Ambode Calls For True Federalism
Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode on Tuesday reiterated the need for Nigeria to implement the federal system as originally intended, saying doing so remains the right path to rescue the country from the doldrums and myriad of challenges inhibiting growth and development.
Governor Ambode, who spoke while delivering the University of Lagos Convocation Lecture and investiture of Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as the 12th Vice Chancellor of the institution, said it was a common knowledge that the Federal Government was burdened with tasks beyond the reach of its best competencies to the detriment of States, which are the federating units.
According to him, Nigeria’s present political structure was seriously affecting the efficiency of both State and Local governments, submitting that for States to give optimal service to their citizens, the principle of inclusion as being practiced in Lagos where anybody irrespective of race or creed can rise to the pinnacle of their chosen career, first needs to be applied to the division of power between the Federal and State governments.
“There recently has been a clamour for devolution of power and true federalism. While much of this talk is a good intentioned, I believe it misses the crucial point. The linchpin of good governance is not found in the system deployed but in the quality of its administration.
“We must implement the federal system as it was intended to be. Heretofore, too much power has resided in the National government. This has been to the detriment of the authority and efficiency of both State and Local governments.
“This has caused a governance vacuum of sorts. The Federal government is burdened with tasks beyond the reach of its best competencies. The States and Local government are dissuaded from treating many matters of a local nature that are better left in their hands due to their greater knowledge of local conditions.
“We need to shift some functions/responsibilities from the national government to place more of it in the hands of the States. This is how we give federalism the best chance to work. Until we do this, calls to abandon the current system serve not to fix the underlying problem,” the Governor said.
Continuing, Governor Ambode said any structural reform might face the tendency of being distorted to serve the purpose of those who favour the concentration of power, adding that clamour for total change to the political architecture would be time consuming and expensive.
He posited that what the nation should do was to first attempt a more equitable level of fiscal federalism before adopting drastic alternations that may likely plunge the country into uncertainty.
“Additionally, such attempts at enormous and rapid political change causes economic uncertainty and dislocation. Given our tenuous relationship to prosperity, Nigeria cannot afford this self-affliction.
“There is widespread consensus that too much power sits in the centre. We can correct this imbalance by reallocating power and responsibilities between the States and Federal government by amending the list of exclusive and concurrent powers and duties of these governments to reflect current realities in the nation.
“These changes will have beneficial impact visible within a short amount of time. The impact of these changes, though political in origin, will be economic in nature and it is in our economic life where the nation needs the most help.
“Resolving the problems regarding federalism and the herdsman’s, as with so many other problems, requires us to look beyond prejudice and hatred. Exploiting fear and bias is easy and sings well in the short-run. Over the longer-term, it is a bitter cup that cures nothing but ferments greater hatred and larger problems,” he said.