Former General Secretary Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Frank Kokori, has joined other eminent Nigerians to reiterate that only true federalism will save Nigeria from collapse.
The former labour leader said Nigeria only pretends to be a federation whereas the real federation ended in 1966 when the military came in, warning that unless and until the country returns to the system before the military coup in January 1966, the number of ethnic agitation for self-determination would continue to grow.
He blamed the military for changing Nigeria from its true federal structure to a unitary government, lamenting that even the 1979 and 1999 constitutions, which could have solved the problem were not truly federal and have been left so because they were beneficial to the military and the northern oligarchy.
“What we need is true federation as we practised it in the first republic. We are not running true federalism in Nigeria. Federalism in Nigeria is just by name. What we have is a military system which has been imposed on Nigeria by the military and the various presidents since 1999 have kept quiet because of greed. They should have been able to change the system and run true confederation because they are civilian and the national assembly is made up of civilians but because of greed and selfishness, they kept quiet.
“If we have that, each state can run with what her people need. It is not a question of people from the centre to run the water resources, agriculture, education and all that at the state level. The centre will now concentrate on the national defence and foreign affairs as it was done in the first republic,” he noted
He believed that when Nigeria begins to practise true federalism, there will be less tension and quarrel as states would then be allowed to develop at their own pace just as it happened in the first republic.
“With true federalism, you don’t have to be quarrelling with anybody. That is what they practised in the first republic and that is why you saw the competition between the west, east and north. Imagine Nigeria establishing the first television station in the whole of Africa; even South Africa with the white leaders and Egypt could not do that, but the western Nigeria was able to build a TV station. We were just progressing like that and it was competitive. Nnamdi Azikiwe was planning university in east; Awolowo was planning university in the west and Ahmedu Bello said okay, let me also build a university in the north. Before then, we only had the University College Ibadan which was an arm of the London University. For now, it is a case of ‘monkey dey work baboon dey chop,” he said.
He argued that with federalism, state houses of Assembly would stop being an appendage of the governor’s office and brace up to their constitutional oversight role.
“We don’t have state assemblies. Our state assemblies are just a sham; they are extensions of government houses in the 36 states of the federation. They are an extension of the governor’s office. That’s what we call state houses of assembly. It is not supposed to be like that. We are supposed to have a serious state house of assembly; we can even increase the number of people and make it part-time. Then, they will talk to their governor; not that they will take everything the governor says hook, line and sinker. There ought to be checks and balances. So, in Nigeria today, it is the House of Reps that is even questioning what is happening in Nigeria and to some extent, the Senate. But the state assemblies are just a sham. True federalism will correct all those,” he submitted.