Perceived injustice, favouritism, inequality, oppression, ethnic bigotry and open support for herders against farmers are fueling people’s call for the reinstitution of the 1960 Independence constitution, now tagged: Clamouring for Restructuring.
The 1960 constitution boasted a federal system of government. It outlined the division of power among constituent governments. The federal, regional and local council administrations. In defence matters, the federal government has exclusive right and power, while the federal and regional governments had concurrent power of legislation on education and sundry other matters.
The regions had their coat of arms, Police, flags, emblems and even anthems that were not the national anthem.
Each region had the right and authority to levy taxes on people living in its area of authority. Resource(s) in each region were exploited and harnessed for the development of the area in which they were in Situ, while royalties were paid to the federal government.
The independence and freedom enjoyed by the regional governments encouraged self-reliance and positive competition among the regions as each developed at her own pace. All that came to an end in 1967 as the failed first coup threw up the late Major General, Aguyi Ironsi who effectively took over power.
Immediately he came to power, Ironsi put an end to the 1960 constitution-backed federal system and promulgated a unitary system of governance decree, which raised the suspicion of Northern people as they had lost most of their senior military and political leaders in the 1967 coup.
The fear of Northerners were confirmed as Ironsi surrounded himself with advisers who were from the same region with him.
Thus, the coup that came just about 6 months after the first coup, a counter or revenge coup, by the Northern military elements was not a surprise to observers of the country’s political development.
Though, the Northern Military Officers who carried out the counter coup, did declare that Nigeria was a federal republic, but what followed after was a clear indication that a pseudo federal system in the garment of unitary system had been foisted on Nigeria. The regimental central system of the military did not help matters.
The failure of Aburi conference held in Ghana, owing to different or contradictory interpretations the federal and Eastern region delegations gave to the agreement signed at the conference degenerated into the 30-month civil war that ended in General Yakubu Gowon, the military head of states no victor, no vanquished policy, while the three “Rs” reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation policy were aimed at boosting the renewed air of affection blowing over Nigeria.
The division of the 4 regions, Northern, Western, Eastern and Mid-West into 12 states to weaken the strength of Eastern region government led by the late Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu helped win the war as non-Igbo people in Rivers State and South Eastern state supported the federal government’s war efforts. Despite that the creation of the states expedited the winning of the war by the federal government, it brought to life units (states) that were smaller and lack the strength, power, resources and independence of their predecessors, the regions.
It was the beginning of the federal government growing bigger in power and resources, while the states shrank in size and became dependent on the central government that now doles out funds to the beggarly states. The emergence of crude oil as the major source of foreign exchange earning controlled by the federal government as the taking over of other solid minerals also boosted its earning, while the state lost control over resources in their areas and deprived of revenue that earlier accrued to the regions.
As time unfolded, more states were created, some, if not most of them, depended on the federal allocation for their development programmes and even salary payment. The governors became so lazy and unimaginative on how or what to do to generate internal revenue for the development of their states. Some states were, however, aggrieved because revenue collected in their areas is sent to the federal purse as states that cannot sustain themselves were just feeding fat on funds they did not contribute or generate. The development was a sad recall of the colonial masters’ remark that the Southern resources were ploughed to run the Northern region administration. Fiscal federalism was completely lost in the gale of unitary government donning federal garb.
The call is loud, advocates are many, asserting that the 1999 military-spawned constitution on which the present government is running can not continue, if fairness, equity, equality that are the tripod on which people-oriented friendly government rest is the choice and not a rule of the whim of the powerful. It is time to go back to the 1960 independence constitution if those holding the levers of power do not want Nigeria to go the way of India.