Joel Olatunde Agoi –
The political make-up of Africa’s most populous nation is coming under scrutiny after a leading election hopeful promised greater devolution if he becomes president at polls next year.
Nigeria’s former vice-president Atiku Abubakar said this week he was in favour of handing more powers to the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory if he wins in February.
“Over the years, since (the) military got involved governing the country, they have created too many states and concentrated a lot of power in the centre,” he said.
“So, we believe we should return to the principles of true federalism: devolving more power and resources to the components of federalism in terms of security, healthcare, education.”
Such issues “will be best dealt with by people nearer to the people than the FG (federal government), which is too far away”, Abubakar, 71, told reporters in an interview.
In July, states and local governments received 656.6 billion naira ($1.8 billion) from a total of 821.9 billion naira in federal funding, according to official statistics.
The money shared out from the central account comes from revenue generated by the states themselves.
But more prosperous states — particularly those in the oil-producing south — have long complained they are subsidising less productive counterparts, especially those in the more impoverished north.
Abubakar’s call for a loosening of federal ties is significant because it stands at odds with the position of his fellow politicians from the north, including Buhari.
Until now, the idea has had more support in the south.
Nigeria as a single entity dates back to 1914 when British colonial rulers amalgamated northern and southern Nigeria for commercial purposes. But there have been tensions ever since — and questions about whether the union can hold — because of ethnic, cultural and religious divisions.
Regional identity is fiercely guarded in Nigeria, which is almost evenly divided between a mainly Muslim north and the largely Christian south. The most obvious division has been between the north and south. — AFP