As the National Assembly has called for position papers on constitution review, a former Federal Permanent Secretary, Chief Robert Audu, submitted the following proposal:
THE FEDERAL STRUCTURE AND POWER DEVOLUTION: 6-YEAR SINGLE TERM/5-YEAR DEVELOPMENT PLAN
I again salute the wisdom of the Nigerian Senate in responding to the popular wish of the people by initiating moves to review the 1999 Constitution. The locus I exercise as justification to contribute to this laudable national discourse stem from my concern as a Nigerian who served the country through the ranks up to the level of a Federal Permanent Secretary. My position as Permanent Secretary, Political Affairs in the Presidency where I was Secretary/Member, Presidential Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution further gave me insight into the issues germane to the current exercise. At the heart of all the concerns being expressed is the administrative and political structure on which rests the bureaucracy of government at different levels, to wit; Federal, States and Local Governments in order to promote accelerated development in the country.
- Some Nigerians who share the view that we should return to regional structures have even proceeded to call for the translation of the existing Six Geo-Political Zones into Regions. It is nonetheless instructive to note that although these Geo-Political Zones have been accepted as a convenient structure to share the “national cake” or distribute development projects, there is no constitutional backing for these Zones. Hence the present Constitutional Amendment Exercise should accommodate a restructured zonal arrangement in the reviewed constitution.
- Nigeria’s Federal arrangement is with the bi-cameral legislature at the Federal level and unicameral at the State level, and a Presidential System similar to the USA. Nigeria should make bold to embrace the USA variant where the Vice-President doubles as President of the Senate. Nigeria should also align with the USA arrangement where an incumbent President/Governor/Chairman of Local Government need not go through primary election to be a candidate of his party for the second term. This will eliminate the huge diversion of government finances to fund primaries.
- The Federating Units in Nigeria comprise Federal, State, and Local Governments. Former President, Gen. Sani Abacha introduced geo-political zones to make way for a presidential arrangement with President and five Vice Presidents in order for the six zones to participate in governance to reflect Federal Character. Although these zones are not reflected in the 1999 Constitution, they have become acceptable means to meet federal character requirements in the sharing of positions, amenities, development projects, and programs. The geo-political zones should be reflected in the Constitution as a loose regional or zonal structure for development and arrowhead for reflection of federal character in governance.
- The foremost step is to restructure the Nigerian Federation into States and Geo-Political Zones or Regions that will represent the units for accelerated transformation of the country to achieve balanced development. Power Rotation is fundamental as it gives all sections of the country a sense of belonging and structured access to power.
A six year single term is crucial in saving scarce resources that would otherwise be expended on frequent elections and incumbents squandering Government funds on second term nomination and election.
- Adopting 1999 as the starting point for Power Rotation in Nigeria between the North and the South and among the Geo-Political Zones in the two blocks, the South kick-started the Power Rotation circle with the South-West fielding Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
- I proposed the Power Rotation formula between the North and South using the length of tenure previously enjoyed as co-efficient, but South-West Zone that should have come last in the South had already taken their turn, leaving South-East and South-South Zones. Power rotated to the North in 2007 and North-West Zone that previously enjoyed the least tenure took the first turn. The death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua brought the tenure of North-West to an abrupt end so power rotated to the South and South-South Zone has now taken the turn.
- At the end of the tenure of the South-South Zone, power, following the flow-chart of rotation, will move to the North, where the North-East Zone is next in line. Thereafter, power will rotate to the South, for South-East Zone to complete the circle in the South, while North-Central Zone will follow to complete the circle in the North. The foregoing order terminates the first round of rotation but what played out in 2015 is that political conspiracy reversed power to North West, thereby truncating rotation. The rationale for this Power Rotation arrangement was contained in my article published in The Guardian newspaper of June 29, 2010 (pages 8 & 9), serialized in People’s Daily newspaper of July 1 & 2, 2010 (pages 13 & 14) and Graphic newspaper of July 13, 2010.
- Modification to the zoning arrangement is however imperative in order to address the imbalance against the North in the existing political structure. There is a need to create political structures that will drive the policy of the Government of the Federation towards ensuring the implementation of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as enshrined in Section 16 (2) (a) of the Constitution – “the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development”.
STRUCTURING THE GEOPOLITICAL ZONES
- In respect of Geo-Political Zones that have now come into the reckoning in dealing with many National issues, the application of the 3:4 Ratio will require that the North is restructured from 3 to 4 zones. Should there be a need to create another zone in the South in response to the clamor by some groups that the defunct Mid-West Region be accorded a Geo-Political Zone status, a need will consequently arise for a fifth Geo-Political Zone in the North?
- In order to achieve this Fundamental Objective, we need to widen the gap in state structure in the North of the country as States increase in number to achieve a differential factor of 4 States in a 50-State structure for Nigeria in view of the overwhelming relative population and landmass. The North of the country should have 27 States while 23 States exist in the South of the country. In order words, for every three States that exist in the South, there should be four States in the North to maintain some balance.
- To further enhance balanced development, it is imperative to restructure the Geo-Political Zones in the North from three to four. The existing structure of equal zones in the North and South created a false sense of geopolitical equilibrium that cannot enhance a planned and balanced economic development in the spirit of Section 16 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution.
- A school of thought in this country holds the view that the Nigerian Federation has power concentrated in the Federal Government to the extent that the center is responsible for structure, control, and management of the federating units. The inadequacies of the center in assessing the needs of the federating units in terms of structure which the colonial administration largely influenced fuelled the seemingly insatiable demand for the creation of States and grouping of States into Geo-Political Zones.
- The proposed Eight States in the North of the country are EDU out of Niger State, OKURA out of Kogi State, APA out of Benue State, KWARARAFA out of Taraba State, AMANA out of Adamawa and Borno States, KATAGUM out of Bauchi State, GURARA out of Kaduna State and TIGA out of Kano State. Those of the South are IJEBU out of Ogun State, ODUDUWA out of Osun State, OKE-OGUN out of Oyo State, OGOJA out of Cross River State, and ADADA out of Enugu State, while ANIOMA out of Delta State should be grouped with South-East Geo-Political Zone and Delta State Capital moved to Warri.
- The existing three Geo-Political Zones in the North including the proposed Eight New States should be re-structured into Four Regions or Geo-Political Zones as follows:
NEW STRUCTURE OF SEVEN GEOPOLITICAL ZONES OR REGIONS IN NIGERIA
NORTH CENTRAL ZONE
- SAVANNAH *
- CROSS RIVER
- OGOJA *
- Our experience so far makes revisiting of the structure in the Constitution as imperative. The federating units need to participate in the exploitation of their God-given natural resources, the Exclusive and Concurrent lists need to be reviewed to enable States to initiate action on their mineral deposits or participate in certain activities where Federal action/inaction may negatively impact on the State.
6-Year Single Term for President/Governors and 4-Year Single Term for Local Government Chairman and 6-Year Single Term for National and State Assemblies and 4-Year Renewable Term for Local Government Councilors
- I appeared before the Senate Public Hearing on Constitutional Amendment at the International Conference Center Abuja in 2012 and made a formal presentation on a wide range of proposed amendments, notably, the proposed Single Term of Six Years for the President/Vice-President and the State Governors/Deputy Governors and on State Creation and the modalities for reaching an agreement on the number of States the country should have, given the prevailing economic realities and measures to facilitate or ease the seemingly insurmountable hurdles in the process of State creation. I moved a motion on a single term of 6 years at the 2014 National Conference which was passed and included in the Conference Report now with the National Assembly.
- The preference for the Single Term of Six Years over other options is already in a clear perspective. Under the Obasanjo Presidency, the Single Term of Six Years stood out as an acceptable proposition. What was in contention though, was the mode of implementation, remarkably, the take-off date and the obvious implications for incumbent President/Vice-President and Governors/Deputy Governors. While a school of thought held that the 6-Year Single Term option should start after the Obasanjo Two-Term tenure in 2007, the other school of thought opted for the translation of the Obasanjo Second term to the 6-Year Single Term. In other words, the Obasanjo Presidency would have lasted an aggregate of 10 years. This idea did not go down well with many. A group introduced another novel idea of extending the existing two terms limit in the constitution to three terms which ignited the now-infamous “Third Term” controversy. This option sought to keep the then President/Vice-President and Governors/Deputy Governors in office for 12 years in total but it was widely resisted. It was not surprising that the proposal failed on the floor of the Senate under Senate President Ken Nnamani. Both 6-Year Single term and 3rd Term were put in abeyance.
Only a political solution will assuage the concerns of those that may be adversely affected by the new tenure arrangement. At no time can the adoption of this noble amendment be smooth, as desirable as it may be.
- The Jonathan Presidency and Single Term: The Jonathan Presidency resubmitted an amended version of the Single Term of 7 Years to the National Assembly designed to aggregate his tenure to eight years. Both Chambers of the National Assembly through their committees on the Constitutional Amendment embarked on extensive public hearings across the country on a wide range of proposed amendments including the Single Term proposal. The Senate Committee, after all, settled for a 6-Year Single Term billed to take effect from 2015. This recommendation was escorted to the historical cemetery following a court judgment clearing Goodluck Jonathan to contest a second term, discountenancing the one year he served as President after the death of Yar’Adua
- The Buhari Presidency and Single Term: There is no time that the commencement of the 6-Year Single Term will be smooth. Sacrifice will be needed and the National Assembly may need to invoke the “doctrine of necessity”. Commencement of the tenure under Obasanjo failed because translating the Second Term to six years would have kept him as President for 10years. The failed attempt at ‘Third’ Term would have been worse as our Presidency would have been three four-year terms aggregating to a 12years limit. The Jonathan proposal sought to translate to a 7-Year Single Term that would have kept him in office for an aggregate of 8 years.
- Commencement of this novel tenure limit of 6-years under PMB’s first 4-Year Term translated to Six-Year Single Term would have been the best thing that would happen to Nigeria. President Buhari is ending his second term in 2023. Now is the appropriate time to commence work on the Constitutional process of amending the constitution to accommodate a 6-year single term starting in 2023 for Local Government, State, and Federal.
The Legislature: 6-Year Renewable Term
- In a concomitant manner, there is the need for the alteration of the current term for the members of the National and State Assemblies from four years to six years; the difference between the Legislature and that of the Executive being that there is an option of renewal of the term for as many times as the Constitutions may agree based on any peculiar dichotomy or imperative.
4-Year Term for Local Government Councils
- A uniform 4-Year Single Term should be adopted for Local Government Chairmen and 4-Year Renewable Term for Councilors.
My humble proposals for introducing the 6-Year Single Term for the Executive as well as 6-Year Renewable Term for the Legislature and 4-Year Single Term for Council Chairmen and 4-Year Renewable Term for Councilors are as follows:
(i) Amend the 1999 Constitution to allow for a 6-Year Single Term for the Executive to take effect from 29th May 2023. Incumbent First Term Governors/Deputy Governors whose tenures transcend May 29th, 2023 to translate to 6-Year Single Term in the spirit of “doctrine of necessity”, compromise, sacrifice, and political expediency.
(ii) Amend the 1999 Constitution to allow for a 6-Year Renewable Term for the Legislature at the National and State Assemblies to effective May, 29th 2023. Local Government Chairmen to enjoy a 4-Year Single Term while Councilors 4-Year Term will be Renewable.
(iii) It should be noted that, in the prevailing circumstances, only a political solution will assuage the concerns of those that may be adversely affected by the new tenure arrangement. At no time can the adoption of this noble amendment be smooth, as desirable as it may be, and the momentum must not be lost, hence the need for commencement to be effective 29th May 2023. This is a win-win arrangement for all.
- The adoption of a Single Term tenure is to nip in the bud the perpetual election fever which has become characteristic of Nigeria that is so enmeshed in intractable electioneering activities and thereby leaving little or no time for governance. It is rather painful to admit that our hyper-political culture compares at an obtuse to electioneering norms in model climes where elections are won and lost and party politics goes to sleep while governance which is the business of all (winners and losers) is ushered into the polity. A Single Term of Six years for the Executive/Legislature and a 4-Year Single Term for Local Government Chairmen is a reasonable period for electioneering gladiators to find some respite for governance to take center stage. This is in addition to saving scarce resources that would otherwise be expended on frequent elections and incumbents squandering Government funds on second term nomination and election.
- In this dispensation that is designed for a major shift in our political structure (adoption of a 6-Year Single/ Renewable Term for Federal and State Executive and Legislative Branches and 4-Year Single/Renewable Term for Local Government Councilors the larger Nigerian interests would be served. Also, legal disputes arising from the elections which constitute a major distraction to the expeditious administration of justice as it concerns ordinary causes of action that are not political in nature will be drastically reduced or eliminated.
5-Year Development Plan Model- A Complimentary Adjunct to 6-Year Single/Renewable Term for Federal and State and 4-Year Single/Renewable Term for Local Governments.
- Nigeria benefited from the specified or fixed-term Development Plan Model in the First Republic. The introduction of the Rolling Plan rendered our Development Plan directionless. A party contesting Presidential or Governorship Election should prepare a 5-Year Development Plan derived from its Manifesto. The winning Party will then propose the 5-Year Development Plan during the 6-Year Single Term to the National or State Assembly for approval. The approved 5-Year Development Plan becomes the National/State Plan that all succeeding Governments are obliged to implement: The Rolling Plan Model in operation is too flexible to be used to assess the extent to which the ruling party meets its promises to the electorate.
- Under the 6-Year Single Term, the Governments at the Federal and State levels will produce a 5-Year Development Plan approved by the National Assembly and State Assemblies respectively. The first seven months of the tenure (June-December) will be used to package and submit the Plan to the National and State Assemblies as the 5-Year Development Plan and the first year Budget component to commence in January for approval and passage into Appropriation Act. Subsequent annual budgets will commence every January and end in December of the Fifth year. The remaining five months (January to end of tenure in May of the sixth year) will be used for a Full Term Review of the 5-Year Development Plan to enable the incoming Administration to incorporate on-going or un-completed projects into its own 5-Year Development Plan.
- Local Governments will produce a 3-Year Development Plan adopting the same format or template and State Houses of Assembly will approve the Plan and Annual Budget derived from the Development Plan. It is clear from the foregoing that tenure commencement is a landmark decision requiring compromise, sacrifice, and a demonstration of the Nigerian spirit by all concerned.
- I contributed to the debate on power rotation at the 2014 Conference where I submitted a paper on the subject. As on June, 29th 2010, I produced the rotation diagram for the six geo-political zones as a strategy or process of achieving Federal Character which was crafted into the Constitution to ensure a balanced Federation where the “mighty” and the “weak” co-exist.
- Rotation which was never a political party initiative but a desire to guarantee access to power by partakers in the Nigerian enterprise started formally in 1999 to bench-mark the response to the clamor of power shift from the North that dominated for about 40 years power from independence in October 1960 to May 1999 of civil/military rulership combined. During this period the North was as a block ruled for 321/2 years with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (6 years), Gen. Yakubu Gowan (9 years), Gen. Murtala Mohammed (6 months), Alh. Shehu Shagari (4 years, 4 months), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (1 year, 8 months), Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (8 years), Gen. Sani Abacha (4 years), and Gen. Abdulsalasmi Abubakar (1 year). During the same period, the south ruled with Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi (6 months), Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (4 years), and Ernest Shonekan (4 months) totaling 4 years 10 months. Although the six geo-political zones (3 each in the North and the South), Gen. Abacha created, were unknown to the 1999 Constitution, they have been accepted and have become the convenient basis for sharing the “national cake” to a large extent.
- This rotation started on 29th May 1999 with Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (South-West) ruling for 8 years. Late Umaru Musa Yar’adua (North-West) ruled for 3 years and died. In line with our constitutional arrangement, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (South-South) ruled for 5 years. Power rotated to the North in the spirit of South-North rotation but instead of North-East (see rotation diagram) I produced in 2010) where Atiku Abubakar was the main contender, power was allowed or doctored to revert to North-West and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari who is programmed to rule till 2023 for years thereby holding the hand of rotation clock in the North-West in disjunction game. By the end of Buhari’s tenure in 2023, power rotation would have supposedly gone half way, leaving two geo-political zones North-East and North-Central outstanding in the North and South-East yet to take a turn in the South. The total period of rulership as of 2023 will stand at: South of Nigeria 13 years (Obasanjo 8 years) and (Jonathan 5 years) and North of Nigeria 11 years (Yar’adua North-West 3 years and Gen. Buhari 8 years).
- With this scenario, the North-Central that ruled Nigeria for 18 years out of the 341/2 years of Northern rulership pre-1999 should yield to North-East before North-Central comes in last to complete the first circle of rotation. Political gladiators should put the unity of Nigeria above selfish interest and accept rotation a panacea for peaceful and harmonious co-existence. Allowing power to detour back to North-West after Dr. Jonathan South-South was a joint blunder or mistake we made all by omission or commission allowed to happen.
- The principle of mutual exclusivity should be respected as all zones answer their father’s names and repeating a slot in North-West for whatever reason should not deny any other zone in the North or South their legitimate turn since all zones are mutually exclusive. Allowing North-West to truncate rotation and enjoying two slots within a circle of rotation should not be regarded as a North block gain as the three zones in the North as in the South are not joint and several.
- Zoning is a novel idea that we need to nurture and sustain. Northern Presidency in 2023 is therefore not a hidden “Northern agenda” as some claim but a necessary process to straighten and rescue rotation that has gone halfway but regressed into reverse gear. Our elder statesman Bode George aptly underscored the importance of the issue when he said recently that “zoning is the pillar that holds the nation together and any attempt to dump it may threaten the nation’s democracy”. In Switzerland, for example, the French, Italians, and Germans who predominate that country rotate presidential power under a constitutional arrangement. Nigeria is on course and those whose ambitions to run counter should renege and let rotation keep us together in one united Nigeria.
My suggested rotation order in restructured 7 geo-political zones is below:
- At the State level, rotation for Governor should be among the three Senatorial Districts while rotation for Chairmanship of Local Governments should follow any peculiar dichotomy in the Local Government.
- In summary, my suggested strategies are as follows:
- Amend the Constitution to provide for a Single Term of Six Years for the President/Vice-President, State Governors/Deputy Governors, and a 6-Year Renewable Term for National and State Assemblies: and 4-Year Single/ renewable Term for Local Government Chairmen/Councilors respectively.
- A 5-Year Development Plan to be adopted as a Planning Model to enable the President and State Governors propose a 5-Year Development Plan broken into five Annual Budgets and produce yearly Term Reports to the National Assembly/State Assemblies and a Final Term Report to apprise the electorate on the extent to which they delivered on their campaign promises or manifesto. Local Government Councils should propose a 3-Year Development Plan for State Assemblies to approve.
- Adopt a Ratio of 3:4 for the South and the North respectively as a basis for a hypothetical 50 states structure to test run the formula to produce 8 new states in the North and 6 new states in the South of the country. The proposed eight states in the North of the Country are EDU out of Niger state, OKURA out of Kogi State, APA out of Benue state, SAVANNAH out of Borno state, AMANA out of Adamawa State, KATAGUM out of Bauchi State, GURARA out of Kaduna State and TIGA out of Kano State. Those in the South are IJEBU out of Ogun State, ODUDUWA out of Osun State, OKE-OGUN out of Oyo State, OGOJA out of Cross-River State, and ADADA out of Enugu State, while ANIOMA out of Delta State should be grouped with South-East Geo-Political Zone and Delta State Capital moved to Warri.
(iv) Rotation for President should be between North and South while the zones in the North
and the South will rotate and the States in the zone will take turns using any objective criteria;
(v) Governorship will rotate among the three Senatorial Districts;
(vi) Chairmanship of Local Government will rotate based on established peculiar dichotomy acceptable to the people.
- My humble submission is that rotation be formally reflected in our Constitution
- Structured access to power should guarantee equity, peace, and harmony and remove fault lines of ethnicity and religion. At the start of the 2014 National Conference, Late Justice Kutigi, Chairman of the Conference put the question as to whether any person or group desire to opt-out of the Nigeria Union and it was an affirmative nay! Our sovereignty is therefore sealed and declared and no longer negotiable.
- It is my considered view that the National Assembly should make a bold attempt to lay to rest the wide-spread agitation for state creation.
- I wish the National Assembly Joint Committee fruitful deliberations.