By Kurtis Adigba Yemi Osinbajo, professor of law, SAN, is…
By Sola Adeyeye
As far as I know, I was the first NASS member ever to make issues of the emoluments of National Assembly members. I have seized numerous opportunities to raise my voice against the bloated running costs which are referred to by the public as allowances. I did so repeatedly before and after Senator Shehu Sani’s disclosure that they amounted to 13.5 million naira per month. YouTube has two videos where I was being heckled by colleagues for bringing this issue to the fore during debates at Plenary.
Let me say that the running costs used to be very significantly higher than the current amount at a time when the naira fetched twice its current value of hard currency. I dare say that I was a pivotal anchor of internal pressures that reduced the running costs from what was as high as 20 million naira per month. I had long discussions with Senator David Mark. To his credit, I did not need to talk much to convince him about the necessity to reduce the running costs. The knotty issues were the timing and magnitude of reduction. That Senator David Mark survived eight years as Senate President, despite stepwise reduction of running costs during his tenure, speaks volumes about his leadership skills and dexterity.
My grouse against an Oturkpo man serving as the DPO in my Local Government had nothing to do with the man’s place of birth. Not at all! Rather, even as stated in my speech, it had to do with a situation where the Chief of Police in a Local Government, the DPO, did not speak the language of the people. Most incongruous! We deceive ourselves when we sweep such an incongruity under the false search for national unity. One of the reasons why lampoons are dished at me by some Yoruba nationalists is that I have been a proponent of rights of residents rather than rights of indigenes.
Although there are ethnocentric issues that underpin some of our Republic’s maladies, I have always picked issues with those who perceive our woes principally in terms of Fulani hegemony. If the Fulanis who probably constitute less than 10% of Nigeria’s population are the culprits creating Nigeria’s problems, the non-Fulanis deserve no empathy. None!
Nigeria’s problems emanate from a cabal of survivalist adventurers in power drawn from all ethnicities. Of the 20 years span of our Fourth Republic, southerners have held power for 14 years! Yet, pundits conveniently heap blames on Northerners and Fulanis as if Obasanjo and Jonathan are northerners. One sad aspect of the discourse on the maladies afflicting our Republic is the tendency to project northern states as parasitic on southern oil. But are Osun and Ekiti less parasitic than Kwara and Jigawa in terms of the proportion of their budgetary revenues that are derived from allocations from Abuja?
Mobility of labor is a fact of modern life. I have argued on numerous occasions, including on National television, that I grew up in a Nigeria in which Ernest Ikoli, an Ijaw and Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo, contested and won election from Lagos. My angst is against the wanton twin monstrosity of the abuse and incompetence of police monopoly.
Certainly, Federalism has sundry phenotypes. The Nigerian brand is a tragic phenotype that breeds stagnation and paralysis. Almost 40 years ago, Lateef Jakande in Lagos embarked on creating a Metroline but was stopped simply because Railways was on the Federal Exclusive list! A problem that would long have been solved remains today even as we fail to see that nothing is so sacrosanct about Railways that only the Federal Government must provide it. NOTHING! Indeed, let Dangote or Adenuga provide railway services if they have the resources to do so. Decades later, Governor Bola Tinubu’s ardent efforts to partner with the private sector to generate electricity for Lagos were suffocated by the draconian tentacles of exclusive Federal prerogatives!
If the abuse of State police is sufficient reason for disbanding it, perhaps we should long have disbanded the Nigeria Police for the same reason! Add to that the Nigerian Army, the EFCC and other monopolized instruments of coercion which Obasanjo used repeatedly to subvert elected governments of Anambra, Plateau, Ekiti and Oyo!
Despite differences because of history and local situations, is it an accident that the vast majority of federalist constitutions across the world make provisions for local or provincial police? Aside from dispensing tyranny and perennial inefficiency, in what aspect of Nigerian life has our Republic benefitted from overbearing centralism?
To say that all I have done has been to complain is quite disingenuous; it also is a clear pointer to selective recall. In my speech, I cited bringing a solution to the atmosphere of terror and crime which I inherited as Chairman of my Local Government. Was that not a valid example of bringing local ingenuity to solve a local problem?
Our Constitution listed the names of our States Local Governments. Why should it be my business if either Ebonyi or Yobe wants to increase or reduce its number of Local Governments? Yoruba commentators make boisterous references to the number of Local Governments in Kano and Jigawa in comparison with Lagos. These commentators, curiously never compare the the number of Local Governments in Oyo and Osun with those of Lagos! If Osun has 30 LGs, why does Lagos have 20? Could it be that consideration was given to other factors beside population? In any case, rather than metaphorically drawing daggers at each other’s throats over such matters, should we not expunge the names of the LGs from the Constitution and let each state create whatever suits its logic or lack of it?
Finally, I am quite surprised that my recent speech got so much traction. The truth is that I made the same points in a very similar contribution when Senator Marafa first brought this matter of insurgency in Zamfara to the attention of the Senate in the 7th Senate. This last time, I spoke with more visible anger because we have allowed these problems to last too long. And because it seems we are determined to keep doing the same things while expecting different results, we are seemingly doomed to repeat our woes.