But what really is Nigeria’s problem? – Opinion

by Amos Kalu


When, in 1814, Europe’s leading statesman, Count Metternich, said that Italy “is only a geographical expression”, the former Deputy of the Kingdom of Italy and the Father of Modern Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi, didn’t take it as an offence. Instead, the only question on his mind was how to create Italians.

Take the recent detention escape of one of the Binance Executives held in Nigeria for tax evasion, Nadeem Anjarwalla, as a case study! Anjarwalla’s escape from protective custody didn’t tell us anything other than the statelessness of the Nigerian state. In some countries, there would by now have been a gale of resignations. But in Nigeria, that has never happened; and may never happen! Instead, the country moves on, until the fire next time!

Apart from the run-of-the-mill criminals, a jailbreak or detention escape does not portend anything other than a weak state, that those who aided and abetted it knew what they were doing, and that nothing would happen to them ultimately. Mayer Amschel Rothschild once asked that he be given control of a nation’s money supply and he cared not who wrote the laws. That the Binance Executive who was trying to undermine the control of the Nigerian currency could escape from custody at all was a national disgrace! It’s a telltale sign of failure of intelligence and it’s sad! It’s tantamount to America informing a stunned world that Osama Bin Laden had escaped from custody. For America, it’s not possible!

The raging insecurity in Nigeria also says something about a broken-down state where lack of internal security mechanisms has become the norm. Take, for instance, Nigeria has 371,800 police officers serving a population of 213.4 million Nigerians. Regrettably however, half of them are already fanned out to political bigwigs. So, what do we expect? That’s all the more reason to devolve power to the states if Nigeria wants to stop terrorism and associated criminalities. Matter-of-factly, the vigilantes involved in the war against terrorism and banditry deserve national awards because of the risks involved in fighting with Dane guns against men with AK 47 and other sophisticated weapons and networks. Added to this is that Nigeria is currently ‘blessed’ with loads of ungoverned spaces. For example, Sambisa Forest alone is reportedly the size of Belgium. Niger State is also almost thrice the size of the Netherlands. However, while the Netherlands maintains her position as the world’s 2nd largest exporter of food and agricultural products, what’s Niger State exporting?

Nigeria is the world’s 9th largest crude petroleum exporting country. Still, she is deep in the sea of palliative miasma. Dishearteningly, that’s emblematic of a dehumanized society and lack of transparency on the part of the organizers and it’s disheartening! Nigeria’s problem isn’t a question of not producing enough food. Rather, it’s that the country does not have the infrastructure to have stable prices. The truth is that Nigeria has antediluvian agriculture. It is primitive and rain-fed! She doesn’t have Commodities Exchange and Boards and/or storage facilities. In my considered opinion, the drivers involved in the movement of goods and services from the hinterland to the cities are risking their lives. So, how much are they going to be paid to compensate for the risks? Unfortunately, instead of building rural roads, our governors are busy building flyovers and embarking on other vanity projects.

On the whole, Nigeria’s problem is a defective constitution. If we go back to what was the cost-benefit analysis and general wellbeing under the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions, what has happened subsequently is that Nigeria now has more than 133 million Nigerians battling multidimensional poverty. Under the 1963 Constitution, that’s not possible! For those who care to know, India, Australia, Canada and Brazil have been operating under the same kind of Constitution. Look at where they are, compared to where Nigeria is hibernating!

While we cannot build a country without production, we cannot also build production on a defective constitution in which every state goes to Abuja every month, cap-in-hand, for handouts. The way out is for power to be devolved to the states, including powers to raise their own finances. It should be like the 1963 revenue sharing formula, which favoured 50% to the state and 50% to the centre. How can Nigeria have more than 68 items on the Exclusive List? For God’s sake, they shouldn’t be more than 8 or 9 items; and they must have a revenue allocation formula that allows each state to carry out its responsibilities as a real subnational.

The key point here is that Nigeria is presently running on a very defective foundation and, until a Nigerian leader – and we hope that President Bola Tinubu would be the game-changer – is able to say what Massimo d’Azeglio said about Italy in 1861, Nigeria will remain captured. But the day a Nigerian leader possesses the interminable refinement and the presence of mind to emphasize that “we have made a geographical expression called Nigeria; now we must make Nigerians”, and he develops the capacity to do the needful, Nigeria will be free! And the only way to create Nigeria is to revisit her foundational defects, not by piecemeal constitution amendments but by writing a brand new Constitution that’s based largely on the spirit and letter of the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions and have it passed by plebiscite. There and then, everything will change because the states can now have control over their resources.

If California in the United States of America was a sovereign state, it would be the 6th largest economy in the world as of today. Apart from having a fantastic, innovative income, California is a major contributor to the federal budget. In 2022, California had a record operating surplus of $97.5 billion, to which a special legislative session was called to debate the spending formula. Of course, that has gone to show the real essence of True Federalism. Until Nigeria develops that kind of framework, Nigerians will only be moving in circles, fantasizing and gambling about the naira-to-dollar exchange nonsense. After all, bandits were not born as bandits. They are bandits because they are produced from a factory!

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

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