Nigeria At 52: National dialogue is overdue – Archbishop Adewale Martins


NEW Catholic Archbishop of Lagos Metroplitan See, Most Rev. Adewale Martins, took a cursory look at the Nigerian State at 52 and concluded that the only viable pathway for the nation’s growth and development is a reversion to the ideals of our founding fathers which was based on true federalism. To him, this can only come about through a national conference of true representatives of the different peoples of the country excerpts:

BY SAM EYOBOKA

Nigeria at 52: Is there any reason to celebrate?
I believe in the scripture that says in all things we should give thanks to God therefore we give thanks for the nation, Nigeria that it has continued to exist in spite of the various challenges that we have had as a nation. Within the period under review, we have fought a civil war, we have had all kinds of religious disturbances, we still have the Boko Haram with us, we’ve had economic downturns of all kinds; but we are still one nation struggling with the diverse challenges.

So, we give thanks to God. We know when the nation started in 1960, we began with the parliamentary system of government in accordance with the dreams of the founding fathers where the federal structure was well defined and was being followed to the letter at the beginning until the military intervention. When the military intervened the federal structure as conceived by the founding father was truncated and that has had a telling effect on the nation especially with regards to the federal structure because of the peculiar nature of the military.

The occasion of another independence anniversary should be an opportunity for us to reflect on what more we need to do in order to keep the unity of the nation and the original vision for the nation. So, I believe it is a time for us to reassess the federal nature of our country and talking about constitutional review or amendment at this time should be an opportunity for discussion on very salient national issues that bother on the unity of the nation. I believe very strongly that if Nigeria had continued with the federal system of government that we started with in 1960 many of the challenges that have threatened the nation’s corporate existence would be minimized if not totally non-existent.

The problem of infrastructural development would be better addressed if the different component parts of the country were able to take full control and manage the infrastructure within the nation. For instance, provision of electricity, if the component parts of the nation in term of the regions or the geo-political zones had more opportunity to harness the resources and to have more free hands to use those resources for infrastructural development, I think we would better than what we are now. All in all, we thank God but there is still a lot to do and I think that we are able to rediscover the federal character of the nation again, we probably be on the taper of growth and development.

Are you suggesting that we should go back to parliamentary governance and revert to the six geo-political arrangement of the first republic as some people have canvassed?

At this point in time, we are operating a presidential system of government and we have all seen how they have made it so expensive such that a huge chunk of the nation’s resources is going into recurrent expenditure rather than into the provision of social amenities and infrastructure for the benefit of the masses of the people. Therefore it makes one to begin to look back with nostalgia at the parliamentary system in which the head of government was held accountable to the parliament, whereas that is not the same with the presidential system of government.

For the sake of calling leaders to account for their deeds and misdeeds makes one begins to think that the parliamentary system has an attraction apart from the fact that it is not as expensive as the current system. It for those reasons that I am canvassing for the parliamentary system of government; but also I am also saying that we need to go back to the ideals that guided our founding fathers instead of component parts of the nation being made to take control of developments in their area. I believe that most of our current challenges would be better addressed if the true federal nature of the nation is respected.

Because of some of these imbalances in the nation, the clamour for a sovereign national conference had grown louder in recent times. Are you also throwing your weight behind that agitation?

I believe that a forum for discussing the various issues currently plaguing the nation, including that of federalism and amendment of the constitution is necessary. A nation conference would be a path to follow if we are able to work a modality that will determine who and who will be at that forum, so that we do not follow this regular pattern of political party as we have now. If we are able to work a modality of those who will truly represent the people of this country rather than through political parties, I believe that such a conference would go a long way to solve our problems. However, a sovereign national conference, as I have always seen it will be difficult, because you cannot ask the current government to vacate office and allow another group to emerge and fashion a way forward for the nation.

Certainly, we need a forum made up of true representatives of the people to have a dialogue on the state of the nation and decide a way forward for this country. The federal system of government which was in place at independence was truncated at the intervention of the military. Since then, we have returned to democracy but we have really not gone back to the real issue of federalism and I think therefore that unless we consider where we were and what was our situation before the truncation of democracy by the military, we will not be abler to know exactly what to do.

Because federalism is the principle by which our founding fathers decided upon that is good for the nation and if you look at what has happened before military intervention you will find out that a lot of developments took place at that time because the true federal nature of the country was respected. We didn’t have a situation where everybody had to go the seat of federal government in order to develop the federating units of the country. For which reason, I think that if at this point in time we are not making the desirable impact as other nations that began the journey as Nigeria, then we need to go back to the beginning and consider what has gone wrong and find ways on how we are going to take care of it.
It is therefore on this basis that I believe that true federalism is something we cannot negotiate on. It is something that is necessary for the development of the nation in such a way that we shall be at par with other nations of the world. The issue of state police also touches on federalism. If it was a federal system, truly and complete, then it should be possible for the federating units to have the type of apparatus that is needed to maintain security in their different parts of the nation.

If the federating units have a measure of control over the security agencies within their areas of operations we shall better be able to manage the security of the nation; but if as it were, everything has to go back to one single institution or one single individual, then naturally it will be impossible to have full knowledge of what is happening all over the nation.
The creeks of the Delta cannot be policed in the same way as the savannah of Kano for instance. The people that populate these areas are also different in perspectives and in attitudes and therefore we need to be able to have a situation where there areas are policed by state apparatus that is capable of knowing what is going on there. This is not to say that one is not mindful of the abuse of the state police of those days but that fear cannot foreclose the whole essence of national dialogue.

Is that another way of saying that the current attempt by the National Assembly to amend the constitution is an exercise in futility as it will not meet the aspirations of the people?
The National Assembly obviously has its duty of making laws for the nation and oversight function. That mandate was given to them when Nigerians voted them into office. However, the issue of structure of the nation itself should be an issue that should go beyond party politics. It should be something that is driven by true representatives of the people and I think that if Nigeria, as a nation, should have a coordinated dialogue the National Assembly would even be the better for it and I think it should even facilitated such dialogue outside of its hallowed chambers to gauge the thoughts and feelings of the people of this country.

From 1960 to date how has Nigeria fared economically?
Well, I am not an economist but the way it affects the generality of the people one can make deductions about the nation’s economy. When the nation started in 1960, agriculture was the mainstay and provided the resource base with the nation was built. All kinds of mineral resources were there and they were all harnessed for the growth and development of the nation; but as it is now we have a situation where oil is the only product that brings all the money the nation needs to develop. Obviously, that is too risky as several people have stated over time. We are subject to all the vagaries of oil politics and our lives as a nation in subject to it. That again is not healthy for the nation.

Therefore, our nation should go back to the good old days by diversifying the economy by going back to the days of dependence on agriculture, mining and other mineral deposits that abound in different parts of the country. We know well enough that dependence on oil is also responsible for some of the violent disruptions in recent time, and therefore if we discover other sources of revenue Nigeria will be better for it. I believe that the more money we are making from oil the more poverty we are creating among the people which mean that we are not putting the derivable resources to good use. An economy that has so much money in it but does not make the lives of the people worthwhile is certainly not the best. They should have the love of the common man by opening up other sources of wealth creation for teeming masses of the young people in the country.

Education: Where did the nation get it wrong?
Certainly, we have done a lot of harm to education in this country beginning from the time when the military took over mission schools in the country, giving the impression that the government had the monopoly of educating the people. I think that is where we got it wrong as far as education was concerned. Prior to this time, missions and individuals running schools. They were given guidance but never coerced into doing anything. In fact, even the missions were given grant in aid in order to run the schools such that missions were able to ensure that schools were adequately supervised.

Unfortunately, the government had taken everything over giving the impression that they can do, but we all can see now that many schools are dilapidated and…I was reading in one of the newspapers a few days ago that a whole arm of a school in Edo State has only four teachers and out of the number was the principal. For goodness sake what are we doing to education? You look at libraries; they are nothing to write home about.

Everything is falling. This is not peculiar to Edo State . You go all around this country, it is the same picture. I believe that governments at different levels should have a rethink on how to run the nation’s education system again. Basically, supervision is one area where the mission schools were excelling. They were going round schools to ensure that things were done properly. I am sure there is some measure of supervision now, but surely it is not as effective as it should be. Government needs to plan and cooperate more with the private sector.

Sir, the current situation is so bad that we now talk of cultism in secondary schools….
Religious and moral education in formative schools ought to be given the pride of place. I recall my days here as assistant administrator of Holy Cross we used to have certain hours when we went to St. Gregory’s College as part of the school curriculum. I think moral and religious education should be brought back to schools and then the counselors that are the schools need to be empowered the more and the school that don’t have should ensure that they have some in their employ.

Vanguard


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