautiful you dress it, it will surely collapse.
Adekoya Boladale is a political scientist and scholar on good governance, a social commentator and consultant on political and intra governmental affairs. He is the Convener, Advocacy for Better Leadership (ABEL), Nigeria.