In this third, and concluding, segment, I shall, first, elaborate my proposition on five-tier geopolitical restructuring, which I sketched in the final part of my last series The country ‘we wish to see’ (December 20, 2012). I shall then attempt to measure the proposed structure against the representative ideas collated in the first two segments (of the current series) to see how far the proposed structure meets or fails to meet the needs implicit in these ideas. If a short description is required for the structure I am about to re-present, it could be this: A republican, secular and popular-democratic federal system under a collective presidency with rotational headship. It is necessary to emphasise that although I have drawn from several sources to sketch this structure, in the final analysis, the construction has been informed by the Nigerian political history, current realities and debates, the socio-political balance of forces in the country, as well as the direction in which this balance appears to be moving.
General picture: There will be five levels or tiers of governance, corresponding to a five-level geopolitical structure. At the top is the Federal Government responsible for the whole country. There follows, immediately below the Federal Government, the Regional “Authority” whose jurisdiction covers a region. Below the region is the state government. Then follows the local government and, finally, the Neighbourhood Organisations. There are eight regions derived from the present six geopolitical zones by splitting each of South-South and North-Central Zones into two: west and east. The present 36 states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, as presently constituted, are retained. The present 774 local government areas are also retained. As described in the preceding segment, there will be at least one Neighbourhood Organisation in each local council ward of the country.
Federal Government: There will be an Executive Presidential Council of eight members, one representing a region. The headship and deputy headship of this Council rotate every six months between the members in a given order but in such a way that the deputy head succeeds the head. Thus, suppose the regions are designated A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H. In the first six months of a presidential tenure (expected to be four years), the member of the Presidential Council from region A becomes head of the Council and the member from region B becomes his or her deputy. In the following six-month period, the deputy head becomes head and the member representing C becomes deputy. This process continues until the last six-month period when the member from H becomes head with the member from A as his or her deputy. Members of the Presidential Council are equal in status and power except that in the case of a tie, the head has a “casting vote”.
I am leaving out details from this presentation so that we may capture the general picture. But even to do this, you may need to struggle with the “ghosts of past generations” which, as Marx observed in his Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, continually interfere with the present, supplying it with concepts and language even when the present can fashion or has, in fact, fashioned, its own concepts and language and can become used to them only if they use them.
The incumbent Head of the Presidential Council serves as the ceremonial or constitutional Head of State. The point, however, is that executive federal power is vested in the Presidential Council as a collective. Each member will, in addition to being a member of the collective, also be the minister responsible for a key federal ministry. At the end of a four-year presidential tenure, each member would have served a six-month term as Head of State and Chair of the Presidential Council and a six-month term as Deputy Head of State and Deputy Chair of the Presidential Council.
The two-chamber National Assembly as presently structured will remain. So will the rules governing the composition of the chambers remain? Three particular institutions of the Nigerian state, at the federal level (and perhaps replicated at other levels), should remain (or be created) and be strengthened in whatever ways necessary to discharge their critical functions in the proposed structure. These are the Federal Character Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Constitutional Court. While the Federal Government retains exclusive control of the Armed Forces and the Police, state policing should be allowed under clear laws and constitutional regulations.
In fact, it will not be cynical to say that multiple state police forces – uniformed (and, perhaps, also armed) – currently exist in almost all the states. All they do at the moment is harass the people, extort money from them and lend themselves to being used by privileged individuals to settle private scores. They are, more or less, empowered thugs. All that is now necessary is to unify them in every state, constitutionally define their roles and bring them strictly under the law.
Regional Arrangement: The National Constitutional Conference instituted by the Sani Abacha military regime in 1994/1995 included, in its report, the division of the country into (the current) six geopolitical zones. Although the draft constitution in which this proposal was included was never promulgated, the six-zone suggestion has been adopted by governments and political parties for various uses including, in particular, sharing party and government positions, appointments and promotions and locating public projects. This ‘zoning’ formula has now come to serve as a complement to the federal character provision, and conversely. Furthermore, a process of voluntary regional ‘integration’ has started in virtually all the geopolitical zones of the country. If you put together all these informal developments and processes, and then bring in the proposed Collective Presidency with rotational headship you will see the outline of the “regional arrangement”. The regions will have no “government”, but secretariats – the type the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and various regional forums now have.
Just as the Neighbourhood Organisations (based on existing local council wards), proposed last Thursday, will be financed by the respective local governments, the Regional Secretariats will be financed through contributions from the states. This arrangement, of necessity, calls for a radical reduction of federal allocation and increases in the allocations to the states and local governments. To those who may complain about the cost of maintaining the five-tier governance structure, I say: “You should look at the structure I am proposing not through the prism of the present predatory system, but through the need and possibility of creating a popular-democratic society, which demands a massive re-deployment of the nation’s resources away from predators and in favour of the poor, the marginalised, the abandoned and the forgotten – including tens of millions of unemployed youths.
Three elements of this redeployment may be indicated: Reduction of the total amount spent on the National Assembly by 50 per cent, without reducing the membership; elimination of the contract system from certain levels and categories of construction and purchases; and the removal of most of the multiple levies, which ordinary people now pay at the grassroots. I would not like to put figures into the comparison: But the cost of running the proposed five-level structure will be much, much less than the cost of running the present structure.
I have so far considered three of the five levels of governance being proposed: Neighbourhood Organisations (the grassroots level considered last week), the Federal Government and the Regional Arrangement. The other two levels – state and local governments – will remain as they are. The problems and questions raised by, and in, the proposed structure notwithstanding – and they are hard ones – it is my view that several concrete concerns and objections raised against the present system and several concrete proposals made for its modification to achieve a more equitable and “truer” federal democracy have been “accommodated” in my proposed structure.
The proposed collective presidency admits into leadership all the “segments” of the country at every point in time; and the rotational headship of the Collective Presidency gets to every “segment” once in a four-year period. The collective -rotational principle can be reproduced at the state and local government levels where agitations for “fairness” and “sense of belonging” and against “marginalisation” are not less intense.
To conclude, we may put together the outline of the proposed five-tier structure under popular democracy: Collective Presidency with rotational headship and rotational deputy headship within a four-year presidential tenure; reproduction of this system at the state and local government levels; 8-region structure; neighbourhood organisation as the fifth tier of government, radical reduction of the federal revenue allocation, increases in the allocations to the states and local governments – to be able to finance the Regions and Neighbourhood Organisations respectively; state police; war on state robbery and corruption; and massive re-deployment of resources to the “wretched of the earth”.
You may have missed part 1 and 2