Joe Effiong, Uyo
The inaugural chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, has expressed serious doubt over Nigeria remaining as one entity if true federalism is not urgently implemented.
Obong Attah told our correspondent in his country home in Uyo that nearly all the problems besetting the nation were due to the adoption of a unitary system of government even when Nigeria pretends to be running a federal system.
“I must insist; this true federalism is not something new. We had got it until it was interrupted by the military in 1966. It is something we’ve always had and it helped this country to grow because there was healthy rivalry; you could see how the federating units were growing at their own paces. Growth was not uniform; but opportunities were uniform.
“Why should we, so many years after the military had left the scene, and we have let go of many of the military vestiges, still keep this one by continuing to run a unitary system of sharing money instead of generating money? That is the only problem with Nigerian democracy.
“The killings we are having now would not have happened if we had true federalism. You will conveniently control what is happening in your state. You have your police; you control your resources. If anybody who comes in there to cause problem it becomes an invasion.
“My first message to President Buhari was to tell him to stop all forms of agitation for the disintegration of Nigeria. The only way he could stop that is if he re-enacts the federal system for Nigeria so that every federating unit will have a breathing space and control themselves.
“And I started with the consequences and told him that if he failed to do that, Nigeria is going to break up, and I say it every day; Nigeria will certainly, indisputably break up if we do not allow these units to exist as they used to in the days of true federalism.
“And I am very pleased. Do you know why I am pleased? Because if you listen to what President Buhari said during the visit by the APC governors, he said Nigeria at this stage of our development, is ready for true federalism. These were words out of President Buhari’s mouth. So I believe the campaign had been accepted now even though it was not accepted before now,” Attah said.
He expressed regrets that his development programmes which could have made Akwa Ibom one of the most economically and politically relevant in the country, were disrupted by his successor for purely selfish reasons.
“If you look at the projects we started, there were some forms of interrelation between them. We wanted to do so successfully, so we needed power; we needed an airport, we needed electricity, so we built a power station to support the airport, especially the MRO, the ICT; and if people needed to come in here, they needed somewhere decent to stay and that was the reason for the hotel and then the science park for the ICT development.
“So, we had an integrated system of systematic development which was very badly disrupted for whatever reason immediately I left office,” the former governor said.
He prayed that Gov. Udom Emmanuel, whose second term he said, would be “unfettered because the first term was greatly fettered,” would return to the vision of integrated development he had for the state.